Thatcher did not mention Mandela in official discussions with PW Botha

PW Botha and Margaret Thatcher
PW Botha and Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher made no mention of Nelson Mandela during the only formal talks she held with South Africa’s leader PW Botha, documents released recently reveal.

The papers blow apart recent Tory boasts that she helped end apartheid – and her own claim that she had pressed for his release at the summit.

Instead Thatcher relegated the issue to a short, private chat with Botha before the June 1984 talks officially got under way. No notes were taken so there is no evidence of what was discussed.

The then PM had been urged by the British Foreign Office to raise Mandela’s imprisonment officially during the four-hour minuted formal discussions.

But Thatcher, who objected to sanctions against Botha’s regime and had branded Mandela a terrorist, failed to do so.

Thatcher’s own account says Mandela’s incarceration was “noted” during a private audience on “sensitive issues”.

But her adviser John Coles stated: “No note-takers were present. Mr Botha said he could not interfere with the South African judicial process.” – extract from The Mirror