The Election of Nelson Mandela

South Africa Table of Contents

MandelaIn November 1993, negotiators endorsed the draft of the interim constitution calling for a five-year transitional government, and the tricameral parliament endorsed the draft in December. The timetable for elections remained firm after that. Mandela and the ANC, sensing their imminent rise to power and to responsibility for the country's welfare, called for the immediate lifting of remaining international sanctions and sought new donors and investors for South Africa. But the ongoing violence, which was frightening away investors, also threatened to delay the April elections.

In December 1993, the multiracial TEC was installed as part of the executive branch of government--over the objections of the Freedom Alliance and the PAC. The TEC quickly established seven subcouncils with specific responsibilities during the transition. It also approved the formation of an eleven-member Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to organize and to verify the planned elections, and it deployed police and army units to northern Natal to try to end the violence.

Other countries and international organizations began mobilizing support for South Africa's historic vote. The United Nations Observer Mission in South Africa (UNOMSA), which had deployed in small numbers to quell township violence in August 1992, expanded its mission to about 2,000 personnel to coordinate the teams of election observers that were being sent by the OAU, the European Union (EU--see Glossary), the British Commonwealth, and several individual countries.

The antielection Freedom Alliance began to unravel in early 1994. White conservatives stepped up their demands for a separate, whites-only homeland--dispelling any illusions of support for their Freedom Alliance partners. The government of Ciskei, a homeland where the ANC's popularity exceeded that of the appointed president, broke away from its alliance partners and declared its intention to permit homeland residents to vote. The government in Bophuthatswana--another Freedom Alliance partner facing strong popular opposition--sought armed support from the neo-Nazi Afrikaner Resistance Movement (Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging--AWB), prompting the SADF to intervene and to remove Bophuthatswana President Lucas Mangope from office. With the Freedom Alliance severely weakened, PAC President Clarence Makwetu--another election holdout--announced that group's suspension of its armed struggle, thus opening the way for election participation by its members.

Violence continued, mostly between supporters of the IFP and the ANC, and the TEC authorized rapid training for a 10,000-member national peacekeeping force--an effort that eventually failed. The force was disbanded as the elections began. The Goldstone Commission found evidence of serious police complicity in the continuing unrest, and the government suspended several officers pending investigations. The country appeared poised to launch into violence-wracked balloting, when de Klerk imposed a state of emergency in Natal and KwaZulu on March 31, 1994, deploying 3,000 SADF troops to allow residents of the area to defy the IFP election boycott and to go to the polls.

On April 12, 1994, a team of international mediators headed by former British foreign secretary Lord Carrington and former United States secretary of state Henry Kissinger arrived to attempt to break the logjam that was keeping the IFP out of the elections. After two days of fruitless discussions, their effort was declared a failure, and the mediators left. Only days later, however, on April 19, Buthelezi--under intense pressure from trusted local and international figures--relented and agreed to allow the IFP to be placed on the ballot.

When the elections finally took place on schedule, beginning on April 26, 1994, the government and the ANC had several thousand security forces, with varying degrees of training and authority, in place to prevent serious outbreaks of violence. Remarkably, the violence subsided. A few "exceptional" votes were cast by voters who were disabled or were living outside South Africa on April 26. During the next two days, more than 22 million voters stood in line for hours at some 9,000 polling places to exercise their newly won right to vote. Balloting was extended through April 29. There was no voter registration list, so IEC officials marked voters' fingers with indelible ink to prevent fraud.

For days after the elections, tensions remained high, and some accusations of election fraud surfaced--especially in Natal. As the counting proceeded, the IEC prompted party leaders to negotiate agreements over disputed results that would allow the IEC to certify the elections as "substantially free and fair." The official results, released on May 6, 1994, gave the ANC 62.6 percent of the vote; the NP, 20.4 percent; and the IFP, 10.5 percent. Seven political parties won seats in the National Assembly (see table 17, Appendix). Three parties won the 5 percent of votes necessary to participate in the cabinet of the coalition government.

Mandela was unanimously elected president by the National Assembly on May 9, 1994, in Cape Town. His two deputy presidents, former ANC chairman Thabo Mbeki and former president de Klerk, stood with Mandela when he was inaugurated on May 10 at ceremonies in Pretoria. Representatives of 140 countries were present. Mandela's inaugural address stressed the need for reconciliation, both within South Africa and with other countries, and once again he quoted his own words at the Rivonia trial that had preceded his long imprisonment, and he reaffirmed his determination to forge a peaceful, nonracial society.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress