The Drama of the Peace Process in South Africa

I look back 30 Years
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Height: 168MM

About the book

The Drama of the Peace Process in South Africa: I look back 30 Years by historian Sylvia Neame one of South Africa's 'magisterial historians', as Tom Lodge has described her in his recent book, Red Road to Freedom is a rare portrayal of the unfolding of the peace process in South Africa in the second half of the 1980s into the 1990s as it links general historical accounts with personal experience. She was a member of the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party and combines the view of what she denotes as an outsider (the historian) with that of an insider.

The chief historical figures involved in Sylvia’s narrative are the ANC leaders, Nelson Mandela who was serving a life sentence, and Oliver Tambo who led the organisation from exile, but she also indicates her own contribution to the peace process in 'internal papers', addressed to the leadership of the liberation organisations from 1985 to 1990. She makes the point that her efforts were geared specifically to reaching a political solution and not simply a negotiated one that can take place at the end of an extended armed struggle.

What adds to the interest of the book is that Sylvia was at the time based in communist East Germany and the theme of German reunification finds its way into the book, including in the diary extracts in Part II. She was, indeed, in a position to experience at close hand two important historical events of the late 20th century and to observe from a strategic location in Central Europe what she believes was the unfolding of a new epoch of world history in which global human problems would come to the fore. Her work also has strong implications for developments in present day South Africa.

About the author

Dr Sylvia Neame(-Jahn) was born in 1937 in Port Elizabeth (recently renamed 'Gqeberha). In 1961 she was awarded a BA at Rhodes University, Grahamstown (now Makhanda), with majors History (with distinction) and Social Anthropology.

In 1963 she was awarded the Herbert Ainsworth Scholarship to do a History Honours degree at the University of the Witwatersrand but was unable to complete as a result of two stretches of incarceration under the apartheid regime's 90-day law and subsequent arrest for membership of a then illegal organisation, the South African Communist Party.

She was sentenced to 4 years, 2 to run concurrently. Thereafter she faced a frame-up trial in the Eastern Cape, one of the many in this area of South Africa, and was sentenced to another 4 years.

She won this case on appeal. Sylvia Neame spent most of her gaol sentence in Barberton Prison in the then Eastern Transvaal. Released in April 1967, she went into exile, first to Britain and then to East Germany. At the University of Leipzig she was awarded a 'Diplom' (equal to MA) in African history in 1974, a D.Phil. in 1976 and thereafter joined the staff of the university. She has published the 3-volume The Congress Movement (HSRC Press, 2015) and Imprisoned (Jacana, 2018). She is married to a German citizen, Gerhard Jahn.



About the author




  1. Introduction
  2. Nelson Mandela takes the initiative
  3. Was Mandela selling the ANC down the river?
  4. The parallel strategy of Oliver Tambo and Thabo Mbeki
  5. Communists take an ultra-radical stand
  6. A qualitative shift in national and international conditions
  7. An alliance between the ANC and imperialist capital?
  8. Timing of the start of negotiations
  9. The structure of the national-democratic revolution in South Africa
  10. Transitional mechanisms in the framework of the negotiation process
  11. Resistance to neocolonialism the key content of South African liberation
  12. The Kabwe conference, June 1985
  13. ‘ANC Statement on Negotiations: October 9th, 1987’
  14. Conclusions concerning the Mandela talks
  15. Conclusions regarding the secret Afrikaner nationalist–exile ANC dialogue group
  16. The Constitutional Committee
  17. The ANC’s anniversary (January 8th) statements, 1987–1990: A shift towards a political solution
  18. The in-house seminar on ‘Constitutional Guidelines’
  19. The ANC’s fragmented organisation on the negotiation (constitutional) front
  20. ‘Constitutional Guidelines’, including my response
  21. The SACP conference document ‘The Path to Power’, April 1989
  22. Drafting the Harare Declaration
  23. Confusion reigns in the last months of 1989 and early 1990
  24. FW de Klerk’s speech on 2 February 1990
  25. Uncertainty continues as the exiles return in 1990
  26. Epilogue


October 1985 – New Year’s Eve 1989



  1. We need to prepare ourselves for new possible tasks
  2. Economic commission
  3. Response to `discussion document’: There is a danger that the party will be isolated 441
  4. Some suggestions in connection with the present strategy and tactics of the liberation movement
  5. Work in the Bantustans
  6. The death squads - white and black
  7. ANC platform for negotiations
  8. A response to `Constitutional Guidelines for a Democratic South Africa’ (extract)
  9. Question of an interim phase (extract)
  10. Response to the SACP’s new draft programme, `The Path to Power’
  11. Response to ANC discussion paper on the issue of negotiations
  12. Response to a party analysis (extract)
  13. Prospects for a negotiated settlement



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