Mandela urged to refuse Nobel peace prize 20 years ago

2013-12-09 06:54
FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela (File, AFP)

FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Video

De Klerk remembers Mandela

2013-12-06 12:59

FW de Klerk, the former South African president who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela, on Friday paid tribute to his successor. Watch. WATCH

Johannesburg - Two decades ago in Oslo, Nelson Mandela and 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 receive 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 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 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.

It's an emotional time for South Africans, and many around the world. Share your fondest memories of Madiba with us by either e-mailing or uploading.

Read more on:    nelson mandela

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
42 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
PARTNER CONTENT
INFOGRAPHIC: New thinking required for retirement

Everything we believe about retirement is fast becoming outdated.

PARTNER CONTENT
WATCH: How education can change a life

A university education gives students the chance to create a better future for themselves, their families and to opportunity achieve their dreams.

/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.