Joe Slovo, the Communist intellectual widely credited with being a mastermind of South Africa''s national reconciliation, died after a long battle with cancer of the bone marrow. He was a longtime National Chairperson of the South African Communist Party.
It is ironic that Slovo, vilified by fellow whites and in the Western press as a Stalinist and revolutionary, should be in the end have been the great voice of compromise and moderation in the South African struggle. It was Slovo who in 1990 was credited in persuading Mr. N. Mandela and other resistance leaders to suspend their military activities to create a climate for negotiations. And it was Mr. Slovo who in 1992 first broached the idea of a unity Government, including a five-year guarantee of job security for the powerful and potentially disruptive whites in the civil service and military.
Active in the Communist Party since 1942, Slovo''s long standing relationship with Nelson Mandela was highly influential in nudging Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) away from away from black nationalism to a doctrine of nonracialism. Over the years Mr. Slovo and other white Communists assumed influential places in the African National Congress. Indeed, by the time the ANC was ready to assume power, the culture of nonracialism was deeply embedded and had been so for decades.
During his months as a Cabinet Minister in the post 1994 government, Slovo was charged to deliver on one of Mr. Mandela''s most important campaign promises: to build a million homes in five years. Slovo however, recognizing that building full fledged homes as originally intended-an individual plot of land with water, sewer and electricity, and a rudimentary shelter-would likely bankrupt the fledging democracy. His controversial solution was instead to provide utilities to the townships and until more and better government housing could be provided. At the time of his death Comrades and critics said that he was well on the way to creating a new national housing scheme to benefit the country''s impoverished majority.