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Botha Proposes Freedom For Mandela If Soviets Free Sakharov, Shcharansky

January 31, 1986

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) _ President P.W. Botha today offered to negotiate black leader Nelson Mandela’s release in return for freedom for Soviet dissidents Andrei Sakharov and Anatoly Shcharansky and a South African commando captured in Angola.

In his speech opening Parliament, Botha also said his government will enact laws this year to extend black citizenship and property rights and to involve black communities in decision-making.

In a last-minute addition to his 18-page address, Botha said he was prepared to consider the release of Mandela, the former leader of the African National Congress black guerrilla movement, on humanitarian grounds.

Mandela, 67, was sentenced to life in prison in 1964 for plotting sabotage but remains a symbol of the black campaign against apartheid, South Africa’s system of racial separation under which 5 million whites dominate 24 million voteless blacks.

Botha noted that previous offers to free Mandela have included the condition that he renounce violence, but did not specify whether that was still a government demand.

The president did not specify whether Mandela would have to leave South Africa as part of any deal.

In Harare, Zimbabwe, ANC Secretary-General Alfred Nzo immediately dismissed Botha’ offer and restated the insurgents’ demand that Mandela be freed unconditionally.

″The linkage of the release with issues that bear no relation whatsoever to our people is yet another manifestation of the intransigence of the South African regime,″ he said.

Black Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, an anti-apartheid leader who has denounced the ANC’s use of violence, said of Botha’ speech:″Big deal.″

″What has Nelson’s release to do with Sakharov? I can’t see why they are linked,″ said Tutu.

″It looks like a ploy that a politician has thought up, that it will sound good to ears in the West, that he (Botha) is concerned about prisoners of conscience - when he’s got so many prisoners of conscience of his own,″ Tutu said.

On Botha’s right, Conservative Party leader Andries Treurnicht said, ″It would be irresponsible to release a man who explicity is for violence.″

Botha told Parliament, ″If I were to release Mr. Nelson Mandela on humanitarian grounds, could Capt. Wynand du Toit, Andrei Sakharov and Anatoly Shcharansky, not also be released on humanitarian grounds?

″A positive response to this question could certainly form the basis of negotiations between interested governments.″

Sakharov, 64, one of the developers of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, is confined to the closed Soviet city of Gorky after taking public stands on human rights issues. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.

His wife, Yelena Bonner, recently arrived in the United States for medical care.

Shcharansky, 37, was sentenced in 1978 to 13 years in prison and labor camp on charges of spying for the United States. The Jewish computer programmer has said his only crime was seeking to emigrate to Israel.

The South African commando is Capt. Wynand du Toit, captured last May in a failed commando raid in Cabinda, the oil-producing province of Marxist-ruled Angola.

Botha did not indicate whether the government had made any contacts with the Soviet Union or Angola regarding the release of Shcharansky, Sakharov or du Toit.

There was no immediate comment from Soviet or Angolan officials on Botha’s statement. Neither country has diplomatic relations with South Africa.

Marie Botha, a spokesman for South Africa’s foreign minister, R.F. Botha, said the Foreign Ministry would have no immediate additional comment.

Ms. Botha said the foreign minister was meeting diplomats in Cape Town to inform them of the suggested negotiations for such an offer.

She declined to say if South Africa had contacted any of the possible parties in advance of the president’s speech. The three Bothas are not related.

A Western diplomat, however, told The Associated Press he was unaware that any diplomats had received advance notice of the offer.

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