Imposing photograph of Jan Smuts at the San Francisco Conference in 1945 – the historic conference which founded the United Nations (UN).
One of Jan Smuts’ last acts as the Prime Minister for South Africa was the establishment of the United Nations. In fact he wrote the original opening lines of the Preamble to the United Nations Charter as …
“The High Contracting Parties, determined to prevent a recurrence of the fratricidal strife which twice in our generation has brought untold sorrow and loss upon mankind..”
Not only did Smuts do the first draft of the Preamble to the United Nations Charter, he also played a key role in putting together the United Nations Charter itself. Smuts even presided over the first meeting of Commission II, General Assembly of the United Nations on 30 May 1945, held at the San Francisco Opera House.
Jan Smuts was also present at the historic signing ceremony of the United Nations Charter on the 26th June 1945 and signed the Charter on behalf of South Africa.
Subsequent to these historic meetings and ceremonies in San Francisco the Charter and United Nations as we know it came into full existence on the 24 October 1945.
Now, this was truly one of South Arica’s most philanthropic leaders, a man years ahead of his time, only to have his legacy tarnished by successive political posturing after his death five years later in 1950, which continues even to this day.
By the time of Smuts’ death in 1950, even the United Nations, which South Africa had played such a pivot role in establishing in 1945, was at loggerheads with the “new” South African Nationalist government which came to power over Smuts’ party in 1948. From that date onward the United Nations started to pass resolution after resolution in damnation of the then newly elected National Party’s policy of Apartheid.
During the next 46 years in the United Nations, South Africa went from the heady heights of a founding signatory of The United Nations to the lows of a pariah state – and this forever diminished and damaged South Africa’s influence in the United Nations and as a leader in future global politics. Something Jan Smuts even foresaw in 1948 and warned the country against, but to no avail.
However, history is the ultimate decider and Jan Smut’s track record of achievements cements the simple fact that he remains one of the greatest men the country has ever produced.