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    painting of Nelson and Winnie Mandela by John Carlin

    Excerpt: Mandela and the General

    By John Carlin and Oriol Malet

    February 11, 2021
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    • Marianne Galati

      Can't wait to read this book!

    Originally published on June 18, 2018.


    Nelson Mandela, who  would have turned one hundred this year, led one of history’s most powerful nonviolent movements to victory. But as the first post-apartheid elections approached in 1994, the democratic struggle threatened to spiral into an all-out race war, with well-armed white militias ready to fight to the death to stop black rule. Their leader was General Constand Viljoen, retired chief of South Africa’s military. Mandela knew he couldn’t avert a bloodbath on his own; somehow he would have to win over his archenemy. As they met secretly during those tense months, the mettle of these two men would determine the future of a nation.

    As foreign correspondent for the Independent of London, John Carlin had a front-row seat as the drama unfolded, with access to leaders on both sides. This excerpt from Plough’s graphic novel Mandela and the General opens with Carlin interviewing General Viljoen at a Cape Town bar several years later.

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    General Viljoen says: I was a soldier, Mandela was a terrorist. My duty was to defend white civilization.
    Things were so different when I was a young, up-and-coming soldier. I'll never forget one sunny winter's day in 1964 when I got leave from the army to travel to the family farm. It brings back such vivid memories.
    Constand, look at this: your brother working at the barbeque.
    What? My twin brother, Braam, cooking? To what do we owe this rare honor? Come on, Constand, lighten up for once! You know perfectly well what we are celebrating.
    Constand's army promotion is not the only reason for celebration. Nelson Mandela's trial is over.
    He's got a life sentence.
    But it's still a great day for the white nation. . . Let's raise a glass
    You must forgive me, but I will not drink to Mandela's imprisonment. No good will come of this./You sound like a communist, Braam./I am not a communist and nor, I believe, is Mandela.
    And I fight for the freedom of the white people, our Afrikaner volk, to live in peace and prosperity.
    The family sits to dinner. The shadow of a wolf is cast by the table.
    May I pour you some wine, Master Constand? / I am Master Constand! Really, after all these years.
    Our leader, our hope, has been jailed for life. There will be no end to apartheid now.
    Our system of racial separation had been the law since 1948. In order uphold what we called civilized standards and norms only we whites were allowed to vote.
    Is there a problem officer? Show me your pass document.
    Get on your way.
    I ended my military career at the very top . . and in 1985, I retired from the army and returned to my farm.
    On February 11, 1990, Mandela put twenty-seven dark years of prison behind him and, at the age of seventy-one, strode out into the sunshine of a Cape Town summer's day.
    Pretoria, 1993. General, we have a plan.
    There is a congress of the ANC leadership next month. We can plant a bomb.
    Beep, beep, beep. Braam! How are you, brother? Constand, we must meet.
    I have a message from Mandela.
    You have what? You've seen him? / I have seen him, He wants to meet.
    With me? With you in secret. The prize would be peace. And the price of peace, Braam? Surrender, Betrayal of my people? / See him, Constand. What do you have to lose?
    Mandela's home, Johannesburg, October 1993.
    Ah, hello, General. How very good to see you! I heard so much about you.
    Thank you very much for accepting my invitation. It . . it's a pleasure for me, too.
    Did you travel far? I believe you have a farm in the eastern transvaal, a beautiful part of the world.
    General, would you mind if before our delegations meet you and I had a brief conversation in private?
    have a seat, please.
    Do you take tea, General? Yes, please Mr. Mandela.
    Some sugar? One spoon, please.
    painting of worried man.
    General, I understand you are planning to go to war against us.
    I have gotten to know your people well down the years. I have read your people's history. As you can hear, I speak your language. I understand your fears.
    And I know too that you have the guns and the manpower to cause terrible bloodshed in this country. You are stronger militarily than us, but we have the numbers. And we will have the international support.
    Mr. Mandela, in all honesty I cannot disagree with your analysis. And I have to say that I know what war is and I know what it is to speak to the widows and mothers of dead soldiers.
    I believe we must carry on meeting, discreetly, to see if we can find a way that will reconcile your people's understandable fears with my people's legitimate aspirations.
    Let us shake hands on this, General. Peace must be our goal. Peaceful coexistence between your people and mine.

    From Mandela and the General by John Carlin and Oriol Malet


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