African Oral History Archive

Foundation chair Ivor Ichikowitz honored at 25 th anniversary of the Brazzaville Protocol.

This week's commemoration of 25th anniversary of the December 1988 signing of the Brazzaville Protocol which took place along the humid, sun-baked banks of the river Congo on Feb 11, 2014, the day Nelson Mandela was released from prison.

Far be it to suggest that the signing of the accord was the single most important contributor to the final demise of apartheid, or the rewriting of the history of southern Africa.

But, as Mathews Phosa told me at the commemoration in Brazzaville on Tuesday, the signing of the accord set in motion something akin to a game of dominoes, where one thing led to another - and the climax of it all lives with us to this day.

"The accord came at a time when our country was in flames. The ANC had rendered the country ungovernable, but the government was also fighting - their troops being based in Angola. But no one was winning. Something had to give," said Phosa.

The signing of the protocol was an occasion when "peace was imposed upon violence", said Phosa.

Phosa was at the celebrations in Brazzaville in his capacity as a participant in Plot for Peace, a documentary produced by Emmy award winning Mandy Jacobson of the African Oral History, an ambitious heritage initiative funded by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation. Plot for Peace, shown at the Anniversary Celebrations, features interviews with key figures of the time, including the former First Lady of South Africa, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela; former Mozambique president, Joaquim Chisanno, former South African foreign minister, Pik Botha, and Jean-Yves Ollivier, the French businessman who played a behind the scenes role in getting the Cubans to speak to the South Africans.

Businessman and chairman of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation., Ivor Ichikowitz said: "The end of the war in Angola, led to the independence of Namibia. The climate thus created was ripe for the release of Mandela, and the inevitable collapse of apartheid," he said.

It is against this background, then, that when President Jacob Zuma spoke at the ceremony on Tuesday, he unequivocally thanked those African countries - especially the erstwhile Frontline States - who gave moral and physical support to the struggle that finally vanquished the apartheid regime.

Zuma said: "The Brazzaville accord is a historic and memorable occasion in the history of both republics of congo and Angola, as well as the people of Namibia, South Africa. An important milestone. a building block leading to a resolution of conflicts in southern Africa through dialogue

The commemoration of the accord was to have happened on December 11last year, but had to be postponed to a later date after the death of Nelson Mandela six days earlier. It was then celebrated on Tuesday, to coincide with his February 11, 1990 release from prison.

Zondwa Mandela, one of Mandela's grandsons, delivered an impassioned message on behalf of Winnie Mandela and family thanking the president of Congo Brazzaville, Denis Sassou-N'Guesso for taking charge of, and offering the venue for the signing of the accord that speeded up the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.