72 days that shaped South Africa

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 selection of press-clipping from the 72 days leading up to Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as South Africa’s first democratically elected president in 1994 – and see how heavily the odds were stacked against the rainbow nation.

1 March 1994: Walvis Handover ‘a triumph’

WALVIS BAY – South Africa’s last remaining dispute with the international community was formally ended at midnight last night as the South African flag was finally lowered in Walvis Bay and the Namibian flag raised in its place.

The formal handing over of the enclave ended a worldwide campaign for its incorporation that had been linked with the demands for Pretoria to surrender control of Namibia and to end apartheid in South Africa.

The last lowering of the orange, white and blue flag was watched in silence by a South African delegation headed by Justice Minister Kobie Coetzee, Namibian President Sam Nujoma and by representatives of African states and the Organisation of African Unity. – The Star

2 March 1994: IFP, ANC in ‘breakthrough’

The IFP is to consider provisionally registering for the April 27 elections. This emerged after several hours of talks between the African National Congress president Mr Nelson Mandela and IFP leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi in Durban yesterday.

Both the IFP and the ANC are also to explore possible international mediation to resolve outstanding constitutional deadlocks.

Buthelezi said the IFP was determined to contest the election, but added that his party’s demands, as contained in the Freedom Alliance’s proposals, had to be met.

The Zulu king’s demands also affected the IFP’s participation in the elections, he said. – The Sowetan, Wednesday 2 March 1994

3 March 1994: Split looms for CP

Cape Town – The Conservative Party is so racked by internal dissent that it could see a breakaway right-wing group registering for the elections.

A group of CP MPs made it clear during a caucus meeting that it could go to the polls. One source said that they had effectively “thrown down the gauntlet”.

They argued that if the right wing could get support for a Volkstaat council – provided for in the Interim Constitution this week – it could force a new government to seriously consider allowing for the creation of such a homeland. – The Star

4 March 1994: Volkstaat boundaries tomorrow

The borders of the Afrikaner volkstaat and the territory’s constitution would be unveiled at an open session of the Afrikaner Volksfront-aligned “people’s representative council” in Pretoria tomorrow, the AVF announced yesterday.

The AVF transitional assembly last week gave its constitutional committee instructions to submit a “concept constitution” and a visual presentation of the land claims of the Afrikaner volk to the meeting for consideration and acceptance.

The AVF transitional body was implemented as a right-wing alternative to the Transitional Executive Council, which has been described by constitutional committee chairman and Conservative Party MP Fanie Jacobs as “irrelevant”. – The Citizen

5 March 1994: Cricket might become national sport

The ANC recognises sport as the single biggest “healer” in a country torn apart by race and cultural differences.

And shadow sports minister Steve Tshwete is so encouraged by the role played by cricket that he believes it could become SA’s national sport.

At the Wanderers stadium yesterday, Tshwete sat watching the test match from the front row of the plush Long Room. When the previous two South Africa-Australia cricket tests were staged on this ground in 1967 and 1970, he was breaking rocks on Robben Island.

Now in a position to break far more influential ground, Tshwete spoke of his admiration for cricket’s role in healing old wounds and gave his assurance that an ANC government would have sport high on its list of priorities. – The Weekend Star

6 March 1994: Viljoen crushed by right-wing hawks

Rampant Afrikaner Volksfront leaders yesterday swept aside an attempt by former SADF chief Constand Viljoen and his moderate generals to register a right-wing party for the April elections.

After a bitter nine-hour crisis meeting in which numerous personal insults were directed at General Viljoen, hardline Conservative Party leader Ferdi Hartzenberg announced triumphantly to rapturous applause: “We will not take part in the elections”. – The Sunday Times

Research, photos: Ndaba Dlamini

Reviewed: October 2013


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