Koornhof, Pieter Gerhardus Jacobus

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Koornhof, Pieter Gerhardus Jacobus

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        2 August 1925 – 12 November 2007


        Piet Koornhof, a prominent South African political figure, was born on August 2, 1925, in Leeudoringstad, Transvaal, South Africa. His extensive political career unfolded against the backdrop of the apartheid era. Serving as Minister of Immigration and Minister of Energy and Mining from August 23, 1972, to April 29, 1974, under Prime Minister John Vorster, Koornhof later took on the roles of Minister of Mining and Minister of Sports and Recreation from April 29, 1974, to October 10, 1978, during the premiership of John Vorster. Subsequently, he held the position of Minister of Cooperation and Development from October 9, 1978, to September 1984, under Prime Minister P. W. Botha. Koornhof's political journey culminated in his role as the South African Ambassador to the United States, where he served from May 1, 1987, to March 6, 1991, succeeding Johannes Beukes and being succeeded by Harry Schwarz. He passed away on November 12, 2007, at the age of 82, in Stellenbosch, Western Cape, leaving behind a legacy marked by his diverse ministerial contributions and diplomatic service.


        Piet Koornhof was born at Leeudoringstad in the Western Transvaal. He studied theology at the University of Stellenbosch, and completed his studies at Oxford after being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. His doctoral dissertation focussed on the "inevitable urbanisation" of black people in Africa.

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        Pieter Koornhof, a key figure in South African politics during the apartheid era, played various roles within the National Party. Joining in 1956, he served as a researcher for Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd and later became director of an institute promoting Afrikaner culture. Koornhof held positions such as Secretary of the Afrikaner Broederbond and Member of Parliament.

        In 1968, he became Deputy Minister of Bantu Affairs and Bantu Education, then Minister of Energy and Sports in 1972, announcing racially segregated sports teams. As Minister of Energy, he was involved in implementing apartheid laws, including forced removals of blacks from white-only areas. Despite this, he initiated constitutional studies, advocating the Swiss canton model.

        Koornhof's career took a turn when he advised President P.W. Botha that releasing Nelson Mandela was essential for peace. Consequently, he was appointed as the Ambassador to the United States. In this role from 1986 to 1991, he predicted the end of apartheid in a notable speech. Koornhof was considered a moderate within the apartheid government, known for his warm and contradictory personality. His successor, Harry Schwarz, was from the opposition Democratic Party.

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