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Letter from FW de Klerk to Nelson Mandela, 24 September 1992

24 September 1992

Mr N R Mandela
President African National Congress
PO Box 61884

Dear Mr Mandela

With reference to our telephone conversation yesterday I should like to appeal to you, once again, to do everything in your power to ensure that we can meet as soon as possible to discuss the critical situation of violence in our country.

My proposal that we should meet was unconditional. Representatives of the Government and the ANC were involved in efforts to reach agreement in preparation for our meeting. Good progress was made and it is unfortunate that these preparations have now reached an impasse on the timing and procedure with regard to the release of three specific individuals. We have given careful consideration to the matter and wish to inform you that the Government has decided to do the following:

  • We shall as a matter of the greatest urgency action accordance with the guidelines contained in the latest report of Mr Justice Goldstone with regard to hostels.
  • We shall issue a proclamation within two weeks to prohibit the carrying and display of dangerous weapons at all public occasions, subject only to exceptions approved by a Magistrate in terms of guidelines which the Goldstone Commission will be required to develop.
  • As regards the issue of political prisoners, the Government's position has been that all political prisoners have been released in terms of agreed upon and internationally accepted guidelines. In a spirit of reconciliation, we will now also release all prisoners falling outside those guidelines,  who have committed crimes with a political motivation. This will apply to prisoners irrespective of their political affiliation.

    In as much as the ANC is affected by this, we shall release within days, in terms of section 69, of the Prisons Act as many as 150 prisoners on your list who have completed a substantial part of their sentences. The prisoners on your list serving life and long term sentences, and who qualify with regard to crimes committed before 8 October 1990 will, after a process of indetification, be released before 15 November 1992 after legislation has been passed by parliament. This legislation will deal aquitably with those prisoners whose release can make a contibution to reconciliation.

    However, in a further attempt to resolve the impasse, I am prepared in the meantime to consider applications for the earlier release on parole of such prisoners. In such cases the parole conditions will be cancelled in the event of Parliament passing the above-mentioned legislation.

    Although it might be technically possible to now deal finally with such prisoners in terms of my generl powers under the Constitution and the Prisons Act, I believe that it would not be appropriate to do so inter alia for the following reasons:

    The category of prisoners to whom the proposed legislation would apply, include primarily prisoners who have been sentenced to life imprisonment by the Courts and who have begun to serve their sentences relatively recently. The normal considerations which are operative and which have been established by convention regarding the granting of pardon in tems of the Constitution, are not applicable in their cases. Accordingly, I prefer to obtain authorisation from the Parliament which elected me to my office, for what is clearly extraordinary action.

Legislation will also be submitted to Parliament to enable us to address the cases of persons who have committed similar offences and who have not yet been charged or sentenced in terms of our position that they should be dealt with in the same ways as comparable prisoners.

We have throughout been quided by our view that whatever steps are taken should be taken properly and in accordance with the law and that all parties affected by these steps should be properly consulted.

We have also been guided by our urgent desire to meet you as soon as posible. In this regard we have set no preconditions.

However, the general level of violence in our country, and in particular in Natal, makes a meeting between us more urgent than ever.

In thespirit of reconciliation and concern which was evident from your recent interview with "The Star" I appeal to you once again to ensure that we can meet as soon as possible to discuss the pressing problems of our country.

We owe it to the cause of peace and to all citizens of South Africa.

Yours sincerely


FW De Klerk