World
Mandela was urged to refuse Nobel peace prizePublish Date: Dec 09, 2013
Mandela was urged to refuse Nobel peace prize
  • mail
  • img
December 10, 1993: Nelson Mandela (C), President of the South African African National Congress and and South Africas last apartheid President Frederik de Klerk (R), displaying to journalists their Nobel Peace Prizes during a ceremony in Oslo. PHOTO/AFP
newvision

JOHANNESBURG - Two decades ago in Oslo, Nelson Mandela and South Africa's last apartheid president FW de Klerk stood side by side in Oslo and accepted the Nobel peace prize, a moment that epitomised the reconciliation of enemies.

But that powerful gesture of forgiveness on December 10, 1993 might never have happened.

When it became clear that Mandela would recieve the prestigious award in tandem with a man who ensured he spent 27 years in prison, he came under fierce pressure to decline.

When the telephone rang on October 15, 1993 with the Nobel committee's decision, "the reaction was quite strong and some of us were very hesitant about supporting the joint thing with De Klerk," Tokyo Sexwale, a African National Congress stalwart told AFP.

"We were, some of us, very concerned. We can't have Nelson Mandela, such an icon, receiving this thing with his oppressor," said Sexwale.

The situation was fraught.

Talks with De Klerk's white-supremacist government were already at an advanced stage, and the two men often sparred bitterly.

All-race elections had been slated for April the following year.

Meanwhile supporters from the ANC and Zulu party Inkatha were killing each other in the streets, and die-hard apartheid supporters were thought to be fanning the violence.

"Remember, there was a lot of violence in South Africa," said Sexwale.

Thousands died in clashes in the four years up to the 1994-polls.

At the same time there was a lot of bitterness toward the apartheid government, which had assassinated many ANC activists, said Sexwale.

"We suffered, we had family members killed, friends assassinated. We saw apartheid bombing our offices," he recalled.

"So how do you reconcile with this people?"

ANC leaders pointed out that Albert Luthuli and Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu had won the prize earlier as individuals.

"So we were saying, Nelson Mandela doesn't need it with another person, and above all with a man who has just jailed him," said Sexwale.

"But it's (Mandela) himself who convinced us about the correctness of what was happening.

"Reconciliation is not an easy thing. So we had to show that a De Klerk can be embraced."

"It was used by Mandela as a tool to show the example of his dialogue and leadership," Sexwale remembered.

Meanwhile the reaction at the then-president's office was the opposite.

"I phoned to say I had good news from Oslo," De Klerk's former aide Dave Steward said.

"He was delighted," despite boos from some Norwegians when De Klerk greeted the crowds with Mandela from a hotel balcony in Oslo on December 10, 1993.

"It was a very happy moment full of hope in a period that wasn't easy," Steward added.

Mandela's friend Nadine Gordimer, a recent Nobel literature laureate, travelled to Oslo, along with Mandela's lawyer George Bizos.

"It was a kind of betrayal to see he had to share and to see the apartheid president had something to share with Mandela," the 90-year-old writer told AFP.

In his speech De Klerk emphasised the "change of heart" from both sides.

Mandela praised "the common humanity that bonds both black and white into one human race".

He saluted his "compatriot and fellow laureate", who "had the courage to admit that a terrible wrong had been done to our country and people through the imposition of the system of apartheid."

Neither man had access to the other's Nobel acceptance lecture beforehand.

AFP

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Major US, European and Canadian airlines cancelled flights to and from Israel on Tuesday after a rocket fired from Gaza struck near its main international airport in Tel Aviv....
Villagers in a rural part of eastern India have beaten to death a woman whom they accused of being a witch, police said Tuesday....
MH17 bodies expected Wednesday, IDs could take months
The first bodies from the MH17 crash in Ukraine will be flown on Wednesday to the Netherlands, where their identification could take months, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said....
German court allows patients to grow medical marijuana
A German court ruled for the first time Tuesday that seriously ill patients may grow their own marijuana for medical purposes in certain cases....
Pro-Kremlin media accuse West of assigning blame over jet
A chorus of Kremlin-friendly media declared on Monday that the truth about what happened to the Malaysian jet would likely never be found out, accusing the West of heaping the blame on Russia....
Kerry travels to Cairo calling for
US Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Cairo early Monday for crisis talks on Gaza, following President Barack Obama's call for an "immediate ceasefire" between Israelis and Palestinians....
With the recent increase of the HIV prevelance rate, Is Uganda losing the fight against the disease?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter