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EXTRACT | Mac Maharaj, Pallo Jordan's 'Breakthrough': PW Botha meets Nelson Mandela

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Cover of 'Breakthrough' (Supplied)
Cover of 'Breakthrough' (Supplied)

ANC veterans Mac Maharaj and Pallo Jordan have written 'Breakthrough,' which sheds light on events leading up to formal negotiations which eventually culminated in FW de Klerk announcing that Nelson Mandela would be released from 27 years in prison on the 2 February 1990. The book reveals the skirmishes that took place away from the public glare, as the principal adversaries engaged in a battle of positions that carved a pathway to the negotiating table. It draws on material in Mandela's prison files, minutes of the meetings of the ANC Constitutional Committee, the NWC and the NEC, notes about the Mells Park talks led by Professor Willie Esterhuyse and Thabo Mbeki, communications between Oliver Tambo and Operation Vula, the Kobie Coetsee Papers, the Broederbond archives and numerous other sources. Here is an extract from the book.

Talks about talks continue

What was Botha’s game plan with regard to Mandela and the ANC? It is clear that he authorised the interactions between Mandela and Kobie Coetsee, as well as the Mells Park talks, but in a way that covered him should leaks cause adverse reactions. Plausible deniability was part of the process. In October 1987, Coetsee had informed Mandela that, in the coming year, discussions would take place with a team that included Niël Barnard. That same month, the first Mells Park talks went ahead, but only once the regime had ensured the NIS would have an inside track and thus be able to steer the conversation. The notes kept by Michael Young and Tony Trew are fascinating when read from this perspective.

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