Apartheid 'works', billionaire PayPal founder and Trump backer Peter Thiel said, book claims

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Former US vice-president Mike Pence looks on as former US president Donald Trump shakes the hand of Peter Thiel during a meeting with technology executives at Trump Tower, December 14, 2016 in New York City.
Former US vice-president Mike Pence looks on as former US president Donald Trump shakes the hand of Peter Thiel during a meeting with technology executives at Trump Tower, December 14, 2016 in New York City.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist who spent time in South Africa, defended the apartheid system to students at Stanford University in the 1980s, a new book alleges.
  • He allegedly told two separate students that apartheid "works" and that it is "economically sound".
  • Thiel previously donated to Donald Trump campaign for US president, and provided at least $10 million in backing for Hulk Hogan's successful legal battle against website Gawker over the wrestler’s sex tape.

Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist who co-founded PayPal and who has backed major tech companies including Facebook and Airbnb had defended SA’s apartheid system to students at Stanford University in the US in the 1980s, a new book alleges. 

The book, by Bloomberg journalist Max Chafkin, called The Contrarian, is a biography of the Silicon Valley power broker, and delves into his upbringing in the 1970s in formerly South West Africa, which is now Namibia. The book says that Thiel’s father Klaus led work on the construction of a uranium near the town of Swakopmund. 

Thiel had initially spent some time at the Pridwin Preparatory School in Johannesburg, before attending a German school in Swakopmund. When he later studied at Stanford, students were protesting against apartheid, specifically around getting colleges and business to stop doing business with the South African government of the time.

In response to this, he told one student during a conversation about apartheid that "it works". Another student, Julie Lythcott-Haims later confronted him about this and, according to the book, he told her that apartheid was "economically sound". 

"Any moral issues were irrelevant. The point – a common one made by apologists of the apartheid state at the time – seemed to be that South Africa was much more developed than its neighbours and that life there, even for those who were systematically denied their rights, was better than it was in, say, Ethiopia or Burundi," the book paraphrased. 

Lythcott-Haims would end up having a successful career and become dean of the Stanford Law School. Thiel’s spokesperson told Chafkin that the billionaire had "no recollection of a stranger demanding his views on apartheid" and that he had "never supported it". 

Thiel is not new to controversy, having donated to Donald Trump's election campaign for US president, and had previously written that welfare and the extension of voting rights to women had "rendered the notion of a 'capitalist democracy' into an oxymoron", and in another instance, that the definition of rape had been erroneously expanded to include "seductions that are later regretted".

He also provided at least $10 million in backing for Hulk Hogan's successful legal battle against website Gawker over the wrestler’s sex tape. Gawker, which eventually shut down, had previously published an article outing Thiel as gay. 

Thiel is also part of what has since been called the "PayPal mafia", along with South African-born Elon Musk – where founders and employees of the company later went on to create other successful companies, including YouTube and LinkedIn. 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Rand - Dollar
15.10
+0.9%
Rand - Pound
20.46
-0.0%
Rand - Euro
17.13
-0.0%
Rand - Aus dollar
10.85
-0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.13
-0.0%
Gold
1,834.71
0.0%
Silver
24.29
0.0%
Palladium
2,111.50
0.0%
Platinum
1,034.00
0.0%
Brent Crude
87.89
-0.6%
Top 40
68,186
-2.1%
All Share
74,835
-1.9%
Resource 10
74,924
-3.0%
Industrial 25
94,147
-1.8%
Financial 15
15,076
-0.2%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Company Snapshot