Officially, thirty years ago to the day, the fourth pillar law of apartheid was abolished. A look back at the negotiations that led to this historic episode.
Forty three years. This is the number of years during which the Group Areas Act and the Population Registration Act, the two pillar laws of apartheid in South Africa, will have been in effect. It was on June 22, 1950 that the South African government of the United National Party, led by Daniel François Malan and allied to the Afrikaner Party, promulgated these two laws: the "Population Classification Act" on the one hand, the " Separate Housing Law ”from the other. At the time, every South African over 16 was listed and classified according to their skin color.
Three years later, in 1953, the authorities put in place the Separate Amenities Act, which completed an already racist legal arsenal. It is now official: whites and non-whites will be separated in places and public transport.
The release of Mandela, a cause that is becoming international
A situation that will last nearly half a century. Among the fierce opponents of South Africa's racist ideology, Nelson Mandela. In 1943, he joined the African National Congress (ANC), five years before the victory of the United National Party in the general elections of 1948. In 1961, then president of the ANC, Mandela opted for armed struggle, with the creation from the military branch of the party, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). The following year, the activist, who advocates "a free and democratic society in which all people live together in harmony and with the same opportunities", will be arrested thanks to the help of the CIA.
At the time, the world knew too little about Mandela. It is especially in South Africa that it has a good reputation. It was not until the early 1980s that the planet began to be moved by Nelson Mandela, under the leadership of Winnie, his wife, who internationalized the cause. Winnie then meets a Frenchman, Jean-Yves Ollivier. Specialized in trading, the businessman has good networks in Africa and proposed to Jacques Chirac, then Prime Minister of François Mitterrand, to do everything to have Mandela released.
“Free Nelson Mandela! It is not by chanting slogans that we will get there ”
At the time, Ollivier had already negotiated the releases of prisoners. “Today, no one suspects that this achievement is for me only a first step in the long march towards regional peace. Through these prisoners returned to their lives, I am targeting the prisoner who can stop the martingale of hatred not only around South Africa, but in the country of apartheid itself, writes Jean-Yves Ollivier in his book “Ni seen, not known ”. 'Free Nelson Mandela!'… It is not by chanting slogans and waving banners that we will get there ”.
Then begins a real diplomatic marathon. During which this "auto-entrepreneur in private diplomacy", as the press sometimes defines it, navigates from one camp to another for bitter discussions. Long before he came to power, Jean-Yves Ollivier was invited to meet Frederik de Klerk, then Minister of Education, who, intermediaries told him, "will be called upon to play a very important role" in Africa. from South. De Klerk is an Afrikaner who, according to the businessman, seems "malleable".
De Klerk promises the end of apartheid
While the sanctions against South Africa prevent Europeans from going there to discuss with the country's leaders, a secret meeting is organized by Ollivier between Manuel Barroso, young Portuguese Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, and Frederik De Klerk. We are at the end of the 1980s and the latter explains to the Portuguese that President Pieter Willem Botha is going to leave power. De Klerk assures us that he is the next head of state and that he will end apartheid and release Mandela.
In August 1989, the words of Frederik de Klerk take shape, after a "palace revolution" facilitated by the cardiovascular accident of PW Botha. De Klerk will take time before putting an end to apartheid, he will first go through London and Paris to reveal his plans to Margaret Tatcher and then to François Mitterrand. Denis Sassou N'Guesso's Congo will also play a big role in Mandela's release. A few years before de Klerk came to power, DSN, then chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), was one of the African heads of state most firmly opposed to apartheid. After refusing to receive Botha, Sassou N'Guesso accepts, convinced by Jean-Yves Ollivier, to "get involved in the search for a negotiated solution that would not sacrifice the white community in South Africa", in particular with Houphouët- Boigny.
Because it is undoubtedly the stake of the negotiations of Olivier to put an end to apartheid: to make discuss the two parts to arrive at a solution without any revenge being exerted against the white community. On February 2, 1990, a year after his election as head of the National Party, Frederik de Klerk finally announced to Parliament the “unconditional” release of Nelson Mandela. On February 11, Mandela was effectively released. Several stages of the suppression of apartheid laws will follow.
A joint Nobel Peace Prize
But did apartheid really disappear with the abolition of the regime's pillar laws? In 1991, Nelson Mandela believes that we are far from equality: “Some people claim that we are already in 'the new South Africa', he is surprised. The changes and advances are said to be so irreversible that any protest and any fight on our part is deemed unnecessary. Yet it suffices to analyze any sector of our society to see how false all this is. The current distribution of professional qualifications, goods and land demonstrates that know-how and well-being remain the privilege of whites ”.
The weeks following June 30, 1991 and the abolition of the Population Registration Act will not look like a honeymoon between Frederik de Klerk and Nelson Mandela. “We are being asked to forget history and start from scratch. It's impossible. This is a not very elegant way of making us understand that the disparities are always and still maintained, ”said Mandela in June 1991.
In 1993, Nelson Mandela and Frederik de Klerk will jointly receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Jean-Yves Ollivier remembers the anger of the ex-prisoner. He explains that he had "no difficulty in understanding the anger of Nelson, who was unfairly placed on an equal footing with a simple 'charge de mission', even if his mission was historic."