Barend du Plessis
1940 -


Du Plessis, Barend

Date of Birth: 19 January 1940
Date of Death:  
Place of Birth: Johannesburg, South Africa
Place of Death:  
Gender: Male
In Summary:

Politician: MP for Florida, 1974; Minister of Education and Training, 1983-84; Minister of Finance, 1984-1992.

Barend du Plessis. Picture: Photocopied and manipulated by SAHO from the book Who's who in South African Politics, number two ©

Early Life And Education :
Barend Jacobus du Plessis was born on 19 January 1940 in Johannesburg to Martie and Jan Hendrik du Plessis. He was the eldest of three children and grew up in Boksburg. Du Plessis attended Baanbreker Primary School and Voortrekker High School. After matriculating in 1956 he obtained his B.Sc. degree in 1960 at Potchefstroom University of Higher Christian Education and in 1961 also completed his Transvaal Higher Education Diploma. During his studies du Plessis played an active role in the Transvaal Teacher Training College Union. Although this organisation concerned itself with student and educational rather than political issues it can be seen as his first foray into the political arena. He was elected as Chairman of the Students’ Representative Council, which enabled him to travel abroad to Holland, Germany and Belgium and meet with other student leaders.

From Teaching to finance:
In 1962 du Plessis started teaching mathematics at the Hoër Seunsskool Helpmekaar in Johannesburg, as well as at the Johannesburg Technical College. Eventually he was employed by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) as administrative officer to the Chief Engineer and was promoted to the new data processing department where he received training in computer technology. His career at the SABC advanced further and he was transferred to the office of the Director General as administrative secretary.

Following his resignation from the SABC in 1968 he joined the international computer company, IBM, where he was employed until 1974. Between 1968 and 1974 he received training in banking and finance and attended the IBM Graduate School of Banking in Princeton in the United States of America.

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  Sources for this biography

Gastrow, S. (1987). Who’s Who in South African Politics, no 2, Johannesburg: Ravan.

Joyce, P. (1999). A Concise Dictionary of South African Biography, Cape Town: Francolin.

Mail & Guardian Online. 3 December 2004.

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Last updated January 2008

Political career:
Du Plessis’ father was an active member of the National Party (NP) on branch level and political awareness had been part of his life from a young age. He started working for the NP during elections and the Republic referendum. In 1966 he became an official National Party member. After he took his first step into community service in 1972 as an elected official to the Roodepoort City Council he advanced rapidly and in 1974 was elected as Deputy Mayor. He also stood as the NP candidate in Florida, Johannesburg, in the same year and took the seat from the United Party (UP). During the election campaign he remained in the employ of IBM, visiting banks in the USA and attending the carnival in Rio de Janeiro as part of a marketing award by his company.

In his capacity as parliamentarian he served as a member of the Select Committee on Public Accounts from 1976 to 1981 and was elected as secretary of the National Party Study group on Finance from 1979 to 1982. Du Plessis was also the Information Officer for the NP from 1977 to 1981. In 1982 he was elected as Chairman of the Committee investigating Southern African broadcasting matters, but remained interested in finance and economics and eventually was appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Information. Up to this appointment he had served as a director of 12 companies.

 As Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Information he was to handle the Government’s relationship with the press. Within the first few weeks in this position he made a controversial statement regarding the SABC’s apparent broadcasting of Conservative Party (CP) propaganda and lack of sufficient Government announcements. He was also present, along with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pik Botha, at the initial discussions between South African and Angolan leaders on Ilha do Sal.

On 23 November 1983 Barend du Plessis was appointed as Minister of Education and Training. He had to deal with school boycotts in Atteridgeville, Pretoria, where he personally met with student leaders to discuss their complaints and problems. In an attempt to diffuse the tension resulting from a pupil’s death during police action, he met with Bishop Desmond Tutu, the then Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches, but by May 1984 six Atteridgeville and Saulsville schools were closed. Du Plessis tried to restructure the role of the black community in its schools and stated that any parent or pupil had a direct and open line of communication with him as Minister. In 1984, during the budget vote for his department, senior black teachers attended Parliament to hear the debate. He declared that from that day on there would be no race restriction within the Department of Education, from the lowest to highest level.

Barend du Plessis was appointed Minister of Finance in August 1984. He succeeded O.P.F. Horwood and took over an extremely complex portfolio. South Africa was suffering from a serious combination of economic problems, including a drop in the gold price. The Rand/Dollar exchange was also at a serious low, the country was in the grip of severe drought and non-gold exports were decreasing. In 1985 he was confronted with the dilemma of restructuring South Africa’s international debt because foreign banks reduced short-term credit lines to South African Banks. He served as Minister of Finance during the latter part of P.W. Botha’s presidency and early part of F.W. de Klerk’s administration and later became Chairman of the NP Federal Information Committee and member of the Executive of the Transvaal NP.

He had been married to Antoinette (née Van den Berg) but was divorced some years ago. They have four children.


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