Derek Andre Hanekom was born on 13th January 1953 in Cape Town, the son of an Afrikaner clerk, he graduated from Hoerskool Jan van Riebeeck in 1970 before undergoing army service. He abandoned law studies at Stellenbosch University in 1972, then travelled abroad for two years, working as a manual labourer and farmhand. He later applied his farming experience to win abroad support as minister of land affairs after 1994. He followed his brother into anti-apartheid activities, joined the Young Christian Students, and was arrested in 1977 for protesting the detention of YCS leaders Tom Waspe. Hanekom and his future wife, Zimbabwe-born Patricia Murray, worked a rented farm in the western cape in 1978 and was arrested that year for demonstrating at Crossroads squatter camp near Cape Town.

In 1980 he joined African National Congress (ANC) underground, he used their Magaliesberg farm as an ANC meeting place and established contact with Jeanette and Marius Schoon in Botswana. In 1983 December he was arrested, he pleaded guilty to possessing banned literature after the government dropped charges of treason in order to avoid publicly revealing the content of Hunter's documents. Hanekom served a two-year sentence, then moved to Zimbabwe after his wife's release in 1978. In 1990 Hanekom returned to South Africa and worked on land policy issues at the ANC's Johannesburg headquarters. In 1994 he became a surprise choice for minister of land affairs, winning praise from diverse constituencies for his fairness, hard work, and hands-on approach. In 1999 after the election he was dropped from the cabinet, reputedly for his reluctance to favour black commercial farmers over smallholders, but he remained in Parliament as a back-bencher. In 1994 his wife was elected to the Gauteng Legislature and served as head of the provincial department of agriculture, conservation and environment, and later as a consultant to numerous government projects. In the later years of Jacob Zuma's presidency, Hanekom was one of his outspoken critics.


Gail M. Gerhart, Teresa Barnes, Antony Bugg-Levine, Thomas Karis, Nimrod Mkele .From Protest to Challenge 4-Political Profiles (1882-1990) (last accessed 10 January 2019)

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