One of the earliest ventures of the Jubilee Centre in the area of international relations was the Newick Park Initiative (NPI), which helped to establish informal and confidential dialogue between leading members of the African National Congress (ANC) and the white establishment in South Africa prior to the fall of apartheid.
The NPI held ten consultations between 1987 and 1991, with a gradual increase in the seniority and influence of those attending. A total of 91 research papers were made available to participants on a wide range of economic, social and political issues. Several of these papers are said to have helped resolve some of the major stumbling blocks in the negotiations between the ANC and the Government.
Subjects covered included:
- Federal and unitary systems of government
- Constitutional safeguards for individuals and cultural minorities
- Land Reform and agricultural development
- Bank and Industry Nationalisation: Implications and the Alternatives
- African participation in public administration and public sector activity
Each of the conferences was underpinned by top-level research and expertise from leading South African and international specialists. Most of this strategic work was carried out behind the scenes, out of the public eye. NPI’s achievements are therefore not on public record but are nevertheless undeniable. In addition to the general confidence-building process, and the creation of networks through which those attending could contact each other informally, the most tangible achievements were:
A) To help create the platform from which Professor Washington Okumu, Executive Director of NPI 1989-1991, was able, at the eve of the first democratic elections in South Africa in April 1994, to mediate successfully between President de Klerk and Chief Buthelezi to secure the participation of Inkatha and thus avert civil war.
B) To play a part in persuading the ANC to change its long-held policies on land nationalisation and bank nationalisation, based on research into international experience, and thus make it easier for President F W de Klerk to release Nelson Mandela and start a formal negotiation process.
Rev Dr Jeremy Ive, who was Secretary Manager and Assistant Director of Research of the NPI in South Africa from 1986-1991, has been writing up the history of the initiative to mark the 20th anniversary of South Africa's transition to democracy with its first free elections in 1994. He has written a 4,000 word Cambridge Paper on the topic, and a 45 page interim report which you can access here: