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President Botha Repeats Mandela Must Renounce Violence To Be Freed

May 6, 1986

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ President P.W. Botha has repeated that South Africa will not free black nationalist leader Nelson Mandela unless he renounces violence as a means of political change.

Botha reiterated the government’s position following new calls for Mandela’s release. The South African Press Association quoted Botha late Monday after white opposition legislator Helen Suzman met Mandela in a Cape Town prison and then urged the government to free him unconditionally.

The news agency gave no direct quotes from Botha.

In Johannesburg, Chief Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the black homeland of KwaZulu urged in a speech that Mandela and other political prisoners be freed, and that the government’s ban on two nationalist movements, the African National Congress and the Pan-Africanist Congress, be lifted. Buthelezi has consistently condemned apartheid, but many activists have criticized him for remaining within the white-led system as a homeland leader.

Suzman said Mandela was committed to negotiations, and could be the last hope for peaceful movement away from apartheid, the legal system by which South Africa’s 24 million whites dominate 5 million voteless blacks.

The pro-government South African Broadcasting Corp. quoted Justice Minister H.J. Coetsee as describing Suzman’s assessment of Mandela as contradictory. Coetsee cited guerrilla attacks by the outlawed African National Congress and recent remarks by Mandela’s wife, Winnie, that blacks could gain their goals through violence.

Mandela, 67, was jailed 22 years ago as leader of the African National Congress’s armed wing, after he was convicted of plotting against white- minority rule. He remains a magnetic figure in South African affairs and his continued imprisonment has brought worldwide criticism of the government.

Mandela has insisted he will accept no conditions for his freedom. Speculation has grown recently that Botha is seeking a way around the issue, possibly in connection with the Commonwealth’s Eminent Persons Group, which is seeking peaceful solutions in South Africa.

Some observers have suggested the Commonwealth group would call on the African National Congress to suspend guerrilla attacks in return for the government’s release of Mandela and lifting of its ban on the group’s activities within South Africa.