Irony – The Complexities of Helen Suzman and Houghton

The point of this post is not say whether Helen Suzman was good or bad but illustrate ironies of life.

None of the accounts of Helen Suzman point out that one of her constituents was Harry Oppenheimer. To translate into Australian terms, Harry was the same as Kerry Packer, Rupert Murdoch and Sydney Myer all rolled into one person. The closest Australian equivalent to the South African electorate of Houghton turns out to be Wentworth (currently deemed to be the wealthiest electorate in Australia and held by Malcolm Turnbull). Falling under the patronage of Harry Oppenheimer was no handicap to Helen’s political career.

So why did Helen get voted in time after time when in the white electoral terms she was as about a leftie that the system would elect or the equivalent of Bob Brown. I suspect because she was a person of integrity.

The most ironic issue of Helen Suzman’s political career is that she was never elected by a majority of the residents of her electorate. Even at the height of the pass laws a third to half the residents of the Houghton electorate were black. (Given the choice between Killarney and Soweto I would have chosen Killarney every time.)

Thought experiment in political science – If South Africa had an electoral system similar to that of Australia, proportional representation and compulsory voting, would Helen Suzman have made it past being a doctors wife? 

Helen Suzman was a difficult woman – every country needs difficult women. Support difficult women because you never know when one of them will turn out to be your fairy godmother.

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