Talking to the Enemy: 1985 to 1994

In 1986 Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela took the fateful decision to inaugurate "talks about talks" with representatives of the apartheid state. He did this before consulting with his comrades in prison or African National Congress (ANC) President Oliver Tambo. It was a moment of great leadership, but also of great danger.

From 1985 the state separated him from his fellow prisoners and brought all the resources of the state to bear on using him to best advantage as negotiations with the ANC loomed. Even though Mandela established lines of communication with Tambo and other leaders, comrades outside feared that he might have "sold out". They need not have worried. He managed the process masterfully, and ensured that it was integrated with other "talks about talks" processes that emerged from 1987. After his release from prison in February 1990 he very quickly took the reins, became the President of the ANC when Tambo stepped down with health problems, and led the formal negotiations with the National Party and its allies.

Throughout the period 1990-1994, Mandela travelled the world, receiving adulation wherever he went. He garnered support for the negotiation process, raised funds for the ANC, received the Nobel Peace Prize, and published his best-selling autobiography. Again there was little space in his life for the private, the personal, the domestic, and his relationship with Winnie Mandela fell apart. They separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996. He found it difficult to restore intimacy with his children. He experienced a deep loneliness.