F.W. de Klerk announces the release of Nelson Mandela and unbans political organisations


F.W. de Klerk and Nelson MandelaF.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela. Source: https://www.afripol.org

Friday, 2 February 1990

The announcement by President FW de Klerk to release Nelson Mandela and unban the African National Congress (ANC), Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), the South African Communist Party (SACP) and other liberation movements was  received with mixed feelings inside and outside Parliament. Black and White South Africans celebrated the news as they were optimistic that the country was taking a turn for the better.  In Cape Town, Archbishop Mpilo Desmond Tutu was at St George's Cathedral with his congregation ready to celebrate an event he considered as the Second Coming.

It is believed that de Klerk’s decision to release Mandela and to unban political parties was the result of the following factors. Firstly, South Africa had been isolated through international trade sanctions to the extent that the South African economy was severely handicapped.  Coupled with this, the multiple States of Emergency measures enacted by the Apartheid State had consistently failed to quell the uprisings. Lastly South Africa was almost totally isolated from the international community in terms of cultural and sporting events.

This milestone was followed by tension-driven negotiations aimed at transferring power from white minority to the majority of South Africans. Though it brought about democracy, this journey was not totally without obstacles. These ranged from intensification of political violence in some parts of South Africa to unilateral declarations by some groups to break away from South Africa and form their own homelands. Some scholars have argued that de Klerk narrowly avoided a civil war that would have been severely detrimental to the country and the region as a whole. The decision taken by de Klerk was not an easy one, as he faced opposition not only from the political opponents, but also from his own party (National Party).

• Sommer.H,(1996), From Apartheid to Democracy: Patterns of Violent and Nonviolent Direct Action in South Africa, 1984-1994,  Africa Today, Vol. 43, No. 1, Southern Africa in the Post apartheid Era (Jan. - Mar., 1996), pp. 53-76
• The Independent, (2010), ‘FW De Klerk: The day I ended apartheid’, 02 February, [online], Available at www.independent.co.uk[Accessed: 20 January 2012]
• Answers.com, ‘Nelson Mandela’,[online], Available at www.answers.com[Accessed: 20 January 2012]
• Klotz.A, (1996), Norms and Sanctions: Lessons from the Socialization of South Africa, Review of International Studies, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Apr., 1996), pp. 173-190

Last updated : 01-Feb-2017

This article was produced by South African History Online on 27-Jan-2012

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