The Inside Story of South Africa's Road to Change


 An absorbing account of South Africa's recent five-year ``negotiated revolution.'' Johannesburg-based veteran reporter Sparks (The Mind of South Africa, 1990) is well situated to interview both apartheid-era Afrikaner officials and members of the African National Congress. Though current South African president Nelson Mandela also describes some of this process in his recent autobiography (Long Walk to Freedom, p. 1473), Sparks's broader lens provides a fuller picture. Justice Minister Kobie Coetsee, Sparks reports, was enlightened by an old classmate who got to know Winnie Mandela when she was banished to a small town, and he agreed to the imprisoned Nelson Mandela's request for a meeting (``He took complete command of the situation,'' the minister said). This was 1985. Soon officials were taking Mandela for secret excursions to see his country, ANC officials were sneaking exiles into prison to brief Mandela, and government advisers were meeting ANC leaders in Europe. Eventually, practical reformer F.W. de Klerk replaced blustery P.W. Botha as state president. Though de Klerk initially envisioned ``power sharing'' rather than majority rule, the release of Mandela and political normalization that began in 1990 unleashed its own momentum. Sparks covers ``a chain of crises'' during negotiations--police massacres (including a chilling scene the author observed), a disastrous ANC incursion in the Ciskei homeland, a Zulu political civil war. He also cites keys to progress, like the emergence of young Afrikaner politicians and the conciliatory role of demonized Communist Joe Slovo, who, recognizing that an ANC government could not install its own civil service, proposed a five-year power-sharing plan. Sparks writes that the country ``could develop into a model for the gradual solution'' of the world's North-South economic divide. While he offers several solid reasons for optimism (e.g., a culture of negotiation), he acknowledges that South African blacks now have high expectations that will be difficult, if not impossible, to meet. Though fuzzy on the future, a remarkable story about a remarkable episode in world history.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-8090-9405-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994


Nonfiction SAVING NELSON MANDELA by Kenneth S. Broun
by Kenneth S. Broun
Nonfiction NELSON MANDELA by Nelson Mandela Foundation
by Nelson Mandela Foundation
Nonfiction LONG WALK TO FREEDOM by Nelson Mandela
by Nelson Mandela
Nonfiction NELSON MANDELA by Martin Meredith
by Martin Meredith