Nelson Mandela 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.