My comrades in prison were men of honesty and principle.
Bearing in mind how some revolutionaries elsewhere in the world had
betrayed struggle on the eve of victory or soon thereafter, they were
suspicious of individual initiative. If my comrades had known
beforehand about my plan to talk to the government, their concern
about one man who was isolated from them doing so would have been
understandable. The headquarters of the organisation was in Zambia,
where the leaders who conducted the struggle were stationed. Only
they and they alone and not a prisoner, knew the strategic moment to
make the move. The ANC never deviated from the principle that
liberation of our country would ultimately be brought
about through dialogue and negotiation.
Neverthess I approached government without even telling my
fellow prisoners. It was during these talks that Dr. Neil Barnard, head
of the apartheid Intelligence Service, proposed that their team had decided to
start confidential discussions with Thabo Mbeki, adding that from their
sources, he was one person who was in favour of negotiations.
I objected to this proposal on the ground that such talks could never
be secret, seeing that they would take place in a foreign country, I pointed
out that they should contact the President or the Secretary General of
the ANC, Oliver Tambo or Alfred Nzo respectively. In added that to
start such unauthorised talks might ruin the future of a talented young
man's political career. I thought that Barnard had accepted my advice.
I was therefore shocked when I later discovered that Barnard had ignored
my advice and contacted Thabo Mbeki. But the latter was wise enough
and refused to engage in clandestine talks without the consent of the
organisation. He reported to the President who authorised him and his
friend, Jacob Zuma, to meet Barnard.
A dark cloud was hanging over South Africa, which threatened to
block and even reverse all the gains South Africans
had made in
regard to the county's peaceful transformation.