Rubicon speech

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Rubicon speech
Date15 August 1985; 34 years ago (1985-08-15)
LocationDurban, South Africa
ParticipantsP. W. Botha

The Rubicon speech was delivered by South African President P. W. Botha on the evening of 15 August 1985 in Durban. The world was anticipating Botha to announce major reforms in his government including abolishing the apartheid system and the release of Nelson Mandela.[1] However, the speech Botha actually delivered at the time did none of this.


After a long period of isolation and strained diplomatic relations between South Africa and the international community, the National Party decided to hold a meeting to bring about reforms in the government. However, the meeting was shrouded in secrecy and mystery, and Botha was reported to have kept quiet and to have not participated even though he was present. This was taken as a sign that he was approving of the proposed changes. There were also reports that Botha did not participate due to his doctor's orders to avoid emotional outburst and not to engage in discussions that might upset him.[2] At the final draft of the original agreed speech, which would be named the "Prog speech" ("Prog" being short for the Progressive Federal Party, then in opposition), and which would have recognized black human dignity, eradicated all forms of discrimination, and created equal opportunities, the nature of the speech, in conjunction with the news that a US bank was threatening to call in its loan, made Botha feel that he was being forced to capitulate to the revolutionary movements. Botha, whose fierce will had earned him the name "Die Groot Krokodil" (The Great Crocodile), simply refused and said he was not going to make that speech but was going to draft his own.[2]

The speech[edit]

Due to its anticipation and publicity by different international media houses, the speech was delivered live to a worldwide audience of over 200 million.[2] Botha clearly stated that he was not willing to change his position regarding the apartheid system and that Nelson Mandela would not be released from prison.[3]


The speech had serious ripple effects to the economy of South Africa and it also caused South Africa to be even more isolated by the international community. The rand fell drastically against major currencies and the economy continued to shrink rapidly in growth until after the democratic handover of power a decade later.[4][5][6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "PW Botha gives the "Rubicon" Speech in Durban | South African History Online". Retrieved 2014-10-24.
  2. ^ a b c "The day apartheid started dying | Opinion | Analysis | Mail & Guardian". Retrieved 2014-10-24.
  3. ^ "Address by State President P. W. Botha, August 15, 1985 - The O'Malley Archives". Retrieved 2014-10-24.
  4. ^ Louw, P.E. (2004). The Rise, Fall, and Legacy of Apartheid. Praeger. p. 72. ISBN 9780275983116. Retrieved 2014-10-24.
  5. ^ "". Retrieved 2014-10-24. External link in |title= (help)
  6. ^ "A history of South Africa’s currency". Retrieved 2014-10-24.