Roelf Meyer

Roelof Petrus (Roelf) Meyer is a former South African politician and currently a businessman and consultant. Originally a member of the National Party, he is known for his prominent role in the negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa. He later co-founded the United Democratic Movement.

In 1979 he was elected a Member of Parliament for the National Party and in 1986 he became Deputy Minister of Law and Order and in 1988 of Constitutional Development (until 1991).

In 1991, F. W. de Klerk appointed him as Minister of Defence as successor to Magnus Malan. Allegedly, the verligte Nat (“liberal” or “enlightened” NP politician) couldn’t win the respect of the generals in this position. After nine months in office, he resigned and became Minister of Constitutional Affairs and of Communication. It was this position which brought him into the negotiating process.

Meyer became famous in his position as the government’s chief negotiator in the Multiparty Negotiating Forum 1993 after the failure of CODESA where he established an amicable and effective relationship with the ANC’s chief negotiator, now President of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa. After the conclusion of the negotiations in November 1993, he became the government’s chief representative in the Transitional Executive Council (TEC).

After the first free elections in April 1994, Meyer became Minister of Constitutional Development and Provincial Affairs in the government of national unity of the new President, Nelson Mandela, working once more with Cyril Ramaphosa who was then chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly.

Meyer resigned from the cabinet in 1996 and became secretary-general of the National Party (NP). Soon afterwards, after the new constitution was negotiated and ratified, the NP withdrew from the government. In this phase, he tried to bring about a re-orientation of his party but failed due to the resistance of the conservative wing. Meyer eventually resigned as secretary-general, as Gauteng party leader and from membership of the NP in 1997. As a consequence, he had to retire also as a Member of Parliament.

In 2000 Meyer also involved himself in corporate business. He held a number of international positions, including a membership of the Strategy Committee of the Project on Justice in Times of Transition at Tufts University in the USA. He also became the Chairman of the Civil Society Initiative (CSI) of South Africa. Meyer also uses his experience to act as a consultant on peace processes and negotiations, for example in Northern Ireland, Rwanda and Kosovo.