The Presidential Years

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As we were fashioning these agreements, even before then, we had solicited opinions from our own forces as Umkhonto WeSizwe of which I was then chief of staff. We had gone on a briefing tour of the camps to inform our cadres about what was happening: that there would be a new defence force and what would inform this new defence force.

TT Was Mandela part of that?

SN I remember Oliver Tambo. I went with Oliver Tambo, with Chris Hani, with Cyril Ramaphosa. I can’t quite remember if Mandela was part of it, I think he may have delegated it. All the photos I have are of Tambo and Chris. That was 1992, 1993.

Mandela was involved in the internal meetings, conferences we had, because many of the cadres of Umkhonto WeSizwe were inside the country at the time, The majority, those people who had fought, were already inside the country because about 1991 there had been the cessation of armed action and there was a repatriation of many of the cadres of MK. So most of the meetings were inside the country and in the form of conferences that the leadership of the ANC attended. I remember that Mandela attended an important conference in Nelspruit, where he pledged money for assistance of comrades who needed some sort of assistance. In fact we all needed some sort of assistance and he was advocating for projects to sustain us in the period leading up to the elections and the integration of forces.

Some people wanted to spend the money: ‘Let’s eat the money’. Mandela was not very happy about that and he advised them not to eat the money – but it actually happened that way.

We had other conferences before the election. Though there was another in Tanzania, these were mainly internal because we were trying to woo the former TBVC states to be on our side in their thinking leading up to integration – we realised that although these were forces created by apartheid to divide us, some were now sympathetic to us and we wanted them on our side during the JMCC process and to think like us about integration.

Many, like Ramushwana in Venda, were very supportive and he was also in the TEC. Holomisa in the Transkei had always been supportive and had even sponsored some of the conferences and meetings we had there. Only the Bophuthatswana Defence Force didn’t fit in – the person who represented Bop was a brigadier of the SADF who had been seconded to Bophuthatswana. The Ciskei was not very supportive because Gqozo was at its head, but we managed to woo the soldiers of the Ciskei to our side so that they would have the same view as us about the integration process because we knew that the SADF would try to drive a wedge between us to get advantage for themselves in the discussions we were going to have. I think it was a good thing that this happened.

We prepared well for the integration process. We briefed our comrades. There was a lot of unhappiness in the first place with the cessation of armed action, but we were able to persuade the cadres about the processes that were going to unfold. We let them make input into that so that when we got into that process it was not anything arbitrary that was decided by the military leadership, by Joe Modise, or by Gebuza - it was something that was a consensus of Umkhonto WeSizwe.

Siphiwe Nyanda
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