ANC and the NP reach a compromise on release of more political prisoners

The Record of Understanding: September 1992

Following the collapse of CODESA II, behind the scenes talks between the ANC and the NP became the main negotiation channel. Two key negotiators were Cyril Ramaphosa of the ANC, and Roelf Meyer of the National Party.

After meeting several times, the government and the ANC agreed on a Record of Understanding on 26 September 1992. Both the government and the ANC made compromises.

The government agreed to:

  • Release more political prisoners

  • Erect fences around migrant worker's hostels

  • Ban the carrying of 'traditional' weapons.

In previous negotiations, De Klerk's government had been pushing for a two-phase transition, with an appointed transitional government with a rotating presidency. The ANC pushed instead for a transition in a single stage to majority rule. The ANC compromised with the National Party's demands by agreeing to:

The GNU would include all parties which obtained over 5% of the vote in democratic elections for the first five years. The meant that the National Party was sure to be included.

The term 'sunset clause' was used for this compromise. It allowed the gradual phasing out of white rule rather than one dramatic handover of power.

A sunset clause is a provision that terminates portions of the law after a specific date, unless further laws are made to extend it. Most laws do not have sunset clauses - the law usually goes on indefinitely.

It was Joe Slovo, leader of the South African Communist Party, who proposed this breakthrough "sunset clause" which led to the Government of National Unity, for the five years following a democratic election, which gave concessions to the National Party.

The negotiation process was about to restart.

Last updated : 05-Sep-2011

This article was produced by South African History Online on 22-Mar-2011

Support South African History Online

Donate and Make African History Matter

South African History Online is a non profit organisation. We depend on public support to build our website into the most comprehensive educational resource and encyclopaedia on African history.

Your support will help us to build and maintain partnerships with educational institutions in order to strengthen teaching, research and free access to our content.