When you are born in SA with the surname Verwoerd, you could try to lead a normal life, but chances are you will always be judged to be a pale imitation of Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid. You might consider changing your name. Or you can choose to live a life best described by the Afrikaans word wroeging — attempting to make sense of what it really means to carry such a legacy. "Wroeging" is roughly translated as "struggle". It can also be contrition, remorse or self-reproach. In Dutch it is called a knagende schuldgevoel — an ongoing feeling of guilt. Hendrik’s grandson Wilhelm Verwoerd has lived a life of wroeging. He was born in 1964, two years before his grandfather was assassinated in parliament. While some members of his family have become noted right-wingers — like the Boshoffs who created Orania — this Verwoerd joined the ANC in 1992. He sketches his life in the singular in his book, which has up to now been published only in Afrikaans.

Being in the co...

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