Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher: the meeting that never was | World news | The Guardian
I met Nelson Mandela three days after his release from jail. As he did not want to be protected by the South African police, we agreed to train. Margaret Thatcher's government reportedly tried to stop Nelson Mandela receiving an See the options Margaret Thatcher welcomed Nelson Mandela into No 10 Downing Street shortly and refused to back sanctions against the South African government that pursued the notorious policy of apartheid. Margaret Thatcher angrily rejected a proposal for £1 million to help The system was resisted by the ANC, in which Nelson Mandela was a senior figure. of mayhem” whom the ANC may find it difficult to satisfy and control.
But she did then listen for over an hour to his description of his attempts to negotiate with the apartheid regime. There followed an animated discussion over lunch at which she attempted to explain basic economics. She in turn was impressed by the extraordinary quality, integrity and antique charm of her visitor.
Before the meeting, she had asked me if he was anything like Robert Mugabe. I was able to assure her that no two individuals I had ever met had less in common than Mandela and Mugabe.UK: LONDON: NELSON MANDELA ADDRESSES PARLIAMENT
Through the next few desperately tense months in South Africa, I was able on a number of occasions to help Mandela in his negotiations with FW de Klerk — the man who had made his release possible.
Suffering from exhaustion, Mandela told me that he had decided to take a holiday in Cuba.
I persuaded him that he should stay instead with a mutual friend on a game park in South Africa. Summoned one day to take an urgent telephone call from the great man, I imagined some fresh breakdown in negotiations, only to find that he wanted to give me the politically incorrect news that he had succeeded in shooting a buck.
I tried hard to persuade him, against the advice of his associates, that he needed to reach out to the Zulu community by meeting Chief Buthelezi which, belatedly, he agreed to do. He also had to find a way to enable de Klerk to show his white constituency that the very difficult path on which he had embarked had some benefits for them, too. This led to the lifting of the international sports boycott. Mandela kept urging me to join the ANC.
I suggested that this might be difficult to explain to my prime minister. But I found myself being as skilfully co-opted as others were. When the House of Commons foreign affairs committee visited South Africa, Mandela insisted that I should sit on his side of the table, since, he claimed, I was his adviser. Most visitors tended to show an excessive degree of sycophancy towards him.
He was never overly impressed by this. But he acquired his education and, to a large extent, his opportunity from the British. He devoured our history and literature.
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The Afrikaners were frightened. They believed the freedom and prosperity wrested from Britain were threatened by black population growth and white British immigration. Inthey took full power for the first time, and turned racial differences into legal doctrine. In opposing them, Mandela naturally thought first of his own people, their suffering and humiliation, developing a romantic theory about the innate democracy of rural African life.
But his central arguments were couched in the British tradition of politics — of a socialist bent — and law. His famous speech at the Rivonia Trial inin whose composition he was assisted by the Englishman Anthony Sampson, remains a classic statement of that tradition.
During those long years, not many Britons admired apartheid, but plenty dreaded its sudden overthrow. They feared violence, the collapse of business and communism.
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The Russians had backed violent post-colonial struggles in neighbouring Angola and Mozambique, and a communist South Africa would have been a huge prize. Into this context came Margaret Thatcher. She shared all these fears. She strongly believed that sanctions would damage all races and help start a conflagration. But she also believed that unless the white government changed, disaster would follow.
By establishing a working relationship with it, she sought to aid that change. After her death, in an otherwise fair-minded assessment, Ed Miliband attacked her for her softness towards apartheid.
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Others said she had called Mandela a terrorist. Fromwhen she first met Botha, Mrs Thatcher put pressure on him to release Mandela.