Meet Dimitri Tsafendas, the man who killed apartheid architect, Hendrik Verwoerd

Meet Dimitri Tsafendas, the man who killed apartheid architect, Hendrik Verwoerd

To some he is a murder, while others see him a national hero- however, regardless of a person's personal view, Dimitri Tsafendas would forever be known as the man who killed the apartheid architect, Hendrik Verwoerd.

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On 6 September 1966, Tsafendas assassinated the then South African president during a parliament session. Although he planned the murder, Tsafendas had no intention of escaping afterwards and he was easily arrested.

So, Briefly.co.za decided to take a look at the life of Tsafendas. Here are four facts about Verwoerd's killer:

1. Early life

Tsafendas was born on 14 January 1918 in Maputo, Mozambique. His dad, Michaelis, was a Greek seaman who hailed from Chania, Crete, and his mom, Amelia Williams, was a mixed-rae Mozambican woman.

After he was born, Tsafendas was sent to live with his grandmother in Egypt, Wikipedia reported. He stayed with his grandma until the age of five before returning to Mozambique.

When he turned 10, Tsafendas moved to South Africa, where he resided in the Transvaal. He spent two years studying at a South African school before returning to his home country to attend a church school.

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2. Politics, mental health and the famous assassination

In the 1930s, a young Tsafendas joined the South African Communist Party. He went on to follow in his dad's footsteps by becoming a seaman and he even worked on board an US Convoy following the Second World War, where after he travelled the world for two decades.

However, Tsafendas started having trouble with his mental health and he had been institutionalised in several mental health facilities across the globe. He even spent half a year on Ellis Island, where doctors diagnosed him as schizophrenic.

In 1966, he landed a job as a temporary parliamentary messenger. However, a month after his appointment he carried out one of the most important assassinations in the South African history.

On 6 September that year, as Verwoerd entered the House of Assembly, Tsafendas approached him with a hidden dagger.

He stabbed Verwoerd allegedly four times before he could be taken off of him. Tsafendas planned the assassination but he had no intention of running away. According to reports, his arrest was rather easy.

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3. Prison

After his arrest, Tsafendas was taken to a hospital to be interviewed. He was later returned to prison to await his trial.

According to the killer himself, he committed the crime because he was "disgusted with the racial policy".

Tsafendas was found not guilty of murder on grounds of his mental health. But, he was imprisoned "at the pleasure of the State President", which meant only the head of state could release him.

He spent the rest of his life behind bars.

4. Death

After his arrest, all anti-apartheid movements distanced themselves from Tsafendas. And, although he was seen as a hero, he died without their support in 1999. Briefly.co.za learned he passed away at the age of 81 after losing the battle against pneumonia.

Now, almost two decades after his death, author Harris Dousemetzis wrote a book about the famous assassin.

In his book, titled The Man Who Killed Apartheid: The Life of Dimitri Tsafendas, Dousemetzis claims Tsafendas was not insane, he murdered Verwoerd for political reasons.

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Source: Briefly.co.za

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