Winds of Change secrets revealed

Former British prime minister Harold Macmillan and SA prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd in Cape Town in 1960.

Former British prime minister Harold Macmillan and SA prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd in Cape Town in 1960.

Published Oct 5, 2012


Cape Town - A secert UK cabinet report of a meeting between former SA prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd and British prime minister Harold Macmillan has been made available 52 years after the historic Winds of Change speech delivered in Parliament in 1960.

The report from the UK National Archives documents Macmillan’s visit to Commonwealth countries, including SA, at a time when independence from Britain was gathering steam.

The UK secretary of the cabinet at the time, Norman Brook, wrote and circulated the report among UK cabinet members.

Marked private and confidential, it states that Verwoerd only allowed Macmillan to meet white opposition parties and not the ANC and Liberal Party, who had asked to meet the UK prime minister during his visit.

Verwoerd felt strongly that the ANC was a communist organisation hellbent on removing the National Party from power.

Brook wrote: “… this was the first country in Africa in which he [Macmillan] was denied the opportunity of discussions with African political leaders. The prime minister was impressed by the contrast between the ability, enterprise and open-mindedness of the businessmen and intelligentsia of the Transvaal and the doctrinaire and obscurantist attitude of Nationalist ministers.

“The government, who arranged the programme, were plainly anxious, not only to show hospitality, but also to convince [Macmillan] that their native policy was both morally sound and practically reasonable.”

Verwoerd is said to have been shocked during the Winds of Change speech. “Dr Verwoerd… was so struck by the likely effects of the criticism contained in it, though mild and merely implied, that he found it necessary to make an immediate [response], putting the case for justice for the white man,” according to the report.

“Dr Verwoerd said that he could not believe that a non-racial State was a practicable solution - ‘Once you set foot on that road, you had to travel it to the end, which meant domination by Africans’. That was why the union preferred the alternative of enabling the two communities to live together as neighbours, not as one family.”


On African countries gaining independence, Verwoerd said the changes were important and that “the union government was anxious to play their part in guiding these in directions helpful to the West”.


* A full extract of the report was first published on Politicsweb.

[email protected]

Cape Argus

Related Topics: