When on June 13, 1986 President P. W. Botha of South Africa decided to meet with Desmond Tutu, it was considered only a gesture – actually, a conciliatory one. After all, Desmond Tutu was only dean of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg. Botha had enormous material resources in addition to a military force.
Injustice was what brought the two men together. Apartheid had been in full force for the past 38 years, protests and civil unrest were common around the country. Leaders of the oppressed – like Nelson Mandela – had been incarcerated in the 1960s. Those who followed on their footsteps in the 1970’s – like Steve Biko – had been murdered by the police.
Bogus political reforms – like a new constitution in 1984 – did not address the underlying issues of injustice. Peace, social and economic progress became more and more illusive.
Botha and his government found themselves diverting all their national resources towards efforts to contain the social unrest. But they got no rest. It would take more than military might to achieve peace and co-existence.