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Strijdom, Johannes Gerhadus (1893–1958)

South African apartheid leader and prime minister of South Africa (1954–1958). Born in Klipfontein, South Africa, on 14 July 1893, Johannes Strijdom studied law at Victoria College, graduating in 1914. He then moved to Pretoria and entered the civil service. In 1929 he was elected to parliament for Waterberg Province. He became a leader in the all-white National Party, and on 30 November 1954 he was elected prime minister.

As prime minister of South Africa, Strijdom organized the infamous Treason Trials of South African activists who were seeking greater freedoms and rights for the black majority population. Among the 156 activists tried was antiapartheid crusader and future South African president Nelson Mandela. Strijdom built upon the policies of Daniel F. Malan (prime minister during 1948–1954) by strengthening apartheid segregation laws, banning blacks from voting, and fixing the Supreme Court so that it would rubber-stamp his policies. Strijdom also used the pretext of communist subversion and the 1950 Suppression of Communism Act to rein in leftist political parties and other antigovernment organizations.

Strijdom cut diplomatic ties with Moscow and suppressed trade unionism, which often had communist ties. His government also helped to formulate the Population Register for South Africa, which fixed each citizen's race as black, colored, or white. Strijdom died in office in Cape Town on 24 August 1958.

David H. Richards


Further Reading
Davenport, T. R. H. South Africa: A Modern History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000.; Thomson, Leonard. A History of South Africa. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990.
 

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