PLOT FOR PEACE
DIRECTOR: Carlos Agulló, Mandy Jacobson
CAST: Thabo Mbeki, Chester Crocker, Pik Botha, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes
PLOT For Peace has meaning for every South African. It is a story about a man who decided to do something about a situation that seemed undo-able.
It was the 1980s and South Africa, led by that odd man, PW Botha, was sliding deeper and deeper into violence. The National Party was at war with the people of their country and, almost in retaliation, they were lashing out at their neighbouring countries.
On a deeper level, Russia had taken the side of the frontline countries while the US had taken the side of South Africa.
Enter Jean-Yves Olliver. He is a businessman with interests in southern African, but who also had plans to persuade Botha to release Nelson Mandela.
As it’s documentary, there is no harm in telling you the ending. Monsieur Jacques, as he was dubbed, received the highest award from the apartheid government and, when Mandela was released, was bestowed with another award.
His story reads like a James Bond movie. Monsieur Jacques travelled under the radar, connecting presidents of countries with the leaders of freedom fighters.
In the film there are interviews with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Pik Botha, Thabo Mbeki, Chester Crocker, Joachim Chissano and Congo’s former prime minister, Denis Sassou Nguesso, all of whom speak highly of the man. The story is narrated by these people, Monsieur Jacques and a forgotten character in our history, Captain Wynand du Toit.
Watching the film brought back memories of that horrible time in our history. Du Toit had been captured by the Angolans and became a symbol for apartheid South Africa. He was that white man who was suffering at the hands of not only the black man of Africa, but the treacherous communist bastard pig dogs as well.
It was Ollivier who orchestrated the plan for that famous prisoner of war exchange in which five countries participated. There is a haunting moment in the film when the white Du Toit descends from the aeroplane and walks through a few hundred black prisoners of war.
The film searches for the truth and finds it in a rather complicated way only because those times were incredibly complicated. Monsieur Jacques is a brilliant storyteller from beginning to end. The film never loses pace and when directors Mandy Jacobson and Carlos Agullo introduce Meneer Du Toit, the plot really thickens.
There are a few really funny moments that only us, as South Africans, will get. This includes Monsieur Jacques’s observation of the first time he encountered white South Africa. There is also a scene when Pik Botha describes the moment he learnt that Du Toit had been arrested in Angola. He berates our then Minister of Defence, Magnus Malan, for his stupidity in sending a team of SADF people to blow up a few oil reserves belonging to the Americans.
The story is almost incredulous. That a short little Frenchman, with all the logic in the world, would deign to think of bringing white supremacists, freedom fighters and presidents of countries, communists and prisoners of war together in an attempt to release Nelson Mandela sounds far-fetched.
That prisoner of war exchange then led to Cuba, South Africa, Angola and the then South West Africa agreeing to the first two countries withdrawing from Angola and the independence of Namibia. A must-see documentary for every South African.