Nelson Mandela meets President P.W. Botha to begin negotiating the end of apartheid


P.W. Botha and Mandela

Wednesday, 5 July 1989

On 5 July 1989, African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela met with President ;P.W. Botha at Tuynhuis. At the time, Mandela was still imprisoned at Victor Verster after he was transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor in 1982, then to Victor Verster in 1988-1990.

The unfavourable economic situation of South Africa, due to sanctions and lack of foreign investment, as well as the growing discontent internally meant that apartheid was no longer feasible and changes needed to take place in South Africa. Mandela knew that talks with the government needed to be conducted in order to negotiate an end to apartheid.

The meeting between Mandela and P.W. Botha occurred in secret on 5 July 1989, and was very brief; however this meeting is regarded as significant as it brought together two opposing leaders in a surprisingly cordial manner.

As Mandela states in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom:

"From the opposite side of his grand office PW Botha walked towards me. He had planned his march perfectly, for we met exactly half way. He had his hand out and was smiling broadly, and in fact from that very first moment he completely disarmed me. He was unfailingly courteous, deferential and friendly."

Therefore, despite the fact that Botha, or "Die Groot Krokodil" [Big Crocodile] had been instrumental in the development of repressive strategies such as "Total Onslaught", this meeting with Mandela led to further negotiations between the government and the ANC that would eventually bring an end to apartheid.

• Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds) (1999) Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997. Westport: Greenwood).
•,"Mandela and Botha: The crocodile & the saint"From:,(2006) [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 June 2014]
• Sampson, A. (1999) Mandela: the authorised biography, Johannesburg: HarperCollins

Last updated : 03-Jul-2015

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

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