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Chained Together: Mandela, de Klerk, and the Struggle to Remake South Africa.

David Ottaway has authored a riveting account of the personalities and the political jockeying for power that dominated events in South Africa between 1990 and 1993. This period saw the release of Nelson Mandela from prison after twenty-seven years of confinement, the beginnings of negotiations to dismantle the apartheid system, and the escalation of violence as the various parties to these negotiations battled on the street, as well as at the conference table, to protect their perceived interests. Ottaway, who has covered African affairs for over thirty years, most recently as a correspondent for the Washington Post, writes about these events as a journalist whose audience is the general public. The books accessible style is one of its most important strengths, but is also the source of its weakness.

Ottaway examines the efforts of the African National Congress (ANC) and the National Party to negotiate an end to apartheid by focusing on the two most prominent leaders of these parties. He examines the backgrounds of Nelson Mandela and F. W. de Klerk and illustrates the extent to which their personalities influenced the positions they took within their respective parties on a variety of issues. He also analyzes the way in which Mandela and de Klerk interacted with one another, and shows how the changing character of their personal relationship influenced negotiations to dismantle apartheid. By focusing specifically on the individuals who were in a position to play the most pivotal role in bringing change to South Africa, Ottaway provides the reader with a compelling way of understanding the complex events that led to the unraveling of apartheid. For example, Ottaway discusses the deep divisions over policy and action in the ANC and the National Party between 1990 and 1993 by focusing on the way Mandela and de Klerk handled the factionalism within their respective parties. He also discusses the on-again, off-again character of negotiations between the two parties within the context of the changing nature of Mandela and de Klerk's personal relationship. Mandela initially expressed confidence that de Klerk was sincere in his efforts to bring peace and justice to South Africa. When Mandela later changed his mind, this had serious consequences for the negotiations.

Ottaway provides an excellent and gripping analysis of recent events in South Africa, but the emphasis that he places on Mandela and de Klerk as individuals leads him to conclude that the two "had in the end missed their historic opportunity to become the first great bridge builders of the New South Africa.... They had set a disappointing example of black-white distrust and mutual recriminations" (271). This assessment is only possible if one believes, as Ottaway does, that in only three years, two individuals could bridge relations among the various peoples of South Africa that had already been shaped by three hundred years of racial injustice and economic exploitation. The author also gives too little attention to the fact that Mandela and de Klerk were more than just individuals. They were intimately connected to and deeply influenced by their memberships in communities that had fundamentally different visions of why they were negotiating for an end to apartheid and how all could live together in a new South Africa.

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Author:Greene, Sandra E.
Publication:The Historian
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1994
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