Vorster, Balthazar Johannes

Vorster, Balthazar Johannes yōhänˈəs bältäzärˈ fôrˈstər [key], 1915–83, South African political leader. A lawyer, John Vorster became involved in the Afrikaner nationalist movement and helped found a militant anti-British organization. Interned for opposition to the allies in World War II (1942–44), he entered politics after the war and was elected (1953) to the South African Parliament as a Nationalist party member. He became a leader of the party's right wing. In 1958, Vorster was made deputy minister in Hendrik Verwoerd's cabinet. Responsible for education, he rigidly enforced the apartheid Bantu Education Act. Later, as minister of justice (1961–66), Vorster suppressed opponents of apartheid. After the assassination of Verwoerd (Sept., 1966), he became prime minister. Vorster attempted a somewhat more conciliatory foreign policy, pressing Rhodesia's Ian Smith to negotiate with Mozambique and seeking a solution to international demands for South West Africa's independence. He invaded Angola to protect South West Africa (now Namibia) and internally he harshly suppressed the Soweto uprisings in 1976. Vorster also granted “independence” to Transkei as a first step in apartheid's “separate development.” After resigning for health reasons in 1978 to become State President, he was forced to resign the latter post when implicated (1979) in a scandal.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Southern African History: Biographies