10 February 1990

The announcement by President F. W. de Klerk in parliament on 10 February 1990, that Nelson Mandela would be released from prison, unconditionally the next day, took many people by surprise.  The Apartheid government attempted to negotiate the release of Mandela before, but always with conditions. 

As de Klerk's predecessor in parliament, P. W. Botha had offered to release Mandela on condition that he renounce violence. This offer was rejected by Mandela, who said the African National Congress (ANC) had tried for decades to negotiate peacefully with the white government until the organization was banned in 1960. ″It was only then, when all other forms of resistance were no longer open to us, that we turned to armed struggle,″ Mandela wrote.

By 1989 the levels of violence within the country were so great that in certain regions it was compared to a civil war. This state, among others, forced the Apartheid government to the bargaining table, as the only outcome of an outright war was total devastation of the country, which was already under pressure from years of isolation due to economic and cultural sanctions.

The decision to release Mandela and later other political activists, paved the way for the birth of a Democratic South Africa.


The Guardian  Why FW de Klerk let Nelson Mandela out of prison [Online]. Available at: guardian.co.uk [Accessed 01 February 2010]|Nelson Mandela  F. W. de Klerk's speech at the opening of Parliament 2 February 1990 [Online]. Available at: nelsonmandela.org [Accessed 05 February 2010]