Michael Burleigh

Taking Aim at Apartheid

An Unwitting Assassin: The Story of my Father’s Attempted Assassination of Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd


Rainbird 216pp £14.95 order from our bookshop

This fascinating book touches on several themes. It is about relations between fathers and daughters. It is set in a place that was once part of the British Empire, though one where Afrikaners called the shots. It also describes a life of privilege a world away from the poverty experienced by the majority of the local population.

The Pratt family, into which Suzie Cazenove was born, lived in an attractive suburb of Johannesburg, where the houses had servants, stables, swimming pools and large, beautiful gardens. On 9 April 1960, Cazenove’s father, David Pratt, shot but failed to kill the South African prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd at the Rand Easter Show. It must be one of the few assassination bids in history in which the would-be killer was driven by a chauffeur, with the young sons of a friend going along for the ride. Verwoerd was the son of Dutch immigrants. A professor of sociology and a newspaper editor, he joined the National Party at a young age and was one of the leading proponents of apartheid. He had a soft spot for the Nazis and detested the English. In 1958 he became prime minister and remained so until his assassination in 1966.

David Pratt was a wealthy gentleman farmer who bred Ayrshire dairy cattle. Family photos show a handsome, pipe-smoking fellow dressed in tweeds and a tie. His own father, Arthur, had done well from a career in finance,

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter