HF Verwoerd Street is part and parcel of the “struggle” route in Heidelberg, therefore could not be missed. This street was formerly named Church Street with the Klipkerk as the centre. As part of the centenary, HF Verwoerd unveiled the memorial stone on 27 June 1965.
Mr HF Verwoerd was elected to caucus of the National Party as main leader after Advocate J.G Strydom had deceased. His constituency was Heidelberg. Previously he was a lector in Psychology and Applied Psychology.
He was the father of seven children, of whom in 2016 one grandchild and three great- grandchildren still resided in Heidelberg. He served the Heidelberg constituency as Premier of Parliament (1958-1966) and became a central figure in the history of South Africa.
His greatest achievement was to free South Africa from the British Common Wealth to a Republic. He survived an onslaught on his life by a white farmer, David Pratt. Two bullets were surgically removed from his skull. After the white election and referendum South Africa was declared a Republic on 31 May 1961. The Klipkerk in HF Verwoerd Street handed over a Bible to him and his spouse on 29 May 1961.
He also officially opened the new Heidelberg Station in 1961. On the 24th of September 1964, he and his spouse opened the highest building in Heidelberg; the most modern hostel, namely “Uitsig” and De Jagers Hostel, now part of the Army Gymnasium.
Our Black township Ratanda developed as part of the displacement of blacks during this time. His policy on the pass laws would later mobilize Alinah ‘Anti-Pass’ Mokoena to march to the Union Buildings. A result of this bitter power struggle was the Sharpeville uprising in which 70 rioters died in 1960 and the Rivonia trial of the leadership of the ANC.
The first locally produced R1 automatic rifle was presented to Dr Verwoerd on 23 September 1966 and was used in the armed struggle. This resulted in a cold war and Umkhonto weSiswe. In 1966 this struggle took a sudden change during the opening of Parliament, Dr Verwoerd was stabbed and killed by Dimitri Tsafendas. In July 1967, the Heidelberg constituency renamed HF Verwoerd Street after him. Heidelberg, as his constituency, was the first town to confirm this historic event. We now know that with the wrong policy, not even a sovereign parliament could protect us. All the leaders should learn this lesson in Heidelberg. Dr HF Verwoerd was the only South African statesman who was assassinated, not only one attempt, but two. It happened unexpectedly and history shows that others also became victims thereof. Examples are Mahatma Gandhi, JFK, Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jnr.
In 1966 his death coincided with Heidelberg’s centenary. The town council then decided to grant all the funds collected from the centenary to the Verwoerd fund.
All the lights in the highest building he had opened in 1964, were put out strategically. The lit parts of the building spelt out his initials, H.F.
The struggle continued after Verwoerd’s death, but also brought forward reconciliation. Nelson Mandela, who was later freed from jail, visited his late spouse, Betsie Verwoerd, in the spirit of reconciliation. On 29 November 1996 Nelson Mandela was the recipient of an honorary citizenship of Heidelberg at the Old Town Hall in HF Verwoerd Street. Times had changed, but history would always keep standing. Armed with wrong policies, not even parliament would be able to protect one. History is proof thereof and the struggle continues. Heidelberg therefor still display the HF Verwoerd Street, not to forget but learn, from the past.