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Helen Suzman

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Helen Suzman"

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Helen Suzman, one of the leading white South African opponents of apartheid, has died:

After entering politics in 1953, Suzman became a lawmaker for the United Party, which split six years later over disagreements on racial issues. Suzman and 11 other MPs left to form the Progressive Party, which rejected the white-minority Nationalist government’s racist policies and supported equal rights. [...]

From 1961 until 1974, Suzman was “the only MP who consistently and unequivocally opposed discriminatory legislation and the spate of security laws that left the rule of law in tatters,” according to the HSF Web site.

Suzman’s criticism of Pieter Willem Botha, who served as prime minister and president from 1978 to 1989, led him to describe her as “a vicious little cat,” HSF said. Botha was the last hard-line apartheid leader who upheld strict policies of racial desegregation. Suzman described him as “an obnoxious bully.”

Once in parliament, a minister accused her of asking questions that embarrassed the country and she replied “It is not my questions that embarrass South Africa, it is your answers.” A worthy motto for dissidents and question-askers everywhere. Meanwhile, it doesn’t really make a ton of sense but I’m always heartened by the fact that Jewish South Africans such as Suzman were disproportionately represented in the anti-apartheid movement.

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