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Roelf Meyer

Roelf Meyer
Minister of Defence
In office
Minister of Constitutional Affairs and Communication
In office
Minister of Constitutional Development and Provincial Affairs
In office
Personal details
Born (1947-07-16) 16 July 1947 (age 67)
Port Elizabeth, Union of South Africa
Nationality South African
Political party National Party, United Democratic Movement, African National Congress
Children 2 sons, 1 daughter
Alma mater University of the Free State
Occupation politician

Roelof Petrus (Roelf) Meyer, born in Port Elizabeth on 16 July 1947 is a South African politician and businessman. Originally a member of the National Party, he is known for his prominent role in the negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa. He later co-founded the United Democratic Movement.

Early life and education

Meyer, the son of a farmer, completed school in Ficksburg and studied law at the University of the Free State. He completed the B Comm (1968) and LLB (1971) degrees. At university, he was president of the conservative "Afrikaanse Studentebond". During his compulsory military service he was a member of the SADF choir also known as the "Kanaries". Meyer then practised as a lawyer in Pretoria and Johannesburg until 1980.

Entering politics

In 1979 he entered politics as he was elected a Member of Parliament for the National Party in the Johannesburg West Constituency. In 1986 he became Deputy Minister of Law and Order and in 1988 of Constitutional Development (until 1991). With the declaration of the first State of Emergency in 1985, the National Joint Management Centre (NJMC), chaired by the Deputy Minister of Law and Order, took over as the nerve centre for co-ordination of all welfare and security policies.

In 1991, F. W. De Klerk appointed him as Minister of Defence as successor of Magnus Malan. Allegedly, the verligte Nat ("liberal" or "enlightened" NP politician) couldn't win the respect of the generals in this position. In May 1992, after nine months in office, he resigned and became Minister of Constitutional Affairs and of Communication as successor of Gerrit Viljoen. It was this position which brought him into the negotiating process.

Towards a new South Africa

Meyer became famous in his position as the government’s chief negotiator in the Multiparty Negotiating Forum 1993 after the failure of CODESA where he established an amicable and effective relationship with the ANC’s chief negotiator, Cyril Ramaphosa. In this role he worked closely with Niel Barnard, who was head of the National Intelligence Service and a strong supporter of a negotiated settlement.[1] After the conclusion of the negotiations in November 1993, he became the government's chief representative in the Transitional Executive Council (TEC).

After the free elections in April 1994, Meyer became Minister of Constitutional Development and Provincial Affairs in the government of national unity of the new President, Nelson Mandela. His elder brother Anthon "Tobie" Meyer was Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Land Affairs in this government. He worked once more with Cyril Ramaphosa, who was chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly.

Meyer resigned from the cabinet in 1996 and became secretary-general of the NP. Soon afterwards, after the new constitution was negotiated and ratified, the National Party withdrew from the government. In this phase, he tried to bring about a reorientation of his party but failed on the resistance of the conservative wing around Hernus Kriel. Meyer eventually resigned as secretary-general, as Gauteng party leader and from membership of the NP in 1997. As a consequence, he had to retire also as a Member of Parliament.[2]

United Democratic Movement

After he left the National Party, he became, with former Transkeian leader Bantu Holomisa, the co-founder of the United Democratic Movement (UDM). In the elections of 1999 the UDM received fourteen seats in Parliament and Meyer served as the Deputy President of the party until his retirement from politics in 2000.

In 2006 he announced that he would join the ANC.[3]

After politics

In 2000 Meyer also involved himself in corporate business. He became a Director and later Deputy Executive Chairman of Tilca Infrastructure Corporation (Pty) Ltd. and currently he is a member of the board of directors of Armscor. He also held a number of international positions, including a membership of the Strategy Committee of the Project on Justice in Times of Transition at Tufts University in the USA. He also became the Chairman of the Civil Society Initiative (CSI) of South Africa. Meyer also uses his experience to act as a consultant on peace processes and negotiations, for example in Northern Ireland, Rwanda and Kosovo.[4]

Political offices
Preceded by
Magnus Malan
Minister of Defence (South Africa)
Succeeded by
Gene Louw


External links

  • About his life and career

See also

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