Saturday, 1 July 2017

Hendrik Verwoerd (LSI): Personality Type Analysis

Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd was a South African psychologist, university professor, newspaper editor and politician who served as South Africa's 6th Prime Minister from 1958 until his murder in 1966. He is often called the "Architect of Apartheid" and was the politician chiefly responsible for the creation of the Republic of South Africa in 1961. It was during his government that Nelson Mandela (EIE), along with others, was sentenced to prison for sabotage until his release in 1990.

Verwoerd was born in the Netherlands in 1901; his parents emigrated to South Africa when he was about two years old. At first, he attended primary school in Cape Town, then in his teens accompanied his parents when they moved again, to Bulawayo (in what was then Rhodesia) and then back to South Africa, in the then province of the Orange Free State. He was an outstanding student and got the highest marks for English literature in the whole of Rhodesia, and the highest score in the Orange Free State in his exams for attending university. He went to the prestigious University of Stellenbosch near Cape Town where he graduated in psychology with a doctorate. Offered a scholarship for a post-doctorate in Oxford, and another for studies in several universities in Germany, he chose the latter. When he returned to South Africa, his academic record assured him a position in Stellenbosch where he became a tenured professor of sociology in 1934.

Those were the years of the Great Depression, and Verwoerd started getting involved academically, and then more actively, with the "poor-whites" social problem, that is, the massive unemployment and poverty among unskilled whites, which affected essentially Afrikaners (i.e. Afrikaans-speaking descendants of the original Dutch settlers of the 17th century) as they had been largely economically ruined by the Boer Wars one generation earlier. Then (if not much earlier) that Dutch-born, polyglot academic identified himself fully with the Afrikaner population, culturally and politically, and with the growing notion of Afrikaner nationalism. That essentially saw the Afrikaners as being caught between economic, political and cultural domination by the generally wealthier white population of British descent, and the competition for low-skilled jobs by the increasing migration of black natives (i.e. Xhosas, Zulus, etc.) from their rural areas into urban centres. Starting from his work as an academic, Verwoerd gradually shifted his focus to politics, until he was offered the position of editor-in-chief of a new Afrikaans newspaper based in Johannesburg, Die Transvaler, sponsored by the National Party (NP) as part of their efforts to increase their political presence in the Transvaal province against the ruling United Party of Prime Minister Barry Hertzog. With no previous experience in journalism, Verwoerd resigned his prestigious, tenured position as a Stellenbosch professor to move to Johannesburg and start a new career as newspaper editor in 1937. His editorial policy was to promote relentlessly the ideas, at that time, of Afrikaner nationalism: that South Africa had to cease being an independent British Dominion (like Canada, Australia, etc) and become a republic that would prioritise the interests of the Afrikaner population. His writings included frequent complaints against what he saw as the excessive domination of the South African economy, not only by English-speakers, but also by Jews, and he opposed the decision of then Prime Minister Jan Smuts to join the Allies in WWII. Nevertheless, Verwoerd always said that he was more anti-British Empire than pro-Nazi Germany. During that time, he was also relatively unconcerned with issues relating to native black South Africans.

The above already makes a few things clear about Verwoerd. First, his background, as a highly-educated, foreign-born, urbane academic who spoke several languages and had studied abroad and achieved an enviable position at Stellenbosch, was not one to obviously make him a fierce Afrikaner nationalist. That his beliefs were deep and sincere is obvious, I suggest, by the fact that he resigned his tenured professorship to become the editor of a new newspaper that might well fail (his father told him he was nuts in doing that). That points to a man not only with a need for some sense of mission that overrules personal comfort and career security, but even more so to a man with a deep need for, and identification with, a sense of collective identity. That already points to Beta as Verwoerd's likely quadra.

Under Verwoerd, Die Transvaler was successful, and the period of WWII and its immediate aftermath saw a rapidly increasing migration, due to economic factors, of the native black population from their original rural areas into the larger urban centres, such as Johannesburg, and the mining areas. That migration quickly changed the previously mostly white cities, with most of the new inhabitants living in informal housing. As in colonial Africa generally, that kind of uncontrolled migration of the local native black population into cities was not really allowed under the segregationist laws, but the Smuts government lacked the will, or the inclination, to do much about it, considering that migration inevitable. The NP used that issue to mobilise their campaign and so in the (mostly whites-only) elections of 1948 it narrowly defeated Smuts' United Party, forming the new government. The NP would remain in power uninterrupted until 1994. The new prime minister, D.F. Malan, Verwoerd's political patron who had brought him to Die Transvaler, now brought Verwoerd into his cabinet, having him appointed as a Senator and as Minister of Native Affairs.

The Malan government introduced its policy of apartheid, an Afrikaans word meaning "separateness". Until then, South Africa had more or less typical colonial segregationist laws (not unlike the "Jim Crow" laws in the US), but those were sort of ad hoc and as mentioned, were starting to crumble in the Smuts government. Malan's government ruthlessly reinforced the existing segregationist laws and introduced new ones, but again sort of ad hoc, without much of a consistent ideology or system except that of promoting the basskap (supremacy) over the black natives, and of the Afrikaners over English-speakers. Malan was also less concerned than Verwoerd about the issue of making South Africa a republic, which he feared would unnecessarily alienate part of his electorate.

As Minister of Native Affairs, Verwoerd remained as determined a republican as before, but that was not his immediate concern in his new position. He devoted his energies to arriving at what he saw as a consistent system and ideology of apartheid, starting from what was to remain his basic premise: the interests of the Afrikaner nation came before anything else. His conclusion went as follows: the only logical way to forever prevent native black South Africans from eventually overwhelming the white, and specifically the Afrikaner, population politically was to forever deny them any possibility for a legal basis for political rights (which a small minority of them did possess, in the Cape Province) and of legal residence in the "white" regions. That necessarily meant denying them any legal claim for citizenship in South Africa, and the most consistent way of arguing that was to state that they were actually citizens of other countries. That led Verwoerd to devise a policy of converting the historical areas inhabited by the different native nations - Xhosas, Zulus, Sothos, etc. - first into "autonomous", "self-governing" "homelands" that would eventually become independent states (not unlike Lesotho and Swaziland are today). When that happened - so went his argument - white South Africans would likewise be foreigners in those new states and full political, economic and physical separation would follow. Any integration of the black population outside those "states" was to be stopped and reversed.

Verwoerd spent his ten years as Minister of Native Affairs developing, promoting and getting political support for his scheme, which is often described as "grand apartheid" to differentiate it from "petty apartheid", that is, the daily "Jim Crow" kind of segregation and discrimination. Verwoerd's ultimate goal was total racial separation, that is, eventually all of the black population would reside in those future homelands or states. As however by this time only some ~40% lived in those areas, and economic factors, such as the increasing industrialisation of the country, were rapidly decreasing that percentage, Verwoerd devised incentives to encourage, or force if necessary, industries to move to areas bordering those "homelands", so that the migration would be diminished and eventually reversed. He predicted confidently - on which basis is not known - that the migration would revert, from the cities to the homelands, in 1978. That kind of confident vision of the future, of a political goal, within the context of what he saw as a consistent set of policies, confirms the Beta values of T and L.

Verwoerd's development of this, what he saw as an internally consistent system, allowed him to defend it tirelessly in lengthy, repetitive speeches where he always came back to the basic argument that that was the only way to go and that there was no alternative if the Afrikaner nation was to survive. The two prime ministers he worked for - Malan and later Hans Strijdom - were not so concerned with internally consistent policies, Strijdom saying bluntly that he was only interested in basskap and not in economic development of homelands. But after Strijdom's death from cancer in 1958, Hendrik Verwoerd was elected the new leader of the NP and therefore the new Prime Minister of South Africa.

As prime minister, Verwoerd could now devote his energies to his decades-long goal: he held a referendum on the status of South Africa, with a small majority of the (white) electorate choosing the option of South Africa ceasing to be a Dominion, with the Queen as nominal head of state, and becoming the Republic of South Africa. Having achieved this, Verwoerd made conciliatory gestures towards the not-so-happy English-speaking population: they had ceased to be his main "adversary", he was now much more concerned with the political issue of the black population and the development of his grand apartheid homelands scheme. His concept of the black population as being theoretically "foreign guest workers" led to the introduction of personal passes that had to be carried by them at all times. This led to political protests, including the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960, where 69 people were shot by the police. Some black political activists like Nelson Mandela - who in the Smuts years had sensed that things would gradually get better - lost all hope and went underground, eventually being arrested or fleeing into exile. South Africa's economy boomed during the Verwoerd years, making him politically supreme and neutralising all opposition, until he was stabbed to death by a deranged messenger during a session in Parliament in 1966 (even though the obvious assumption would be that his murder was political, no one has ever questioned that the man was insane; he died in prison in 1999 when Thabo Mbeki was president).

Looking closely at Verwoerd as a person: by all accounts, he was an autocratic boss who took all major decisions himself, whether as newspaper editor, minister, or prime minister - members of his staff at Die Transvaler said that he ran the paper as a "benevolent despotism". That was made more palatable by him working very long hours himself. As was already made clear, he felt the need to be completely consistent in his arguments and policies so that he could tirelessly defend them. That need for complete consistency made him sometimes look absurd: as a republican, he decided in 1947 that his newspaper would give no coverage at all to King George VI's (EII) visit. That led to the ridiculous situation where the paper would report traffic jams caused by the royal visit but not their cause. This points to a huge focus on L as well as F, and weak E (as he did not realise this would make him look silly even among his own staff). Generally, Verwoerd's approach of having a very basic set of political beliefs and then ruthlessly using force to defend them to what he saw as their logical conclusion already points to a Beta with L and F as ego functions, that is LSI or SLE.

As a politician, Verwoerd could never really display a common touch when talking to individuals (unlike his predecessors Malan and Strijdom, who were more conventional politicians), always seeming like an aloof, intellectually arrogant university professor who gave long speeches based on the assumption that he was right and everyone else was wrong. At best, he could make a somewhat benign "grandfatherly" impression as in this video and show patient politeness when listening to complaints - except when the person was an open political adversary, such as Helen Suzman, the only MP fully opposed to apartheid, whom he would treat with contempt. This points again to weak E.

Verwoerd understood that the implementation of his grand apartheid policies implied the economic development of the homelands, even if by force. He was however not that concerned with, or was even dismissive of, the overall costs and effects on the economy of South Africa as a whole, remarking that even if that made the country poorer, that was a price they had to pay. The mining magnate Harry Oppenheimer observed, "when you have a man prepared to slow down his nation's welfare on account of political theories, then you are dealing with an impractical fanatic". Verwoerd's response would be that his way was the only way. This points to awareness of P but one that is overruled by L.

Finally, as a minor personal detail: although not obviously fitting the overall picture of Verwoerd as a ruthlessly ideological politician and former tenured professor of sociology, his favourite hobbies were carpentry and similar manual work, having designed and partly built himself his holiday home, which shows that S was what he liked to focus on when relaxing.

A Beta whose main focus is L with an obviously strong focus on F, who intentionally ignores P and who has low focus on E (especially for a politician); also a man with a very rigid, yet certain, one-track vision of the future of his country and of his personal mission, pointing to valued but not very strong T.  L1, F2, P7, T6 , E5 and S8 all fit Hendrik Verwoerd perfectly, pointing to LSI as his Socionics type.

To learn more about LSI, click here.

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.

Sources:  Besides a general knowledge of South African history, the source was Henry Kenney's biography, Verwoerd: Architect of Apartheid 

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