Harry Schwarz

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[T]he road from slavery to the promised land is a rough one.

Harry Heinz Schwarz (May 13, 1924 – February 5, 2010) was a South African lawyer, statesman and long-time political opposition leader against apartheid, who eventually served as the South African ambassador to the United States during the country’s transition to representative democracy. He was also a banker, businessmen and served as a defence lawyer in the Rivonia Trial.

Rivonia Trial

  • My lord, one can perhaps be pardoned for saying that perhaps his (Jimmy Kantor) biggest crime, if it is a crime, is that he was a partner of Harold Wolpe, and that Harold Wolpe was his brother-in-law.
  • My Lord, it is difficult to reply in a restrained fashion. My learned friend must not use words such as 'Communist' lightly, when he refers to Kantor. Kantor is not a Communist. My learned friend has used the tactics of McCarthyism in an endeavour to smear him. I think, with respect, my learned friend is allowing himself to run away with facts that are not there. His complaint in count one is not that they found files with evidence. Oh not, he says that we found files with nothing in them. Not in Kantor's office, but in the office of Wolpe. Then my learned friend that the practice had been ruined and liquidated Knator's practice, my lord, it is not Kantor. It is not Kantor! Why I say it is so difficult to be restrained, is that my learned friend has thrown in everything hat concerns every accused in this case, and says 'that is why I don't want Kantor to get bail'.
    • Jimmy Kantor in 'A healthy grave' (1967).

Parliament (1974-1991)

  • I regard the Honourable member for Randburg as a friend. I regard him as a person who has done tremendous work as treasurer of the United Party on the Witswatersrand branch. The test of friendship comes in what you do as a man in adversity. I want to say, and I make so secret of it, that I am my brother's keeper and I will not be his executioner.
    • An extract from Schwarz's "Brother's Keeper" speech to parliament where Schwarz was expelled from the United Party after declaring support for Dick Enthoven MP and his anti-apartheid policies. (10 February 1975).
  • It is important that in the process of change, existing institutions of value and means of production are not destroyed. The fabric of society, however critical one may be of its present structures, should be adopted and modified where required, but not destroyed.
    • Lecture at University of British Columbia (12 October 1976).
  • I make this appeal to Mr Botha: Show this statesmanship, show that at this time you will not allow our unity of purpose to overcome the real problems to be threatened.
    • During a speech to a protest in Cape Town City Hall, appealing for the Prime Minister to reconsider a bill that would heavily restrict press freedom.
    • The Argus, page 1-2, (1979)[1]
  • Laws alone is not enough to ensure that freedom is safeguarded. What is required is a sprit of freedom among the people concerned. There must be an atmosphere of respect, a feeling of belonging together, an atmosphere of harmony with fellow beings.
    • Herald Times, (4 November 1979)[2]
  • The National Party does not care about people, it only cares about power.
    • Rand Daily Mail, (2 February 1981)[3]
  • The mission must be adherence to and the advancement of the concept of a truly democratic political system and economic system which gives not only rights and opportunity but also security.
    • Cape Times (1 November 1989)[4]
  • Whenever I draw up economic policy I look at it from the point of view of the person who has nothing; I look at it from the point of view of my farther who tried to get a job but could not.
    • Sunday Times (18 November 1990).[5]
  • Freedom is incomplete if it is exercised in poverty.
    • Harry Schwarz in 'Poverty Corrodes Freedom' (1993).

Sanctions and disinvestment from South Africa

  • If we are going to have greater unemployment, if we are going to have more unrest, the chances of a negotiated settlement will be less and in a revolutionary situation the chances of a truly free democratic society emerging are reduced.'"

As ambassador to the United States

  • I have an obligation to the 37 million people in South Africa to ensure their well-being. But the road from slavery to the promised land is a rough one.
    • During a Speech to the Philadelphia World Affairs Council, 12 June 1991.[6]
  • I must and will work to ensure that the new democratic South Africa has a fair chance to succeed economically as well as politically, and to try to assist in fulfilling at least a part of the dream of the oppressed and deprived when the new South Africa is born.
    • Speech to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C, April 1991.[7]
  • I said, 'Down with apartheid' before some of them [demonstrators] were born. I was supporting the dismantling of apartheid when America was standing on the sidelines and only a few people knew what apartheid was about.
    • Responding to demonstrations against his presence while giving a speech at St. Frances Academy fund-raising dinner, 20 May 1991.[8]

Final speech


Harry Schwarz delivered his final speech in November 2009 at the South African Parliament, at an event to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Democratic Alliance. He passed away a few months later in February 2010.

  • I believe people are not free if all they can do is cast a vote every five years to decide who should govern them. What does it mean to a man in a shack built by himself with no amenities and not knowing where his next meal is coming from, to vote? An election is about power. It is relevant to freedom only if those elected govern efficiently, honestly and carry out the electoral promises made.
    • The Mercury (17 November 2009).
  • I wish my country were like I wanted it to be, but as it is not, I hope it will one day get to this way of living.
    • The Mercury (17 November 2009).

Quotes about Schwarz

  • Schwarz has not only been one of apartheid's most prominent opponents, but his ideas and the initiatives he had taken had played an important role in the development of the concept of a negotiated democracy in South Africa, based on the principles of freedom and justice. In this regard he is one of the conceptual and moral fathers of the new South Africa.
  • A champion of the poor.
    • Nelson Mandela quoted in 'On the Contrary: Leading the opposition in a democratic South Africa' by Tony Leon (2009).
  • The quickest analytical mind in South African politics.
    • Business day, (1989).
  • If the 60-year old MP for Yeoville is occasionally oversensitive, it is probably because - as one of the most talented and versatile people in Parliament - he finds himself frustrated by much of what goes on.
    • Pretoria News, 4 October 1985[9]
  • South Africa's most feisty politician.
    • Sunday Times, 18 November 1990[10]
  • When a man who has devoted most of his life to the struggle for a new South Africa tells you that apartheid is dead and that sanctions are holding up its burial, he speaks with a moral authority that is difficult to assail
    • Boston Herald, 8 May 1991, Jeff Jacoby commenting on appointment as Ambassador to US.[11]
  • One of the loudest voices for the deprived emanating from the white establishment. His calls on whites to make material sacrifices for black advancement have drawn abusive phone calls. But Schwarz is not easily diverted from his chosen course and is a persuasive advocate of his beliefs.
    • Christian Science Monitor, 25 March 1991, John Battersby.[12]
  • He is a brilliant debater with an extraordinarily acute mind. He goes for the jugular quicker than anyone else.
    • March 1991, Zac de Beer, Democratic Party leader.[13]
  • We developed a mutual respect for one another. Schwarz was an extremely able MP with a good financial brain, and a hard worker who could devastate National Party members in Parliament, especially Ministers of Finance, who feared his vigorous attacks. Like me, he could be unpleasant both in and out of the House.
    • Fellow opposition MP Helen Suzman, writing in 'In No Uncertain Times: A South African Memoir'. Suzman, Helen (1993). In No Uncertain Terms: A South African Memoir. Knopf. [[Special:BookSources/10679409858 Template:Please check ISBN|ISBN 10679409858 Template:Please check ISBN]] Invalid ISBN. 


  • To risk making predictions is rather presumptuous and unwise. If I’m wrong, it will never be forgotten. If I’m right, no one will remember.
    • Article in Finansies & Tegniek (1994)[14]


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