At a press conference marking the 81st anniversary of the ANC's founding, Mr Mandela tacitly rebuked his wife for statements she had made on Thursday condemning a preliminary 'power-sharing' deal reached by ANC and government negotiators.
Responding to a question, the ANC president said: 'The question of negotiations should not be judged on what individuals say, no matter who the individuals are . . . If any individuals express different points of view, things must be judged against what the organised, disciplined movement as a whole has done.'
Mrs Mandela, speaking in Soweto at the burial of the ANC veteran Helen Joseph, transparently included her husband in a denunciation of 'the so-called power-sharing deal between the elite of the oppressed and the oppressors'. Death, she said, had spared Mrs Joseph from witnessing 'the looming disaster in this country which will result from the distortion of a noble goal in favour of a short-cut route to parliament by a handful of individuals'.
Mrs Mandela, irrepressibly populist despite losing her official ANC titles last year following allegations of corruption, struck an audible chord among the more militant in the Soweto crowd.
What was interesting about yesterday's press conference, at which the ANC's National Executive Committee unveiled a policy document for 1993, was the emphasis on accommodation with the government at the expense of mass mobilisation. With the ANC expecting South Africa's first multi-racial elections to be held by the end of this year, the appeal was more to the broad South African population than to the ANC activists to whom the NEC has always targeted its New Year messages in the past.
Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC secretary-general, explained to reporters that the difference this year was that the organisation was 'addressing the nation as a whole'. The most important task now, he said, was 'to build the South African nation'.
Mr Mandela echoed these sentiments and went a step further, hinting at the emergence of a new coalition of pragmatists. 'I believe,' he said, 'that President de Klerk and other senior members of the National Party also have the interests of the country at heart.'
Accordingly the key ANC aims for 1993 differed from Mr de Klerk's only in the question of timetables. The NEC document listed the objectives as the resumption of multi-party talks; the establishment of a multi-party Transitional Executive Council to assume control over such critical areas of government as the budget and the security forces; the establishment of independent commissions to oversee the media and the voting process; elections for a constituent assembly and an interim government of national unity.