Former president FW de Klerk paid tribute yesterday to a former senior minister in his cabinet, Gerrit Viljoen, who died at the age of 82 on Sunday.
"He was a valued colleague and a good friend. He made outstanding contributions to good government as a member of the cabinet during my presidency as well as that of [former president] Mr PW Botha," De Klerk said.
As minister of constitutional development, up until his retirement in 1992, Viljoen had helped in an exceptional manner to lay the foundation for the ultimate success of the negotiations, the peaceful transition to a new dispensation and the transformation of South Africa into a Rechtstaat - a state based on the rule of law, De Klerk said.
"His contribution in this regard was immeasurable. Gerrit Viljoen was a man of integrity. A special person with special gifts. I honour his memory," he said.
Viljoen defeated arch conservative Andries Treurnicht to become the new chairperson of the then Afrikaner Broederbond from 1974 to 1980.
Chairperson of the new Afrikanerbond - the Broederbond's successor - Pierre Theron said that Viljoen had served the position of chairperson with distinction and did much through his sharp intellect to promote the cause of the Afrikaner and the Afrikaans-speaking community.
Viljoen was an acknowledged intellectual giant and made his mark in especially Afrikaner affairs and academic and political life.
He was born in Cape Town on September 11 1926. He grew up and studied in Pretoria, matriculating at the Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool in 1943 and graduating from Pretoria University with an MA (Classics) LL.B.
He obtained an MA from Cambridge followed by a D.Litt et Phil from Leiden in 1955, following his father's academic interest by researching the poetry of classical Greek poet and author, Pindar.
He also followed his father's keen interest in politics.
In London, he regularly met and discussed politics with a future cabinet colleague, Piet Koornhof.
Viljoen completed his studies and returned to South Africa in 1955 to become a senior lecturer and later Professor of Classics at Unisa.
He also joined the National Party.
In 1967, he became rector of a new Afrikaans university in Johannesburg, a long-held Afrikaner dream. He steered the Rand Afrikaans University, now Johannesburg University, from a small makeshift campus on the old brewery site opposite the gates of its mighty Wits counterpart, to a towering success which established new standards in both campus design and academic excellence.
Viljoen formally entered public life in 1978 at the invitation of the then prime minister PW Botha who appointed him administrator general of then South West Africa, later Namibia.
Two years later he became minister of national education. He became personally involved at grassroots level, meeting and consulting with teachers and bringing about significant changes in their conditions of service and levelling benefits and salaries for married women.
He also revamped the entire white education system under a new general education policy which centralised control over education policy and established equal standards, examinations and certification.
Viljoen took on the consolidated department of co-operation, development and education in 1984. - Sapa