The day Mandela averted disaster

2013-12-07 00:00

ROELF Meyer, the chief negotiator for F.W. de Klerk’s government, opposite Cyril Ramaphosa, yesterday said Nelson Mandela’s single most critical act was his response to the Chris Hani assassination in 1993.

“When Hani was assassinated, people wanted to take to the streets and create havoc. Mandela stepped in and stopped a disaster,” said Meyer. “He called for calm and a period of mourning, suspending negotiations, but then getting everyone back to the table, despite intense pressures from within [the ANC].”

Meyer, now a peace negotiator in Sri Lanka and Cypress, said Mandela’s recipe for “inclusivity and power-sharing” had also saved countless lives in foreign war-torn nations, including Burundi, Rwanda, Northern Ireland and the DRC.

“Yes, he was a great strategist, but his strategies were built on the same central thing for which he will be remembered — his personal humanity,” said Meyer.

The former cabinet minister said he first heard the news of the death as he walked off a plane from Europe yesterday morning. “My wife sent me a message — it was sad, but I was not surprised — I had heard that his family had gathered at the house.”

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