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Melanie Verwoerd Describes the Extreme Reactions to Her Surname (Plus: Podcast)

The Verwoerd Who Toyi-toyiedMelanie Verwoerd was interviewed on 567 Cape Talk and in City Press about her recently released memoir The Verwoerd Who Toyi-toyied, which, among other things, tells of her marriage to apartheid prime minister HF Verwoerd’s grandson, her membership to the ANC and the problems it cause with the Verwoerd family, as well as her tenure in Nelson Mandela’s parliament and ambassadorship to Ireland. In both interviews Verwoerd comments on the extreme reactions to her surname that she still receives.

Verwoerd starts the radio interview describing how an airport official, spotting her surname, “sort of growled” at her. Verwoerd tried to tell her that she was “one of the good Verwoerds”, but the woman replied, “There’s no such thing”. Verwoerd explains why, despite of this, she has decided to keep her ex-husband’s surname:

Another big part of The Verwoerd Who Toyi-toyied is about Verwoerd coming to terms with the death of the man she came to love in Ireland, Gerry Ryan. She told Carien du Plessis in the City Press that in the book she also addresses “the media’s impact on people’s private lives and ‘the struggle’ she had with trying to keep her ‘balance as a second partner in a very strict Catholic country, and how to go through pain like that when in mourning’”.

Melanie Verwoerd was an ANC activist in the early 1990s, and it is this period in her life that gave birth to some of the more hilarious bits in her new book.

In The Verwoerd who Toyi-Toyied, out this week, she tells of the occasion when a life-size bust of Hendrik Verwoerd – a loving gift from a Northern Cape community during a campaign – had to travel on the backseat of her little Golf back home, perched somewhat uncomfortably between two of her comrades.

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