Peace with neighbours led to unbanning
From the early 1980s, a steadily growing number of us came to realise that bringing peace and stability to Southern Africa, and ultimately to South Africa itself, would not be possible until apartheid was dismantled and a new democratic order was established. But this, in turn, would be opposed by a large segment of the white voters.
Apartheid was not invented overnight by the National Party (NP). Colonialism and racism had paved the way.
Not even General Jan Smuts could have gauged the long-term consequences of the inclusion on the agenda of United Nations General Assembly an item, “the treatment of Indians in South Africa”, as well as the UN’s rejection of South Africa’s proposal to incorporate South West Africa into the Union of South Africa.
The intensity of the trauma suffered by our Boer forefathers in the most destructive anticolonial war ever fought on the African continent moulded an inflexible determination among Afrikaners to regain their republican statehood.
Unfortunately, in pursuing this objective, hindsight was lost that blacks were also victims and also suffered under colonial rule. To safeguard the white-ruled democracy since 1910 against black demands for political and social equality, the then prevalent repressive laws were expanded in the NP concept of apartheid.
To escape the internal political threat, the independence of the traditional black homelands became an impelling objective.
An enormous amount of money was invested in the establishment of capitals and fit and proper buildings to accommodate governments and parliaments. Universities, schools, hospitals, roads and even airports were constructed.
But the dream turned into a nightmare. Economic integration could not be unmeshed. The “nonpermanence” of blacks in “white” South Africa had come to an end. Only by reaching out to each other, unburdened by racism, could our country survive and move forward. Apartheid could not be transformed.
It had to be removed to eradicate the injustices and free the whites from their incarceration. The challenge was how to accomplish this without plunging our country into chaos and devastation.
By 1980 Rhodesia had become the independent Zimbabwe, which brought to an end the threatening violence on our northern border. The department of foreign affairs participated in the strenuous negotiations that resulted in a peaceful democratic election in Zimbabwe after the years of strife and bloodshed that had followed Ian Smith’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965.
By 1984 we had largely secured our eastern border between South Africa and Mozambique by way of the Nkomati Accord.
Ending the war in Angola and enabling South West Africa to gain independence democratically and peacefully remained our most severe challenge.
Our first meeting with Angola and Cuba took place in Cairo on June 24 1988 in an attempt to reach an agreement on ending the war in Angola and setting a date for the implementation of Security Council Resolution 435 and elections in South West Africa.
On December 22 1988 Cuba, Angola and South Africa signed a trilateral agreement at the UN headquarters, providing for the withdrawal of Cuban and South African troops from Angola and the implementation of Security Council Resolution 435, prescribing elections in South West Africa in 1989. This paved the way for the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 and the commencement of negotiations between the ANC and the government on a new democratic constitution for the country.
Thus, the governments of Namibia and Zimbabwe came into power through peaceful democratic elections recognised by the world; in Mozambique, through an agreement between the freedom movement led by Samora Machel and the colonial power. The resultant independence of Mozambique was recognised worldwide as well as by South Africa.
Thus the way was opened for the dismantling of apartheid and the unfolding of a new era of constitutional democracy in South Africa. The NP government acknowledged the iniquities of apartheid and the ANC leadership agreed that the continuation of violence as a way to retain or attain governmental power would inevitably lead to the destruction of the country.
The decades of conflict in the Southern African region had come to an end.
This was the sequence we had in mind and, although dealing with numerous, complex negotiations simultaneously, we never lost sight of the sequence of solutions that had to be found in our neighbourhood, to ensure that democracy could flourish in our own country.
Pik Botha was South Africa’s foreign minister from 1977 to 1994