Memoirs wrap up a lifetime in SA politics

When the history of the Progs - as the Progressive Federal Party was affectionately known - is recorded, the name Colin Eglin will surely feature prominently. As a youth with some political consciousness at the time, I remember reading a lot in newspapers about Eglin, Helen Suzman, Frederick van Zyl Slabbert and Alex Boraine, among others doing what they did best - opposing the National Party and its apartheid rule.

The start of my political consciousness coincided with the end of the John Vorster regime and the beginning of the PW Botha era. This is the period that the Eglin book captures so well up to the post-apartheid time of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.

You will also read about the formative years of white opposition politics, the Information Scandal and the shenanigans around the Citizen newspaper, the Soweto uprising, Eglin's meeting with Black Consciousness Movement leader Steve Biko two months before he died, the tricameral parliament, the PFP's meeting with the ANC in Dakar, Senegal, the pre-democracy negotiations. He also writes about his private meeting in 1985 with visiting Olusegun Obasanjo, former Nigerian president and co-chairman of the seven-member Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, among others.

I must say without any contradiction that there was a stage when some of us inside the country believed the Progs did a very good job to expose the worst of apartheid and to handle the Groot Krokodil. But Eglin will reveal that Van Zyl Slabbert got pissed off with him.

Eglin and fellow Progs used every hammer t hey could get their hands on to try and crack the nut that was PW, but t he man was committed to the apartheid cause.

Three issues that devastated Eglin as a politician were the resignation of Van Zyl Slabbert, the PFP losing its status as the official opposition to the Conservative Party of Andries Treurnicht, and the acrimonious Mbeki-Tony Leon interactions.

This is the history of the country's politics for almost seven decades of Eglin's life, from his childhood, his life at high school and university, in the army in 1943 to his role as a politician before and after 1994.