Mandela and De Klerk
Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life in prison but continues to work for the African National Congress to achieve democracy in South Africa. When de Klerk becomes President, they negotiate the end of political violence and the beginning of democratic elections.
In Pretoria, South Africa on June 6, 1964 Nelson Mandela (Sidney Poitier) speaks to a judge about how he has dedicated his life to the struggle of the African people. He has fought against white and black domination. He cherishes the ideals of democracy and equality. He lives for these ideals and is willing to die for them. The judge announces that Mandela has been found guilty of sabotage and conspiracy against the state, and he is sentenced to life in prison. Walter Sisulu (Jerry Mofokeng) and six others are given the same sentence.
They work breaking up rocks with picks and hammers while African people protest in the streets.
In the 12th year of their imprisonment Winnie Mandela (Tina Lifford) visits Nelson. They both say they are well, and she tells him about their daughter in boarding school. A guard interrupts them asking who is Zindzi, and Nelson explains she is his younger daughter. She says the extended family is well, and they send their love. He tells her to contact them as often as she can. She tells him that his garden is thriving. She says new buds are taking root even after stray dogs ravage through them. He says it is good to see her.
While they are working in a bathroom, other prisoners asks Mandela about the news. He says the African National Congress (ANC) is growing with new recruits, but the stray dogs are the government police who are everywhere.
News reports Africans disrupting the township, and barricades are on fire.
At a long table twelve white men and one woman discuss what to do to stop the attacks. President P. W. Botha (Gerry Maritz) asks who is behind the attacks and wonders if it is Mandela. F. W. de Klerk (Michael Caine) says that Mandela is resourceful and that they cannot afford to ignore his abilities. They say that Oliver Tambo and other exiles are involved; they are calling Robben Island Mandela’s university. Botha tells them to do something about it.
Mandela and others are ordered to pack their things.
At night a truck delivers Mandela and three others to another location. He writes and tells Winnie that they have been moved to an isolated cell away from all the other inmates.
At an ANC rally Winnie says her husband is in prison because they are fighting for freedom. She says they will support them in defiance. The Africans chant and dance until police come in with clubs to break up the rally.
Mandela reads in a newspaper that Winnie was arrested. A guard talks to Mandela about his grandchildren and says he remembers because he is a prison censor. Mandela thanks him for showing him how to get around the censorship rules.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu (himself) speaks to a large crowd about Mandela. They march with banners in the street that say “Release Mandela.”
Botha orders men to do what is necessary. One man suggests that they could talk to Mandela.
News reports a raid that ended Pretoria’s peace initiative.
In his 18th year of imprisonment inmates tell Mandela that the government has killed hundreds. Mandela asks if we retaliated, and they say they blew up part of a nuclear station. Some say, “One settler, one bullet.”
Kobie Cotzee (Ian Roberts) advises Botha that Mandela is the highest leader in the ANC still on South African soil. Botha reminds him he is in prison and will remain there. Botha gets in a car that drives off. Kobie asks F. W. de Klerk to help him change his mind. De Klerk says he shares Botha’s position and asks how they can negotiate with terrorists. Kobie says they have to break through that concept of terrorism, and de Klerk is surprised he agrees with Mandela. De Klerk says he is not a reformer, but Kobie says people will listen to him. De Klerk says they cannot afford another split in the party; he is not a messiah.
In a cell Mandela experiences pain while others are talking.
Botha tells de Klerk and Kobie that Mandela has an enlarged prostrate gland, and part of it has to be removed. De Klerk says that international sanctions are spreading like wildfire; but Botha says they cannot last. De Klerk says that Mandela is in a hospital, and he is older than both of them. If he were to die, he would be a martyr. He says it would arouse their enemies there and around the world. Kobie tells President Botha that it is time to sit down with Mandela. Botha says he is a terrorist and has been found guilty of treason. Kobie says that the President does not have to be involved; it could be handled discreetly. Botha asks how.
Minister of Justice Kobie Cotzee visits Mandela in the hospital and says he was visiting a friend down the hall. Mandela says he is speechless. Cotzee asks what he needs, and Mandela says he most needs more information. Cotzee says that is difficult and starts to leave, but he says they will meet again.
Mandela is packing his books and things and tells the others that he is being given his own private cell, but they gave him no clue where. He says if they think by isolating him, it will stop him, then they are mistaken.
Mandela is doing push-ups in his cell. And the prison censor James Gregory (Ben Kruger) invites him to go with him. Mandela says he is joking, but he says it is orders from on high.
He drives Mandela who looks at the country. He stops the car and offers Mandela a cool drink. He leaves him in the car and says he will be back in a minute. Mandela puts his hand on the door handle, and the guard brings him a coke.
Winnie tells an officer that this is not the visiting room. He says it is all right, and Mandela comes in. He asks if he is leaving them alone, and the guard says it is government orders and closes the door. They embrace and kiss, and he says it has been twenty years since he held her. He says nothing they would say would surprise them. He says they took him on a ride through Cape Town. She thinks they want to seduce him, and he says it is working. He thinks they are signaling they are ready to talk. She tells him not to trust them. He says it is a dangerous path that he must take.
James Gregory takes Mandela to his house where Mrs. Gregory welcomes him. Later Mandela thanks her for a fine meal. Their son asks him if he is really a prince, and he asks if he had many servants. Mandela laughs and says it was not that way. He says he had to do chores. His mother sent him to his uncle who was the king. There he was trained to become an advisor to kings. His other duty was to iron the pants of his uncle perfectly. He had to do it because it was his duty. He says it taught him to be patient and how to concentrate on a single task.
In his cell at night Mandela writes a letter to Cotzee about the situation in their country which has become untenable. Armed resistance has not stopped. As an executive of the ANC he asks the government to sit down and talk with them to relieve the suffering in South Africa.
Botha asks an aide if Mandela is getting desperate. The aide says he is getting old and running out of time.
Mandela arrives in a car and is welcomed outside by Johann Kykendal. Inside the house Mandela tells Kykendal that the time has come for negotiations. He asks what is stopping the government. Mandela says Kykendal is only a civil servant, and he is not authorized by the ANC. Mandela says he is an executive member of the ANC, and Kykendal is only a conduit; it is not his place to tell Mandela what to do. Mandela says he is not the head of the ANC. He runs the risk of being repudiated. If the government will take some risks, they can share them together. He says this is the last chance for a peaceful settlement before the armed struggle passes a point of no return. Mandela stands up and orders him to tell them.
In a cell Mandela tells his comrades that he has benefited from his isolation. They ask who he sees, and he says Cotzee and others. He says he grasped the opportunity. Others say it could be turned against them or split them. Mandela says the ANC should not flinch from danger. A guard looks in, and they stop talking until he walks away. Mandela says they have them on the ropes. He asks if they should fight for another decade when they can accomplish what they want across a table. He says he will let Tambo know what he has done, and he will seek his endorsement. He tells them he will continue on this path.
News reports the demonstrations that are broken up by police.
Botha says he abolished apartheid, drove the Cubans out of Angola, and fought Communists in Mozambique. He asks what recognition the West gives him. They tell him to negotiate. He says they are all against him except for Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Cotzee says the world may want a bold stroke, and he has the solution in his hands.
Outside at a press conference Botha announces that he will release Mandela if he will promise to reject violence.
Cotzee tells Mandela he can go home if he renounces violence. Mandela says their president must recognize their point of view. Mandela says that Botha will have his answer soon.
De Klerk thanks Cotzee for keeping him informed and notes that the world is waiting for his answer.
At an ANC rally Mandela’s daughter speaks as a member of the ANC and reads a letter from her father who cherishes freedom but will not sell their birthright. They chant and dance.
Botha speaks from a desk about the anarchy in the country. He says it cannot be tolerated anymore, and he declares a state of emergency.
News reports that the black townships are under curfew after at least 17 people were killed.
The South Africa leaders discuss how to suppress the rebellion, and Botha orders them to proceed with their military preparations. After the others leave, Botha and de Klerk discuss his military decision. De Klerk says military solutions do not always work. Botha says they will implement the destruction of ANC bases immediately.
Helicopters attack Africans. In Brandfort Township at night a man throws a Molotov cocktail through a window. Winnie and the children come running out as the shack burns.
Mandela says his wife will not go back to Brandfort. Cotzee says she is already illegally in Soweto. He can’t change the law, but Mandela says he has discretion in how it is enforced. Cotzee refuses to make any promises. Mandela says they know that his troubles are multiplying. They know about the police crack-downs, and more men are being put in jail. He says they are opposing an irrepressible tide. He says they are talking with a different future in mind. He asks him to treat his wife humanely. Cotzee says he will see what he can do. Mandela tells him to do his best because their country is running out of time.
Seven men were shot dead by police after black nationalists attacked policemen’s homes with petrol bombs. Thousands went to sports stadiums for funerals.
De Klerk tells Botha that time is running out. A message is brought in, and Botha tosses it to de Klerk. He reads that the United States Congress has voted economic sanctions against South Africa. Botha says they will not be bullied. De Klerk says the world had decided that they do not exist. Botha asks them to stand with him.
Africans “necklace” a black man by burning a tire around him. Winnie announces that another oppressor was given the necklace of shame. She says they have no guns but stones, matches, and petrol; but they will liberate their country.
Mandela reprimands Winnie and says that their movement is based on the moral strength of their ideals, not on burning people. She says their lives have been turned into hell. He tells her not to jeopardize their movement and asks if she hears him. She says he is not letting her speak her own mind. He says she speaks for the ANC and for the cause of freedom and for him. She must not bring dishonor and harm to them. He asks if they are clear, and she says yes.
While working in a garden, Mandela feels a sharp pain. Gregory tells the other prisoners that Mandela has tuberculosis.
Doctors begin to operate on Mandela, and he makes them laugh.
In his hospital room Gregory comes to take Mandela away. Gregory says he is not going back to his friends.
Mandela rides in a car with Cotzee to a large home with a guard tower. Cotzee says he has the complete run of the house. He can have magazines and newspapers uncensored, but his mail will still be censored. He may also have unsupervised family visits. Mandela asks him to tell the President that he appreciates his new home, and he should visit him there.
Gregory gives Mandela his jacket, and he leaves.
Mandela gets out of a car, and the man ties his shoe-laces. Mandela in a suit says it has been 25 years since he has been dressed up. He meets with Botha by a swimming pool, and they shake hands. Mandela assures him that he has recovered from tuberculosis and asks Botha about his stroke. Botha says he has bounced back. Botha says they call him the “Big Crocodile,” but Botha says he thinks of himself as a bull. They laugh, and Mandela says two bulls can pull together hard when they cooperate. Botha says they have much to talk about. Mandela says they can accomplish much. First he asks for Walter Sisulu to be released. Mandela says there are many other matters; but Botha stands up and dismisses Mandela.
A 14-year-old boy has been found dead in the home of Winnie Mandela.
Mandela asks Walter Sisulu to have Winnie come see him.
In his home Mandela asks Winnie if she was there, and she says she was not. She says they were her bodyguards. She gave the boy refuge in her house. She says she knew nothing, and she is innocent. He believes her. She says her problem is that she trusts people too much; but he says her problem is that she trusts the wrong people. He says it is embarrassing and a tragedy. She says she knew nothing about it. He says this tugs at his mind, distracting him. She says she is not like he is. She admits she makes mistakes. He says that is not good enough. He tells her to get rid of these bodyguards. He tells her not to make more mistakes. She says she has only a few moments with him, and he embraces her.
A strike has been going on for six weeks.
De Klerk asks Cotzee if everyone is there, and they go into Botha’s house. De Klerk praises Botha, and they sit at the long table. They ask him to let de Klerk replace him as acting president. Botha says if they want him to resign, they should say so. He asks who agrees with that, and de Klerk raises his hand, followed by the others. De Klerk says it is not an argument. Botha says he can fire all of them. De Klerk says the country needs new leadership. He says an election is coming up, and he has become a liability to their party. Botha agrees to resign, and he will go on television and says what liars and traitors they are. De Klerk is applauded as the new President.
Mandela arrives at night to meet with President de Klerk and congratulates him. De Klerk says he has read his writing. They go into a room alone and sit down. De Klerk says he makes no promises. He asks for an end of the armed struggle on his side, and he asks for his guarantee. Mandela says he would have to speak with his colleagues. Most are in exile, but Mandela says he can unban the ANC so that they can come home. De Klerk says that is not yet possible. De Klerk says he is a realist. Once they commit to negotiations they realize the outcome must be free and democratic elections. Mandela says democracy is majority rule, but de Klerk says whites will not be comfortable in a country dominated by blacks. Mandela says that for 300 years whites have dominated blacks. De Klerk says they must have some say in the future. Mandela says they must have one man one vote. De Klerk says everything is negotiable. Mandela says he is proposing maintaining white control. De Klerk says they both must compromise. Mandela says he senses integrity, and he agrees. De Klerk says let’s begin, and they shake hands.
De Klerk tells Cotzee that he has passed the point of no return. He says he will not destroy his own people.
De Klerk talks with Marike de Klerk about his vision of the future.
De Klerk speaks in the Parliament and declares that from now on apartheid will cease to exist. All political prisoners will have their cases reviewed, and the Minister of Justice will decide which are to be freed.
Africans and whites celebrate.
Mandela shakes hands and hugs his friends who have been released. Mandela tells Sisulu that he will be joining him soon, and he urges him to agitate. They hug, and Sisulu gets in a car that drives off.
An Afrikaner speaks to a crowd of whites that do not want their land stolen from them.
While dining de Klerk asks Marike de Klerk to understand what he is trying to do. She says South Africa is their homeland, and she is frightened. He says they have to share the country. She is worried there could be civil war between the whites. He says they have to live in the future. She says they fought the English, and he says they lost. He won’t give up their fathers’ legacies.
At a press conference de Klerk says there are no secret government agencies involved in recent incidents fomenting violence among the blacks.
Mandela complains to de Klerk that his government is arming the Inkatha Freedom Party; but de Klerk denies that, asking why. Mandela says it is to neutralize the ANC. De Klerk says that Chief Buthelezi has his own support in his province. Mandela asks how they have so many guns. De Klerk says he gives him little room to maneuver. Mandela indicates he is not retired. He may have to go back to what he did before he was imprisoned, but de Klerk says that helps no one. He asks de Klerk to unban the ANC, and de Klerk says he will consider it.
De Klerk orders the prohibitions on the ANC and other organizations lifted. He will announce the date of Mandela’s release soon. The time for negotiation has arrived.
De Klerk tells Mandela that he is releasing him tomorrow, but Mandela asks him to delay it so that his family can prepare for his release. He says he can wait seven more days. De Klerk says a plane will take him to Johannesburg. Mandela says he will leave prison in seven days. He says Capetown has been his home for 25 years. De Klerk says he can’t change plans now. Mandela asks how he could dare tell the press without consulting him. De Klerk agrees to release from Victor Verster prison if Mandela will agree to be released tomorrow, and Mandela accepts that. They smile for a photographer and ask each other if they must fight on every issue.
Outside Mandela says goodbye to Gregory and thanks him. They shake hands and embrace. Mandela gets into a car. People wait for the car in a caravan of cars. He gets out and walks with Winnie among the people who love him. He says he never realized it. The car will take him to Cape Town.
Mandela speaks to a large crowd. At home Marike de Klerk asks de Klerk where are the crowds for him who freed Mandela.
The black leaders meet with Mandela who continues to meet with de Klerk. Riots occur, and Mandela tells de Klerk that they would not kill their own people. De Klerk says the investigation showed they did. Mandela says elections are coming, but de Klerk says there is no date yet. Mandela says de Klerk is planning to manipulate the elections. Mandela asks for an independent commission to investigate the massacre, or they may have to resume the armed struggle.
People ask Mandela to untie their hands. Mandela asks them to wait. As he tries to speak, people chant. A young man on the stage says they are angry, but they must know who they are going to shoot.
De Klerk gets the report that confirms what the ANC suspected. They say that 39 people were killed by the police. De Klerk realizes that Mandela was right. He says he will go to the township. The advise him not to do that.
De Klerk arrives in a car in a township as people surround the car. De Klerk does not get out of the car.
A black man says that he was in the South African police force, but he had a secret job spying on civilians and committing assassinations. Another man testifies that they delivered money and arms to Buthelezi’s Freedom Party to use against the ANC, and their orders were cleared by top leaders in the government.
De Klerk says he never approved these things, and he argues with Mandela. De Klerk says he is still the President of South Africa and will determine both of their futures. Mandela says he must have vision; but if he is blind, he is a lost man who cannot lead anyone.
Mandela drives a car and tells Winnie that he and de Klerk will communicate through intermediaries. She says she is being charged with kidnapping and assault.
Mandela tells Walter that the government is doing this to discredit him. Mandela says he will not abandon his wife who supported him for so long. Sisulu says that Winnie wrote a letter, and the press has copies. He says they promised him not to publish it until the trial is over.
Winnie and Nelson watch the news on television about her trial. She says she will appeal, and he says she is facing six years. She says she could not save the boy because he was a traitor. She says they were at war, and he asks, “With children?” He no longer feels they have love, and he shows her a newspaper with an article about her love letter. He asks if there were others too. She asks if she or he should leave. He says he will leave, and they will make a simple announcement.
A white man shoots the black man Chris Hani to death and leaves in a car. News leads to demonstrations.
De Klerk tells Mandela the country is in danger of blowing up in a race war. He asks Mandela to use his skills to talk to the people to calm the situation. Mandela complains about what de Klerk did to promote political murderers and asks how he could come to him for such help. De Klerk says he loves the country too, and he asks him to preserve what they have built until the elections.
Mandela speaks on television about the white man who assassinated Chris Hani. He says a white woman reported his license plate, and they must realize this is a watershed moment. They must move forward to a democratic election.
At a candle-light vigil people sing. People gather in the day and raise fists.
Millions of people vote in the elections. Black people celebrate, and Mandela is cheered. The returns show that the ANC won 62% of the vote.
Mandela visits the tomb of Oliver Tambo who died on April 25, 1993. He says they did it and weeps.
Mandela speaks to a large crowd and declares that they have achieved their liberation. They will remove discrimination in a rainbow nation. Never again will they experience the oppression of one by another. He says, “Let freedom ring. God bless Africa.” People cheer, and De Klerk congratulates the new President. They see jets fly overhead trailing colors.
At night Mandela gets out of a car and enters the home of the President. He sits down at a desk and looks at a photo of Winnie. He remembers when he was sentenced what he said about his dedication to a democratic society.
This biopic dramatizes Mandela’s personal struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa while he was in prison and the difficult negotiations he had with President de Klerk that successfully led to democratic elections and majority rule.