About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

The Heart of Hope

In 1989 Padraig O'Malley set off on South Africa's road to democracy. With tape recorder in hand, he embarked on a 10 year journey to document the experiences of the men and women who would become the architects, masons, builders and brick-layers of South Africa's new democratic political dispensation.

The Heart of Hope: South Africa's Transition from Apartheid to Democracy is the first segment, 1985-1996, of this seminal historical record. This collection of hundreds of hours of interviews constitutes an oral history of the negotiations, the violence, the elections and the constitution making. Interviews were conducted at the time that events were unfolding, not retrospectively. They were recorded in the halls of Kempton Park - multiparty negotiations; in townships and hostels on the Reef - rage and violence; in stadiums and civic centres - election rallies; in townships again – funerals; in churches and community halls - campaign workshops; in police stations - questions; in ministerial and judicial chambers - the wise and not-so-wise; in homes and offices - fears and dreams. On the one side, the Old Order, not quite ready to throw in the towel. On the other side, the emerging New Order ready to hand them the towel.

The voices resonate anger, frustration, connivance, humility, denial, posturing, defiance, acceptance, humour, wisdom, and hopelessness. But above all, hope. Not so much a hope for self, but hope that a common humanity would prevail. And so, it came to pass…

In creating this website, Learning Online has made it possible for students of South Africa's history to access the minds of the men and women who are some of the most influential people in the country's transition to democracy.

The Robben Island Mayibuye Archive at the University of the Western Cape is the repository of the O'Malley Historical Collection. O'Malley's undertaking was supported by the John W. McCormack Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Massachusetts Boston, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Atlantic Philanthropies, and his own not-too-deep pocket.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.