Nobel Work in South Africa


Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk deserved the Nobel Peace Prize and were the obvious choices this year.

With this award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee honored two courageous men who have already achieved what was recently thought not possible. It has encouraged a process of real change in South Africa that is now fully charted but by no means guaranteed of peaceful completion. And, in the words of the announcement, it "points the way to the peaceful resolution of similar deep-rooted conflicts elsewhere in the world."

The historic agreement between Israel and the PLO is obvious Nobel Peace Prize material, and not only because the Norwegian foreign minister catalyzed it and a committee of the Norwegian Parliament awards the prize. But that great breakthrough for peace came after nominations for the 1993 prize had closed. Its authors are front-running candidates for the 1994 prize.

This year's award recognizes the investment that the Norwegian Nobel Committee has already made in honoring the effort to end apartheid and bring democracy to a South Africa restored to the community of nations. Albert Luthuli, who was then president of the African National Congress, won the prize in 1960 for his peaceful and frustrated cause. Desmond Tutu, then the Anglican bishop of Johannesburg, won the prize in 1984, for keeping the moral fight for dignity and freedom alive while the government crushed the political effort.

Mr. Mandela and Mr. de Klerk win it for bringing that earlier work to a logical conclusion, with the agreement on a Transitional Executive Council to help rule the country until an election April RTC 27 in which all adult people will have equal votes. Ironically, Mr. Mandela in frustration founded a terrorist wing of the ANC the year Mr. Luthuli was honored in part for having avoided that. Mr. de Klerk was part of the Afrikaner power structure and National Party government that locked up Mr. Mandela for 27 years and suppressed all political resistance, making violent rebellion inescapable.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee was acutely aware of the baggage that each brought to the majestic negotiation that is likely to result in Mr. Mandela, now 75, succeeding President de Klerk in office. Many supporters of each man may object to the equal honoring of the other. But they are locked in embrace. Without the other, neither achieved anything. The joint award is right.

A few years ago, many people would have predicted the inevitability of majority rule in South Africa accompanied by an explosive redistribution of wealth and human catastrophe. Almost none would have forecast a peaceful, agreed evolution. If this is possible -- and it is well under way -- many other seemingly intractable quarrels and problems of troubled humanity are soluble. If ever a Nobel Peace Prize was deserved, this is it.

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