South African President FW de Klerk announces Nelson Mandela will be freed on 11 February

Mandela and F.W de-Klerk.

Saturday, 10 February 1990

The announcement by President FW de Klerk in parliament on 10 February 1990, that Mandela would be realised unconditionally the next day, took many people by surprise.  This was not the first attempt by the Apartheid government to negotiate the release of Mandela.  As de Klerk's predecessor in parliament, Botha had also offered to release Mandela on condition that he renounce violence. This offer was rejected as the Apartheid government used violence. By 1989 the levels of violence within the country were so great that in certain regions it was comparable 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 (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: [Accessed 01 February 2010]
Nelson Mandela  F. W. de Klerk's speech at the opening of Parliament 2 February 1990 [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 05 February 2010]

Last updated : 10-Feb-2016

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

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