Lawmaker Apologizes for Swim at Whites-Only Beach

From a Times Staff Writer

The leader of the mixed-race House of Representatives in South Africa’s tricameral Parliament publicly apologized Wednesday to President Pieter W. Botha for swimming at a “whites only” beach this month to protest continued racial segregation.

Botha told a news conference later in Cape Town that the apology by the Rev. Allan Hendrickse, one of the two nonwhite members of his Cabinet, had averted a crisis that could have led to the dissolution of Parliament and a deepening of the continuing political crisis.

“When he (Hendrickse) started marching in his bather (swimming trunks) on the beach, he embarrassed me and broke the rules of Parliament,” Botha said.


In his public apology, Hendrickse, who is leader of the mixed-race Labor Party, said that he and 30 other members of the party had not intended their highly publicized Jan. 4 “swim-in” at King’s Beach in Port Elizabeth to be taken as “an act of civil disobedience,” and had not meant to embarrass Botha or challenge his authority.

“This is God’s beach,” Hendrickse had declared as he waded into the surf. Later he said that unless the country’s remaining segregation laws were abolished, his party would withdraw from the tricameral Parliament in what could be a fatal blow to the controversial legislative system.

Botha, who has insisted on continued segregation of both schools and residential neighborhoods, said that Cabinet ministers are allowed to differ with him on certain issues but must discuss them with him first and not embarrass him publicly.