Mandela Said To Reject Offer Of Conditional Release
SOWETO, South Africa (AP) _ Nelson Mandela’s daughter said Sunday the long-imprisoned black leader has rejected the white-minority government’s offer of conditional release with the words: ″I cannot sell my birthright, nor am I prepared to sell the birthright of the people, to be free.″
Zinzi Mandela quoted from a statement she said her father gave to her mother, Winnie, on Friday when Mrs. Mandela visited him at Pollsmoor prison near Cape Town. It was Mandela’s first public statement since he was jailed for life in 1964 for planning sabotage.
Mandela, who was president of the outlawed African National Congress when he was arrested, said he could not accept freedom while the congress remained banned and unable to take part in the debate on the nation’s future.
In Pretoria, the Prisons Department spokesman, Maj. Abri van Vuuren, said two political prisoners serving life sentences with Mandela had accepted President Pieter W. Botha’s offer for release.
Last month, Botha told Parliament that Mandela and others jailed with him could go free if they renounced violence as a tool to end apartheid, the government’s institutionalized racial separation policies. Van Vuuren said the names of those who had accepted would not be disclosed until they were released, which he said would be ″soon.″
Ms. Mandela announced her father’s response to the conditional offer of freedom at a rally attended by about 10,000 people of all races in Soweto, the huge black township outside Johannesburg.
His daughter said prison authorities ″tried to stop this statement being made, but he (Mandela) would have none of this and made it clear that he would make the statement to you, the people.″
Mandela said the African National Congress had tried for decades to negotiate peacefully with the white government until the organization was banned in 1960.
″It was only then, when all other forms of resistance were no longer open to us, that we turned to armed struggle,″ Mandela wrote.
″Let him (Botha) renounce violence,″ Zinzi quoted her father as saying. ″Let him say that he will dismantle apartheid. Let him unban the people’s organization, the African National Congress .. . Let him guarantee free political activity so that the people may decide who will govern them.″
″I cherish my own freedom, but I care even more for your freedom,″ Mandela wrote. ″Too many have died since I went to prison. Too many have suffered for the love of freedom. I owe it to their widows, to their orphans, to their mothers and to their fathers who have grieved and wept for them.″
A spokesman for Botha said the president had not been given a copy of Mandela’s statement or seen a text, and he had no immediate comment. The spokesman added that South African newspapers could publish the statement, an exception to policy barring Mandela and other leaders of his organization from being quoted.
Ms. Mandela said her mother could not deliver the message because she was ″banned,″ meaning she is not allowed to meet with more than one person at a time and cannot be quoted. The crowd greeted the 24-year-old woman with wild applause and foot-stamping, and carried her to the stage as she entered the packed Jabulani outdoor amphitheater to read the statement.
But Mrs. Mandela later slipped into the stadium, almost unnoticed, and joined in the singing of freedom songs acclaiming her husband and other African National Congress leaders.
As a speaker of the Xhosa language, Mandela is considered a citizen of Transkei, a black semiautonomous homeland. Blacks must have permits to be in white areas for more than 72 hours, and can live outside the homelands only if they have urban residential rights, which are strictly controlled. Mandela refused previous offers of release to the Transkei, saying his return there would lend legitimacy to the homeland system, a cornerstone of white domination.
The rally was held in honor of black Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Nobel Peace Prize award last year.