72 days that shaped South Africa (9)

Just how “miraculous” was South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy? How close did the country really come to civil war?

Check out our press clipping snapshots of the 72 days leading up to Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as SA’s first democratically elected President – and see how heavily the odds were stacked against “the rainbow nation”.

25 APRIL 1994

Nine killed as car bomb rocks Jo’burg

Nine people were killed and 92 injured in central Johannesburg yesterday in SA’s largest bomb blast.
Police said the 90kg car bomb – almost twice the size of that in the 1983 Pretoria bombing – went off on the corner of Bree and Von Wielligh Streets just before 10am, instantly killing a pavement fruit seller and causing extensive damage to the ANC’s regional and national headquarters, as well as surrounding buildings.
ANC Johannesburg secretary-general Susan Keane, 37, of Saxonwold, who was the 41st candidate on the ANC’s regional election list, died of her injuries in hospital.
Business Day, Monday 25 April 1994

26 APRIL 1994

Bomb attacks on West Rand taxis

A bomb blast rocked a taxi rank near the Randfontein station early yesterday, just a few hours before an explosive device was thrown at minibus taxis parked under a bridge near Westonaria. Nobody was injured in either incident.
West Rand police spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Henriette Bester, said police were investigating the possibility that the two blasts were linked.
The Citizen, Tuesday 26 April 1994

Navy to lower flag

Cape Town – The navy’s traditional South African flag will be lowered for the last time at a special ceremony at Simon’s Town at sunset today.
Simon’s Town Naval Base commander Commodore Jacques de Vos would be the senior officer at the flag-lowering parade, a navy spokeswoman said.
The Citizen, Tuesday 26 April 1994

27 APRIL 1994

South Africa votes.

28 APRIL 1994

IEC under fire as voters swamp poll

Millions of exuberant South Africans went to the polls yesterday, the first day of the historic elections, despite long delays and logistical problems that rendered about 15% of voting stations inoperable for all or part of the day.
Acknowledging that there had been severe problems, IEC chairman Judge Johan Kriegler said the election so far had been between “80% and 90% acceptable”. He also announced that today would be another public holiday to facilitate voting and that a further 9.3-million ballot papers would be printed locally.
Business Day, Thursday 28 April 1994

Police swoop nets 31 right-wingers

Police have arrested 31 white right-wingers in connection with the spate of bombings in the PWV area that have killed 21 people and injured 176 in the past week.
The arrests included members of the AWB and its elite Ystergarde unit, a policeman and a reservist.
The announcement came hours after yesterday’s car bomb at Johannesburg’s Jan Smuts Airport injured 16 people and caused massive structural damage to the north face of the building.
Business Day, Thursday 28 April 1994

29 APRIL 1994

Big count begins

South Africa now waits with bated breath for the outcome of this week’s historic elections as the big count begins, with provisional results likely to be announced by Sunday night.
But the excitement will be mixed with concern and anxiety. The three days scheduled for the elections were seriously disrupted by logistical problems. As a result, voting was extended until 7pm today in certain parts of the country.
Those who are still going to the polls today are voters in Venda, Gazankulu, Lebowa, KwaZulu, Transkei and Ciskei.
Sowetan, Friday 29 April 1994

‘I have waited all my life for this day. No long queue is going to stop me’

For once there was peace across the land. Despite kilometre-long queues, administrative blunders and disappointments, the party mood rarely sagged. White and black made friends in the long queues, swapping stories and bottles of refreshments. They stood patiently from dawn to dusk while the bureaucrats and politicians squabbled. The strategies, computers and cellular phones had failed. Only the unflagging human spirit made it a day to be proud of.
Weekly Mail & Guardian, Friday 29 April 1994

30 APRIL 1994

Election ‘free and fair’

Independent Electoral Commission chairman, Mr Justice Johan Kriegler, said today there was no reason to doubt the country’s first all-race election had been free and fair.
These comments followed a meeting with State President De Klerk and African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela shortly before the close of extended voting in some areas.
Both Mr De Klerk and Mr Mandela said they were confident the poll would be free and fair.
The Citizen, Saturday 30 April 1994

1 MAY 1994

Power to the people

As election results began to flow in last night, the ANC had established a commanding lead nationally. In the Free State, Eastern Transvaal and North West provinces, it had secured more than 80% of the vote.
Sunday Times, Sunday 1 May 1994

Mandela reassures whites in plea for conciliation

Mr Nelson Mandela promised yesterday to eschew radical policies, and appealed to all South Africans to join him in nation-building and reconciliation.
In the course of a 45-minute interview at his home in Houghton, Mr Mandela returned again and again to the theme of conciliation, going out of his way to emphasise that great tasks ahead would require the help and participation of the skilled white community.
He disclosed that the motives behind his actions, ranging from the composition of his cabinet to amnesty for the police to taxation policy, stemmed in large part from the desire to stabilise society and bring previously warring communities closer to each other.
Sunday Times, Sunday 1 May 1994

England tour back in touch

The England rugby team will arrive in South Africa on May 12 for a two-Test tour after worries about the country abated.
Sunday Times, Sunday 1 May 1994

Research, photos: Ndaba Dlamini

Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo material