Nelson Mandela
Original publication:
Editing: Roderic Day, Alice Malone

Nelson Mandela at the City College of New York (1990)

51 minutes | English | Black Liberation

This interview exists in many fragments throughout the internet. We couldn’t find a transcript, so we produced one. The following description is from the the uploader of one of the many partial fragments, @winborneb:

In 1990, Nelson Mandela visited the U.S. for the first time, after being freed from 27 years of imprisonment in South Africa. During Mandela’s visit he also conducted his first interview, with Ted Koppel of ABC News. Koppel was then known as one of the toughest and most feared TV reporters and interviewers in America. His ABC news show “Nightline” was one of the top rated late night programs on television. The interview turned out to be an openly biased attempt to assassinate Nelson Mandela’s character, credibility, and cause — the bulk of Koppel’s preselected questioners being either conservative Republican plants, apartheid sympathizers, opponents of Mandela’s African National Congress party (ANC), and/or known members of the white supremacist apartheid regime. Due to the wisdom and strength of Nelson Mandela, the assassination attempt failed miserably. Ted Koppel was never the same man again, and eventually slipped into oblivion. [1]

The separators indicate commercial breaks. Koppel’s empty chatter around them was excluded.

Ted Koppel: Mr. Mandela, you’re participating in what is a very old and honorable American tradition — the Town Meeting. Rather than waste any time with my questions — if they don’t ask you good ones, I promise I will try to — but I think we have some people out here who have some provocative and perhaps even controversial questions to ask you, and I’d like to begin.

Rev. Calvin O. Butts: [2] Mr. Mandela, you’ve come to the United States of America; other than South Africa probably the most racially divided country in the world. Evidence of that is right here in New York City: we are one of the most racially divided cities in the world. The blood of our children stained the sidewalks of New York — Howard Beach, Benson Hurst, Yusef Hawkins, Michael Griffith. Our grandmothers — Eleanor Bumpers, mothers — Yvonne Smallwood. Do you think that this country, given its racial record and current history, can assume the real, credible, and moral leadership in the fight against apartheid? Because its hypocrisy is well known, and one wonders whether it can really do what we want it to do. And if it can, what role can we as Africans in America play?


Ted Koppel: If I may just ask you for your [the audience’s] indulgence, if you’d be good enough, there will be some questions you’ll like, there’ll be some questions you won’t like. Let me just ask you, though, to save the time [be quieter], so that we can listen to Mandela’s answers.

Nelson Mandela: After the rousing welcome I have received, yeah, I do not know whether I am in a mood to think coolly. I have been deeply touched by this warm welcome. But to respond to the question, I must say that the ANC, and in fact the entire mass Democratic movement in South Africa, condemns racialism wherever it may be found. We are fighting a special kind of racialism in our own country, and we expect all people who are the victims of racialism to fight that evil. But I am here, and I am primarily concerned with what the people of the USA and its organs of government are doing to promote the struggle against apartheid in our country. And I must say to you that we have the support not only of the masses of the people. We have the support of the Congress, as well as the government. And I think that it would not be proper for me to delve into the controversial issues which are tearing the society of this country apart. I am sure that the USA has produced a competent leaders of all population groups who are able to handle their own affairs very effectively.

Ted Koppel: Let me follow up, if I may, on part of your answer. You say you’re sure you have the support of the people, the Congress, and the leadership. By the leadership, you also mean the President of the United States? You’re satisfied that you have his support?

Nelson Mandela: Well, I am sure of one thing: that he condemns apartheid as I do. That is enough for us to find further common room with the president, and this is the message that I’m going to put to him when I meet him.

Ted Koppel: And when you say you have the support of Congress, are you satisfied that you have enough votes in Congress to keep sanctions in place?

Nelson Mandela: That I cannot say. That lies in the future. But when I address Congress, the main thrust of my speech is that the Congress should support sanctions.

Ted Koppel: But why are you so insistent Mr. Mandela — and then we’ll go to a question at this microphone over here. Why are you so insistent upon maintaining sanctions at a time when it can be argued that the South African government has made more concessions — your release being only one of them — than it has ever made in the past 40 years?

Nelson Mandela: I should know better about this matter, Mr. Koppel, than you.


Ted Koppel: No doubt.

Nelson Mandela: After all it is the ANC, not the government, that is responsible for the present talks. We have been hammering the government since 1986 to meet us, and in spite of the humiliating and insulting conditions they tried to impose on us before they could agree to meeting us, we nevertheless had sufficient patience and sufficient commitment to peace, as to continue hammering them to meet us. They have eventually done so. But despite the fact that the talks are now on, apartheid is still in place. The police are still killing our people, as they’ve done over the years. Vigilante groups are openly arming themselves for the specific purpose of attacking progressive groups and progressive leaders. Their right wing is also arming itself — openly — and they say they are doing so for the purpose of destroying the ANC. They are calling for some of us to be held. Why would you think that we should now relax our strategies? What has happened?

Ted Koppel: Let’s move on to the next question.

Gloria Toote: [3] My name is Gloria Toote. I was born in Harlem. I’m a lawyer, I’ve lived here all my life. I’m also on the board of directors of the African Educational Foundation — it’s raising money to train the people of Africa for industry.

I am concerned about the future economy of South Africa. I am concerned when I look at the newer countries that gained their freedom, so hard fought, indeed did not demonstrate sound fiscal policy. Illiteracy is still quite large, and hunger.

What can assure me as a human being, and a concerned African-American, that the ANC will indeed have a fiscal solvent policy that will continue the use of the resources of South Africa in a meaningful way?

Or should I put it more succinctly: will your economy be based on the Marxist system — socialism? Or capitalism? Or both?

Nelson Mandela: I knew that that was the question you wanted to ask.


I am happy that you’ve had the courage to put it directly. We are not concerned with models. We are not concerned with leaders. We are practical men and women, whose solutions are dictated by the actual conditions existing in our country. As somebody has said: we do not care whether the cat is black or white as long as it can catch mice. [4]


What we want, what we want to achieve, is a healthy and vibrant economy, which can ensure full employment to our people, maximum production, and the development of social justice. We wanted to rectify the imbalances that exist in our economy. One well-known company in the country owns more than 75% of the shares quoted in the Johannesburg stock exchange. This is illustrative of how our economy is organized. The resources of the country are monopolized by a white minority. Even in that minority, by a few individuals. Whereas the masses of the people, especially blacks, are left poor, ridden with disease, illiteracy, without educational facilities. We want to develop an economy which will put an end to that. And will leave [it] to other people to put a label if they so wish.


Ted Koppel: Mr. Mandela, as I told you before when we began this broadcast, almost all the questions will be coming here from the audience. But we also went to a couple of people back in South Africa, told them you were going to be on the broadcast, and asked them if they had any questions for you, or comments that they wanted to make to you. One of those from whom we are about to hear now, and I’d like you to address your attention over to that monitor, is a man by the name of Koos Van Der Merwe, who’s one of the leaders of the Conservative Party. Have a listen to what he has to say.

Koos Van Der Merwe: [5] Hello Nelson. I’m a South African, I’m an Afrikaner, I want self-determination for my people in a part of South Africa. You can’t have the whole South Africa for yourself. A part of it belongs to my people. Nelson, you’re not going to nationalize the assets of the white people. I have worked for my banks, my mines, my businesses, and my farms. You are not going to take it. Stop your violence. Stop your sanction campaign. Stop your nonsense. Leave the violent campaign alone, and come and sit down, become a normal person, and talk, and maybe that way we can find solutions. And lastly, forget communism, Nelson, it’s gone. And I hope you’ll be well. I believe you were ill? I hope you will recover. And have a good journey.

Nelson Mandela: [Afrikaans.]


Well, just to interpret, please, what I said. I just wanted to demonstrate that I am bilingual.


All I have said to Koos Van Der Merwe is to say: I am happy to know you. I hope that one day we shall have the opportunity to discuss the affairs of our country. That is all.

Ted Koppel: Now let me pick up, if I may, Mr. Mandela, on what Koos Van Der Merwe had to say. He represents, as you know, a small but significant segment of the white population in South Africa, which is pressuring Mr. de Klerk from that political side of the spectrum. To what degree do you feel any need to help President de Klerk deal with people like Koos Van Der Merwe?

Nelson Mandela: Mr. de Klerk is an independent, resourceful, and flexible leader. He is able on his own to deal with the right wing. The outside world will be making a grave mistake if they think they can do anything whatsoever to help Mr. de Klerk against the right wing. In fact, for the international community to seek to do anything expressly to help Mr. de Klerk, would be the best way of undermining him, because what the right wing is doing is to tell the whites in South Africa that de Klerk is a puppet of the United States and Great Britain. And that what he is doing now is precisely because he has received instructions from those two countries. And if now the Western world comes out to say they want to help de Klerk, that is what the right wing exactly wants. You will destroy him. We, the ANC, are the only people who can help him. And we are doing our very best to help him. One of the points we are putting to him is that Mr. de Klerk, if he wants to see the future non-racial South Africa — imagine — is to speed up in regard to the negotiating process. That in a year or two he should be able to extend the vote to all South Africans. He must cease thinking in terms of solutions by sticking [to] a mandate to whites only. He must place himself in a position where he can get the support of the overwhelming majority of the people of South Africa. And, if he gives every man and woman, whatever the color of his skin, their right to vote, he will be in an extremely strong position, and there’s nothing that the right wing can do. But if he continues, as he is doing at the present moment, still to think of racist solutions, solutions which are seen first and foremost as protecting the rights of the whites, he will go under.

Ted Koppel: Let us move on to a next questioner at the microphone over there.

Ken Adelman: [6] Welcome to America, Mr. Mandela. I’m Ken Adelman. Those of us who share your struggle for human rights and against apartheid have been somewhat disappointed by the models of human rights that you have held up since being released in jail. You’ve met over the last six months three times with Yasser Arafat, whom you have praised; you have told Gaddafi that you share the view and applaud him on his record of human rights and his drive for freedom and peace around the world; and you have praised Fidel Castro as a leader of human rights, and said that Cuba was one of the countries that’s head and shoulders above all other countries in human rights, despite the fact that documents at the United Nations and elsewhere show that Cuba is one of the worst. I was just wondering are these your models of leaders of human rights, and if so would you want a Gaddafi or an Arafat or a Castro to be a future president of South Africa?

Nelson Mandela: One of the mistakes which some political analysts make is to think that their enemies should be our enemies.

[20 seconds of loud cheering.]

That we can and we will never do.

We have our own struggle which we are conducting. We are grateful to the world for supporting our struggle. But nevertheless we are an independent organization, with its own policy, and our attitude towards any country is determined by the attitude of that country to our struggle.

[15 seconds of loud applause.]

Yasser Arafat, Colonel Gaddafi, Fidel Castro support our struggle to the hilt.

[More applause.]

There is no reason whatsoever why we should have any hesitation about hailing their commitment to human rights as they are being demanded in South Africa. Our attitude is based solely on the fact that they fully support the anti-apartheid struggle. They do not support it only in rhetoric. They are placing resources at our disposal for us to win this fight.

[More applause.]

That is the position.

Ted Koppel: Mr. Mandela, as I mentioned to you before the program, we also have some distinguished guests sitting behind us. One of whom, Mr. Henry Siegman, together with two other Jewish leaders, came to Geneva to visit with you precisely because they were so concerned not only by the kind of thing that you just said before the break — with regard to Yasser Arafat, with regard to Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi — but also because of the support that you seemed at different times to give to the PLO. I would like to ask Mr. Sigman to stand now for a moment and pose whatever question he would like directly to you. Mr. Siegman?

Henry Siegman: Before I pose my question, permit me to say first that, when I had the pleasure and honor of meeting with Mr. Mandela in Geneva, we said to him — and I would like to repeat this now in order to put my question in context — that the commitment of the Jewish organizations that met with him to the struggle against apartheid, against racism, against injustice in South Africa, is absolutely unconditional. It is not dependent on whether we are happy or unhappy with responses that Mr. Mandela gives to some questions.


Having said that, I think I would be dishonest if I did not express profound disappointment with the answer that Mr. Mandela gave to the previous question, because it suggests a certain degree of amorality.

[Minor heckling.]

It suggests that what these people do in their own countries — what a Gaddafi does in Libya, what a Castro does in Cuba — is totally irrelevant, even in terms of the issue of human rights, as long as they support the cause of the ANC. I hope that is not what Mr. Mandela meant, and I would hope that he would clarify that issue further.

Nelson Mandela: Firstly, we are a liberation movement, which is fully involved in a struggle to emancipate our people from one of the worst racial tyrannies the world has seen. We have no time to be looking into the internal affairs of other countries.


It is unreasonable for anybody to think that this is our room. I have been asked by somebody who wants me to express an opinion on the differences that are taking place within the USA, and he has made his position quite clear — that there is racialism in this country. I have refused to be brought into that.


Why should Mr. Seidman accept my refusal to be withdrawn into the internal affairs of the United States, and at the same time want me to be involved in the internal affairs of Libya and Cuba? I refuse to do that. As far as Yasser Arafat is concerned, I explained to Mr. Siegman that we identify with the PLO because, just like ourselves, they are fighting for the right of self-determination.

[10 seconds applause.]

I went further, however, to say that the support for Yasser Arafat in his struggle does not mean that the ANC has ever doubted the right of Israel to exist as a State, legally. We have stood quite openly and firmly for the right of that State to exist within secured borders. But, of course, as I said to Mr. Siegman in Geneva and others: that we carefully define what we mean by secure borders. We do not mean that Israel has the right to retain the territories they conquered from the Arab world, like the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank. We don’t agree with that. Those territories should be returned to the Arab people.

[10 seconds applause.]

I also explained to Mr. Siegman and company that in our organization we have Jews. In fact, Mr. Gaddafi did not allow us to open our offices in Libya precisely because we had the courage to say to him “We work with the Jews in our organization.” And he didn’t allow us to open an office until February this year, when he had to accept us as we are. We are not prepared to be swayed by anybody. We have an independent policy, which we accept no matter with whom we discuss.

Ted Koppel: Mr. Mandela let’s move on to our next question.

Malcolm Dunn: Welcome. My name is Malcolm Dunn. I’m from Plainfield New Jersey, and I’m chairman of the United Minority Business Brain Trust of New Jersey, and a national chairman of the American Legal Defense Fund for the minority business organizations. I have a question that relates to our participation in business in this country. We who have gained the moxie, and who have reached certain levels of proficiency in business and education in various professions, would like to know what can we offer? What can we, who have been denied access, total absorption into the American system in those professions, what can we prepare ourselves to offer to you, in the motherland, given your attainment of one person one vote?

I ask this in the context of Eastern European countries being freed, and the money that was formally sent to Africa now being diverted to those Eastern European countries. I ask also in the context that our country has opened up its doors to people of a lighter hue before they have absorbed us fully in this country.

And if you have an answer to my question please let me know who I can contact after this assemblage to keep up the dialogue. Thank You.

Nelson Mandela: The black of people of America, of the USA, have a lot to offer the people of South Africa in the course of their struggle. Whatever disabilities you have in this country, at least you have been exposed to opportunities which we don’t have. You have better educational facilities. There is no legal colour bar in this country, and therefore you have been able to acquire — in spite of your problems — expert knowledge, skills which we’ll require, especially during the post-apartheid South Africa. You can help us a great deal by making that expertise available to us.

As far as the question of who you can contact, keep in contact with, in our country, that we can discuss after this occasion.

Ted Koppel: Mr. Mandela, as I mentioned to you also before you came out here this afternoon, there are black leaders in South Africa with whom you and your organization have differences. One of them, who represents many of the Zulu people, the political organization known as Inkatha, is Gatsha Buthelezi. If you’d be good enough, direct your attention once again to the monitor, and listen to what he has to say.

Gatsha Buthelezi: [7] I know, Madiba, that you’re not responsible for our not getting together, and I know that it’s other people that have said, they’ve said — I’m not imagining it, they’ve said it in so many words — that they don’t want you and I to get together. But Madiba, all these years you have been incarcerated, you know we’ve been in touch. You know that I’ve always paid tribute to you, that I’ve refused, you know, to negotiate with any of the white leaders in this country for decades now because I told them that it was an absolute non-negotiable, that I can’t get to the conference table without you and our brothers who were incarcerated with you and others and before the unveiling of ANC, PAC and other organizations.

So I think in your absence you might be interested to know that one of our brothers who is very close to you has been to see me. He will have a certain message for you when you return. And I said myself that it’s absolutely up to you because there is nothing that prevents you, even in the United States, to pick up a telephone and say hello and talk to me as we have been doing ever since you left jail.

Nelson Mandela: I do not think it correct for me to wash our dirty linen in a foreign country, even though it is [inaudible].


I am hesitant to do that, even though here I have the feeling that I am among comrades-in-arms, brothers and sisters. One thing I would like to dispel, with all the force at my command, is that there is no difference whatsoever between myself and my organization on the attitude towards Inkatha and yourself in person. If I have not seen you it is because of decisions which we have carefully discussed amongst ourselves, and of which I am part. I however would like to repeat what you know: I have said on numerous occasions I would like the ANC and Inkatha to sit down and resolve our problems, and end the violence that is going on today in Natal. But you know, as well as I do, that the question is no longer simple. The government has taken advantage of the differences between my organization and your organization. They are using those differences for the purpose of trying to eliminate the ANC, and what they consider to be members of that organization who are a threat to white supremacy. That, now, is our problem. It is no longer just a question of me meeting you. I have asked Mr. de Klerk this simple question: I have said to him, you have a strong, efficient, and well-equipped army and police force. Can you tell me why the government has failed to suppress violence in which almost 4,000 blacks have been killed?

Mr. de Klerk has never been able to give a satisfactory answer to my question. I have told you, I’ve given him the answer. I have said to him: you have not suppressed this violence deliberately, because you believe that by using these differences between these two organizations you can crush your enemy number one: the ANC. That is your difficulty. And I must repeat to you: that is the main problem facing the people of South Africa. It is the involvement of the government and its police in the violence that is taking place in Natal.

Ted Koppel: We have, Mr. Mandela, I believe on microphone B over there, a former representative of the South African government. He was until very recently the Consul General here in New York. Would you like to come to the microphone and pose your question?

Abe Hoppenstein: [8] That is so, Mr. Koppel. Mr. Mandela, as one who for a period of years has advocated your unconditional release, I want to say at the outset I’m delighted to see you here in New York. Welcome.

Secondly, I also commend you for your loyalty to your friends, controversial though that may be. But in framing my question, in dealing with Natal in particular, I, as a white South African, am most concerned about the bloodletting, the carnage that is going on. And whilst I take the point that you’ve made, that the police possibly and probably could do more, I do believe that the challenge or the ball is in your court, Mr. Mandela, because one cannot — we, as South Africans, cannot — afford to have South Africans killing South Africans. We’ve got to have peace, harmony, a strong economy; we’ve got to hold out our hands to each other; so we can build a new South Africa with a minimum of bitterness. I believe sir that you are the Statesman who can do it. I would like you to do it, and I’d like you to issue a call — I’d like you to extend the hand to Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, irrespective of political differences, irrespective of dirty linen, irrespective of what has gone before. I believe you owe it to each other and the country to see that we have a stable secure platform on which to go forward together — white, black, and brown. I hope you agree.

Nelson Mandela: I do not consider your remarks as a lecture to me.


Because you would know that it is the ANC, and not the government, that has compelled the government to sit down and talk this with us. It is the ANC that is mobilizing the entire country today around the question of peace. You would also know that I have made several calls at public rallies, that no solution is possible in South Africa without involving Chief Buthelezi. I have made that call not once but several times. But it is the government that is responsible for all our problems in regard to Natal. The questions that I have put to Mr. de Klerk he has not been able to answer.

I wonder if you can answer them. The government has had no hesitation whatsoever in suppressing similar violence before. Why is it that it has not even attempted to suppress that violence? After all, no government anywhere in the world can tolerate violence in which close to 4,000 people have been killed without intervening. Why is your government not intervening? That is the question that you must answer.

Abe Hoppenstein: I would answer you by saying that I don’t represent the government, and I would hope that the government would do exactly what you say. I do not quarrel with you, and I do not presumptuously lecture you Mr. Mandela. I wish you well.

Nelson Mandela: Thank you very much.

Ted Koppel: And Mr. Mandela, we have just heard a number of the things that you said in our hour between 10 o’clock and 11 o’clock this evening, some controversial things, not the kinds of things necessarily what a very political man says. If you were very political you might have been more concerned about not alienating some people in this country who have it within their hands, within their power, either to continue sanctions against South Africa, or to raise those sanctions, to lift them. Why were you not a little more political? Perhaps we’re too accustomed to politicians in this country.

Nelson Mandela: I do not understand what you mean. Perhaps if you clarify what you were referring to I may be in a position to comment?

Ted Koppel: What I’m saying is that in this country, for example, there has been for many years a close alliance between the Jewish population and the black population in the civil rights struggle. There is likely to be a rather negative reaction to some of the things that you have said. That reaction could very well cause people to call up their congressmen, their senators, and say “Go ahead, lift the sanctions, why not? After all president de Klerk is doing a great deal against apartheid.” Only today, in fact, his number two man, Gerrit Viljoen [9], said that the government perceives itself in South Africa as being part of the anti-apartheid struggle.


Nelson Mandela: [Laughs] One of the problems we are facing in the world today are people who do not look at problems objectively, but from the point of view of their own interests. That makes things difficult, because once a person is not objective it is extremely difficult to reach an agreement. One of the best examples of this is to think that because Arafat is conducting a struggle against the State of Israel, that we must therefore condemn it. We can’t do that. It is just not possible for any organization of integrity to do anything of the sort.

Ted Koppel: I don’t also want to leave the impression, if I might just intervene with one point, I don’t want to leave the impression that this is only going to be a Jewish-Black issue. There are great many Cuban-Americans in this country who will be just as offended by some of the comments you’ve made about Fidel Castro and Cuba.

Nelson Mandela: No, Mr. Koppel, I don’t agree with you. I am saying that it would be a grave mistake for us to consider our attitude towards Yasser Arafat on the basis of the interests of the Jewish community. We sympathize with the struggles of the Jewish people and their persecution, right down the years. In fact, we have been very much influenced by the lack of racialism amongst the Jewish communities. In our own country, in the political trials that have taken place, when few lawyers were prepared to defend us, it has been the Jewish lawyers who have come forward to defend us.


I myself was [???] — I’m a lawyer by profession — and I was trained to become a lawyer by a Jewish firm, at a time when few firms in our country were prepared to take blacks.


And, as I have said, we have many Jews — members of the Jewish community — in our struggle, and they have occupied very top positions. But that does not mean to say that the enemies of Israel are our enemies. We refuse to take that position. You can call it being political, or a moral question, but anybody who changes his principles depending on [with] whom he is dealing? That is not a man who can lead a nation.

Apparently, Mr. Koppel, you have not listened to my argument. If you have done so, then you have not been serious in examining it. I have replied to one of our friends here that I have refused to be drawn into the differences that existed between various communities inside the USA. You have not commented that I am going to offend anybody by refusing to involve myself in the internal affairs of the USA.


Why are you so keen that I should involve myself in the internal affairs of Cuba and Libya? I expect you to be consistent.

Ted Koppel: No.


Nelson Mandela: I don’t know if I paralyzed you.

[Laughter, applause.]

Ted Koppel: No, uh. I’m afraid, Mr. Mandela, that paralysis does not set in quite that easily in my case.

The point…

[Mandela extends hand, they shake hands. Laughter, applause.]

Since I’ve just about recovered from my paralysis, I want to come back to that question in just a moment. But first we need to take a break.

The point that I was trying to make, and clearly did not make with any great success, but the point that I was trying to make, is that you must not be misled by what is after all, what in this country we call a hometown crowd. These people are very much with you, you have seen that. The people who come out to see you, the people who will come to Yankee Stadium to see you, the people who lined the motorcade routes to see you, you don’t have to convince them. They are people who already believe in you, and believe in your cause. But this is a very large and diverse country, and when I was making my observations about the lack of politicism — and in this country saying someone is not a politician is not meant as an insult, necessarily — when I was accusing you of a lack of political qualities there, I was wondering whether you are conscious of the impact that you will have on a great many people who are not here today, who do not see you in perhaps the same benign fashion that so many people in this audience see you.

Nelson Mandela: Well, as far as the Jewish question, to begin with, I have had discussions at my own initiative with prominent Jewish leaders, to straighten out this affair. Amongst the people I saw was Mrs. Helen Suzman, who has been an MP in our country for more than 30 years. There was Mr. Masons, who has been a judge in Lesotho, Botswana, and the old Rhodesia. There was the chief rabbi of Johannesburg, there was Professor Katz from the University of Witwatersrand and an eminent community leader in South Africa. We discussed this question and all misunderstanding was cleared — the question of Yasser Arafat and the PLO. I have also discussed the question with the Jewish leaders in the USA, and very top people like Mr. Siegman. We reached an agreement on this question, and we saw eye-to-eye. Now, I don’t know where your concern arises. The Jewish leaders themselves are able to determine their own affairs. Nobody else is entitled to say that the Jewish leaders are going to be concerned about your stand, because I have had discussions with them, and in those discussions we reached consensus. [10] But there are matters, of course, in which we did not agree. But the position which we take as the ANC, I thought we were able to explain it in such a way that it removed the concern of the Jewish community.

I am still prepared to do that even in this talk. If a Jewish leader has any doubts about our stand, I am prepared to address them, and to allay their concern, because they are a very important community both in South Africa and of course in the States. And I’m prepared to iron out any differences that might exist. But they must know what our stand is: Arafat is a comrade-in-arms, and we treat him as such.

Ted Koppel: Allow me, Mr. Mandela, to broaden the subject out a little bit, and to introduce now another distinguished guest here, senator Boren, who indeed will be called upon very shortly to vote upon the issue of sanctions. Senator Boren, I wonder if you’d be good enough to stand up and and to give me your assessment of how much trouble do you think Mr. Mandela is going to have on this issue? How warmly will he be received in the US Congress?

David Boren: Ted, I think he’s going to be very warmly received by people in both parties and by the administration as well. While there may be some differences of opinion on certain issues, like positions on Arafat and Gaddafi, I think the American people understand what has gone on in South Africa. We have seen families divided because they’ve been classified according to race. We know that people are denied the right to vote because of race. We know that people are detained and not even given a trial because of race. And the American people, regardless of party or our position on other issues, are not about to relieve the pressure until that system is changed.

[Loud, extended applause, including from Mandela.]

Let me ask one question, Ted. I do think that many of us understand that there are pressures being exerted. Mr. Mandela and President de Klerk, as they start toward negotiations, have extremists on both sides, who really do not want to see them succeed, who do not want to see a peaceful transition. And we’re concerned — I understand why we must not release the pressure and I think there’s a bipartisan decision not to do that; the president has reached out to us in Congress to say that he will consult with us on any future policy decisions that are made. But I wonder if there are some positive signals we could send, positive to both Mr. Mandela and to Mr. de Klerk as well, that would reach out to help South Africa, that would show our encouragement for these negotiations, and that perhaps could help the country, as it does move to a non-racial democracy. [As an example] I know that black children in school, only one out of every five even has a textbook, because the past government has spent eight times as much educating white children as black children. Are there positive things we can do, Mr. Mandela, at this point, to send a signal, both to you and to Mr. de Klerk, that we encourage progress in these negotiations that are going on?

Nelson Mandela: Well Mr. Koppel, I think I would have an easier task if you asked me to pass a vote of ‘ense [?] to Senator Boren. He has said all the things that are required to be said in regard to the problems of South Africa. He has a very positive attitude, and he is constructive. He is one of those men who are concerned not with fights only in his own country, in his own region, he is one of those men who have selected the world as a theatre for their own efforts, for their own operations, and it is refreshing to be in the presence of such a man. As far as giving a signal to de Klerk is concerned, I have warned that it will be a serious mistake for the outside world to do anything with the stated objective of helping Mr. de Klerk, because it is that type of attitude which has enabled the right wing to increase its popularity, as far as the whites are concerned. Please, whatever you do, don’t do that. I have said the ANC is the best organization to help Mr. de Klerk. We are addressing that question, and I might disclose to you now that we have already — that is, the ANC — we have already started speaking to the right wing. We have already spoken to a very influential member of the right wing, and those discussions were very positive, and they raised hope for greater developments in our relations with the right wing. Don’t interfere in this question. I accept your bonafides in this regard, but you are playing with fire if you think in terms of rewarding Mr. de Klerk, because you will undermine his position considerably. We are, however, having discussions with Mr. de Klerk, and I am optimistic that we are going to make progress. I think he is as determined as we are to see to it that South Africa becomes a non-racial society, free of all forms of racialism. I am convinced about this. The only respect in which you can give a signal to both the government and the ANC is to consult both these organizations as to what you could do to facilitate the process of peaceful negotiations. It is not a matter that can be discussed in a meeting of this nature. This is an extremely sensitive matter, which, if the time is right, and the element of confidentiality is retained, there can be an exchange of opinion. But to think in terms of rewarding one side, one party, and that is declared, is a serious mistake.

Ted Koppel: Just before the break, Mr. Mandela, I raised with you the issue of the money that you are raising while you were here for the ANC. Can that not be perceived as rewarding one of the sides in the struggle? And you were making the point that we should sort of stay out of this rewarding business.

Nelson Mandela: Well I don’t think that means the same thing. What certain sections of the international community are saying is that Mr. de Klerk should be rewarded because he has done something to deserve that, and the first difficulty I have about that is that Mr. de Klerk has done nothing. We have done something. What are you rewarding him for? That’s the first question.

Ted Koppel: Well, let me let me try and give the answer, and have you respond. Your release, the release of other political prisoners, the recognition of the ANC, of the South African Communist Party, now the lifting of the state of emergency in all provinces but Natal… Those are actions which the ANC and your supporters have been asking for for many years, and some people would say, as each of these demands is met, the ANC is moving the goal posts on the field.

Nelson Mandela: Now Mr. Koppel, you’re entirely misinformed. In the first place, the ANC ought never to have been banned.


Secondly, my comrades and I ought never have been sent to prison. The state of emergency ought never had to have been imposed. You are accrediting Mr. de Klerk for rectifying his own mistakes, his own injustices.


You must remember that, in enforcing apartheid, many of our people have been killed, and many of our people have been executed for resisting a policy which the government now admits is an evil system. What are you rewarding him for, as against that bedrock? That is the question.

Ted Koppel: Let me turn around…

Nelson Mandela: We have come here — just a moment, Mr. Koppel — to say we are fighting against injustice. Help us, as the masters of the people of South Africa who are living under repressive laws, a repressive system. Help us to destroy repression. And no question of reward. We are not saying to the outside world “Help us! Reward us for having negotiated — initiated — the peace talks.” We are saying that reward should go to the people of South Africa as a whole, not to any particular organization.

Ted Koppel: Could it not then be argued, Mr. Mandela, that you will use the same arguments no matter what? Because clearly you would argue, and I think with some justice, that until South Africans have one man one vote, until the system of apartheid in all of its aspects is removed — those are all injustices, by your definition, correct? Are you then arguing that sanctions against South Africa should not be lifted until every one of those injustices is removed?

Nelson Mandela: The people of South Africa, the Frontline States, the Organization of African Unity, the Non-Aligned Movement, the General Assembly of the United Nations are all agreed that until fundamental and irreversible changes take place in the policies of the country sanctions must be maintained. I am not here putting forward the views of an individual, or of an individual organization. I am putting to you what is being said by the entire world. They insisted that sanctions should be maintained until fundamental and irreversible changes take place in the policy of the country.

[Talk closes with one last cute question-comment by a child and much applause.]

[1] @winborneb on YouTube (2013-12-07). [web] 

[2] Political crony of former Republican governor of New York George Pataki and major critic of Hip Hop music and culture. 

[3] Conservative Republican who held positions in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan presidential administrations. 

[4] The “somebody” is Deng Xiaoping. — R. D. 

[5] South African Conservative Party leader and white supremacist. 

[6] Conservative Republican political analyst and diplomat who served under Republican presidents Nixon and Ford. He was later a major proponent of the second Iraq War. 

[7] Chief Minister Kwazulu and founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party; a political rival of the ANC and Nelson Mandela. 

[8] South Africa’s New York City Consul General under the apartheid government, ANC opponent, and white supremacist. 

[9] Minister of Constitutional Development, spokesman of de Klerk’s National Party. 

[10] Ted Koppel is using the “diode” rhetorical procedure here, and Mandela side-stepped it well. — A. M. [web]