Ben Schoeman 1972


Barend Jacobus (Ben) Schoeman, born on 19th January, 1905, received his schooling in Johannesburg at the Avenue Primary School, the Forest High School, and the Commercial High School.

At the age of 16 he entered the service of the South African Railways and Harbours as a messenger. He immediately commenced studying for railways examinations and successfully completed those for locomotive drivers, goods and coaching accounts, train working regulations and telegraphy within five years. In the meantime he also commenced part-time study for the degree of B.Econ.

In 1938 he began taking an active part in politics and was elected member of Parliament for the Fordsburg constituency.

Mr Schoeman has now been a member of Parliament for the past twenty nine years, of which twenty four were in the capacity of member of the Cabinet. This is an unequalled feat in the South African political history. As a member of the Cabinet he has been entrusted at various times with the portfolios of Labour, Public Works, Forestry and Transport.

As Minister of Labour he was to a large extent initiator of and the driving force behind the legislation providing for Industrial Reconciliation Councils, which has contributed largely to South Africa's labour peace for many years. It is a fact that South Africa's industrial legislation is being taken as a model by a number of other countries.

Under the portfolio of Transport, which includes the Department of Transport, Mr Schoeman is responsible not only for Railways and Harbours but also, inter alia, for civil aviation, the conclusion of international aviation treaties, national airports, road safety, motor vehicle assurance, the building of national roads, control of all motor vehicle transport, and the export of perishable products. Mr. Schoeman has proved himself capable of handling the most intricate engineering, industrial and financial aspects of the enormous railways organisation falling under his current portfolio. He enjoys the esteem of his officials and is regarded as an authority in the field of railway and transport matters.

As a public figure Mr Schoeman is highly regarded. He has been leader of the House of Assembly since 1965 (in which capacity he is in charge of the functioning of the Assembly). On various occasions he has acted as Prime Minister. He is the leader of the National Party in the Transvaal and is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Afrikaanse Persgroep. In 1966 he was installed as the first Chancellor of the University of Port Elizabeth.

The Council and Senate of the University of Port Elizabeth regard it as a privilege to honour Mr Schoeman in this way.