It was in the early hours of the 18th of November when all the parties reached an agreement. Our Reuters office in Milpark was still open and filing story after story. I dutifully, high on adrenalin, filed some pictures to go out on the satellite before driving the half-an-hour back to the offices to drop the original tapes for the early morning feeds. That drive from the airport to our offices in the quiet dark of night - up and down the hilly roads of Observatory, and Yeoville, - I was in an buoyant mood. Mango Groove was playing from my cassette deck “Another country”
For us who had followed those talks at close quarters and spoke to the politicians on a daily, informal basis, there were also many times we doubted that any agreement would ever be reached. We had reason to believe this as negotiations had once already broken down. And now driving through the sleeping suburbs of Johannesburg, I knew what most South Africans would only find out when they woke up – we had averted a civil war and there were to be free and fair elections.
When I got to the offices at about four that morning, my television colleagues, much to my surprise, were waiting for me and celebrating – most of them were South Africans or Zimbabweans. Geoff Chilton, the Reuters Television head hugged me as I walked in and handed me a glass of champagne. Everyone looked tired but happy. All of us have in some ways covered this story for years – whether it was the township unrest, demonstrations against the apartheid Government that turned violent. Government and Mandela press conferences. Or like me sitting for days and nights on end while politicians filibustered their way to an interim Constitution. And let us not forget one of the keys to that Interim Constitution was a Constitutional Court.
Afterwards I drove the short distance home - around the kopjes of Melville and along the Greenside Golf Course. An orange-red bright African dawn was breaking over Johannesburg, and over the country: a new dawn, a new era. Apartheid was truly dead and the new day breaking was bringing a fresh beginning. Today, 15 years later, the euphoria of that early morning of 18 November 1993, is still so vivid in my mind. But then I was also not there post-1994 to see the delusion set in.
Despite my current pessimism about these elections and whether those about to be elected really intend to uphold that Constitution: let us not forget the vast potential that South Africa and its people have. Let us not forget what can be possible! Don’t let Zuma and his cronies ruin that!