Nelson Mandela is known for his efforts to end apartheid in South Africa by opposing the white majority rule. He also became the first democratically elected President for the country. However, his journey was not easy. He had to use different tactics to win, one of which was his excellent negotiation skills. The film Long Walk to Freedom is based on his life and struggles. There is much to learn about negotiations from this film. This essay focuses on why Mandela chose to advocate for violence although he knew that guerrilla warfare would not triumph over the government forces.
After his release from prison, Mandela called for armed struggle against the Nationalist government led by President de Klerk. This decision was made even though the government had accepted all of the pre-negotiation conditions with the ANC party. His actions were motivated by the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960 in which more than sixty black nonviolent protestors were shot dead by the police. In the film, he says that the movement has always been nonviolent but due to the brutal government’s actions, it would not be peaceful anymore.
Mandela knew that if the negotiations failed, his people would go back to the status quo of violence and oppression. Thus, he had to ensure that the government was also committed to a solution by making its best alternative to the negotiated agreement less appealing. Fisher et al. (1997, p. 88) write that “efforts to improve one’s own alternatives and to lower the other side’s estimate of theirs are critical ways to enhance our negotiating power”. If the government did not agree to a deal, then the armed struggle would make it difficult for it to function normally through sabotage and rebellions. Thus, it was in the interests of both parties to come to a suitable agreement.