‘Release Is Not an Issue,’ Mandela Statement Says
Nelson Mandela, the imprisoned African National Congress leader, said today his release is “not an issue” and he wants only to promote peace in South Africa.
His comments came in a statement issued by the Prisons Service in response to international interest in his 45-minute meeting last week with President Pieter W. Botha. It is the first Mandela statement the government has approved for public release since 1985, although he has sent messages out through his lawyer and other visitors.
Mandela said Justice Minister Kobie Coetsee’s statement Saturday about the July 5 meeting with Botha at the president’s residence in Cape Town was accurate.
“The statement, however, constitutes no deviation from the position I have taken over the past 28 years, namely:
“Dialogue with the mass democratic movement, and in particular with the African National Congress, is the only way of ending violence and bringing peace to our country,” Mandela’s statement said.
“I would also like to confirm that my release is not an issue at this stage,” Mandela said. “I only would like to contribute to the creation of the climate which would promote peace in South Africa.”
Mandela, whom many of South Africa’s 28 million blacks consider their leader, has been imprisoned since 1962 on a life sentence for plotting to overthrow the white government.
The report of his meeting with Botha fueled speculation he may be freed. Many South African anti-apartheid activists greeted it with optimism, but his wife and some community leaders were skeptical.
Coetsee said the two men conducted no negotiations, but confirmed “their support for peaceful development in South Africa.”
Botha has said he wants to create conditions to free Mandela, and he has dropped his requirement that the founder of the guerrilla movement’s military wing renounce violence. Instead, Botha has talked of political prisoners being willing to work for peace.