A Hero In Jail And A Democratic Front

The Nkomati Accord and the Tricameral Parliament lifted Western pressure on whiteruled South Africa only partially. Soon it would be confronted by a twofold internal challenge; the one by a man now more than twenty years in jail on Robben Island, and the other by a democratic front that in many ways constituted the friendly face of the ANC.

By the mid-1980s the campaign for the release of Nelson Mandela and his comrades from incarceration on Robben Island had become a global matter about which there was virtually no dissent. Even friendly governments like that of Margaret Thatcher in Britain put pressure on Botha to release Mandela and his comrades and to find a settlement with the ANC and other parties excluded from regular politics in South Africa. The problem was that the National Party leadership, Botha included, had long told their followers that the ANC was dominated by communists and resolutely committed to the armed struggle. ‘We have painted ourselves into a corner,’ Botha told his Minister of Justice, and asked: ‘Is there a way out?’

The United Democratic Front

Combating the constitution

A rival front

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