Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Thatcher, Apartheid South Africa, & Brink's A Dry White Season

From yesterday's BBC article "Thatcher's role 'in saving Nelson Mandela':"
Did Margaret Thatcher play a role in helping to save Nelson Mandela's life? That is the remarkable claim made by one of the former South African president's closest friends, Ahmed Kathrada.
"Her word did count - I'm sure of it," Mr Kathrada told me, on hearing of the death of Baroness Thatcher. Between 1963 and 1964, Nelson Mandela was a defendant at the Rivonia trial, accused of trying to overthrow the apartheid government. Mr Kathrada was one of nine other men in the dock with him. The death penalty was initially sought by prosecutors, but was later changed to life imprisonment. Mr Mandela eventually spent 27 years in prison. Mr Kathrada was released a few months earlier in October 1989.
After the end of apartheid and the advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994, Mr Kathrada sometimes took visiting delegations and VIPs on guided tours of the notorious Robben Island jail where he and Mr Mandela had been incarcerated. "I had the opportunity to accompany [Margaret Thatcher] a few years ago," said Mr Kathrada. "She assured me that she had played a positive role during our trial."
"We were expecting a death sentence. We were well aware that there was all sorts of pressure from South Africa and abroad - pressure from people not necessarily agreeing with" the ANC's policies, he said.
The most popular comments on the article vehemently disagree that Thatcher saved Mandela. Here's of the highest rated comments:
This is historical revisionism. [...] The Thatcher Government resisted international pressure to impose economic sanctions on the apartheid country and she regarded the ANC as a 'typical terrorist organization' as late as 1987.
For a novel set in apartheid South Africa, try A Dry White Season by André P. Brink:
Ben Du Toit is a white schoolteacher in suburban Johannesburg in a dark time of intolerance and state-sanctioned apartheid. A simple, apolitical man, he believes in the essential fairness of the South African government and its policies--until the sudden arrest and subsequent "suicide" of a black janitor from Du Toit's school. Haunted by new questions and desperate to believe that the man's death was a tragic accident, Du Toit undertakes an investigation into the terrible affair--a quest for the truth that will have devastating consequences for the teacher and his family, as it draws him into a lethal morass of lies, corruption, and murder.

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