Derek Bauer

Derek Bauer

Born in East London in 1955, Derek Bauer's dramatic cartoons became synonymous with South Africa's 'alternative' (read 'anti-Apartheid') newspaper the 'Weekly Mail' in 1985. Bauer's blood-spattered style reflects the influence…>

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© Derek Bauer | Feb 15, 1987 | Mail & Guardian

20130226_Derek Bauer

In January 1986 PW Botha told parliament that he would consider releasing Nelson Mandela on humanitarian grounds if restrictions on two dissidents in the Soviet Union were lifted and if South African commando Major Wynand du Toit was repatriated. Du Toit had been captured in Angola the previous year. This would be part of a huge prisoner exchange in which 133 Angolan soldiers held by the SA backed Angolan rebels would also be released. It also provided Botha with a face saving "condition" for Mandela's release, after the prisoner rejected another precondition; that he first renounce violence. Mandela and the ANC held that his release should be unconditional if it were to be regarded as freedom.

Whether or not Mandela's release was an explicit quid pro quo in the prisoner swap is unclear, and Bauer suggests in this cartoon that Botha had reneged on his promise. In any event, Shcharansky was freed shortly after Botha's demand (and emigrated to Israel) and Sakharov's banishment to Siberia was lifted, allowing him to return to Moscow. And in 1987 after du Toit was released Botha retracted his long-held precondition that Mandela renounce violence and told Parliament that the interests of the state superseded the attitude of any single prisoner in determining whether or not he should be released. 

Mandela by Unknown Dutch ArtistTHE ABOVE CARTOON is important not as much for its message, but rather the fact that it shows Mandela's face, drawn and published for the first time by a SA cartoonist defiance of the banning order which prohibited depictions of him and other banned ANC leaders. That it was such a good depiction is testimony to Bauer's talent - because of the banning order, no one knew what Mandela looked like. The best references at the time were photographs taken during the treason trial in 1964 (26 years earlier), and a portrait done by a Dutch artist based on visitors' descriptions of the famous prisoner (see pics).

Nelson Mandela circa 1964