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EXTRACT | Slabbert: Man on a mission

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Slabbert: Man on a Mission (Supplied)
Slabbert: Man on a Mission (Supplied)

Albert Grundlingh’s penetrating biographical study of Frederick van Zyl Slabbert offers sharp insights into the thinking and motivation of this most unlikely politician. Concise but wide-ranging, Slabbert: Man on a Mission provides new perspectives on a figure who even today remains something of an enigma. Here is an extract from the book entitled 'Charisma'.

“Van” as Slabbert was fondly called colloquially, or sometimes “Supervan” if the press wished to emphasise his abilities and attributes, was frequently described as a charismatic politician with exceptional personal magnetism. Likened to John F Kennedy, the popular and youngest American president ever, who was assassinated in 1963, Slabbert was equally deemed to possess Kennedy qualities in term of youthfulness, charm and appeal to the voters.

Slabbert was not oblivious to the positive and at times fawning way in which he was viewed. During his first election in 1974 he made the point that English speakers dubbed him as being charismatic and that there was little he could do about that. Such fulsome praise did, however, leave him somewhat embarrassed. On one occasion he responded with a friendly but wry comment to an effusive admirer who commented on his charismatic appeal: “Yes, I studied Charisma 1, Charisma 2, and Charisma 3 at university”. 

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