Jean-Yves Ollivier Talks ‘Plot For Peace’Posted by Wilson Morales
October 31, 2014
Hitting theaters today is this incredible film called ‘Plot for Peace,’ a new documentary that reveals a previously unknown chapter about the events the lead up to the end of apartheid and the release of Nelson Mandela. It is the story of French businessman Jean-Yves Ollivier and is a fascinating piece of history that shows what one person can achieve.
In the mid-1980s, township violence raged in South Africa and one of the Cold War’s most vicious proxy conflicts devastated Angola. “Total onslaught” was written large across the horizon. It was then that a foreign commodity trader with connections to all stakeholders in the region became the lifeline for top-secret contacts. To build trust, he organized a vast prisoners’ exchange that opened the road for Mandela’s eventual release.
A year later, in 1988, South Africa’s forces and 50,000 Cuban troops began withdrawing from Angola. In John LeCarré style, the land of apartheid and the front line states came out of the Cold War long before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Within fourteen months, Mandela walked out of jail – a free man and, soon, South Africa’s first democratically elected President.
In PLOT FOR PEACE, the protagonists of this high-risk venture – African heads of state, battle-tested generals, international diplomats, secret operatives, and anti-apartheid icons such as Winnie Mandela and Thabo Mbeki – recount the true story of how the front line states brought an end to apartheid and Ollivier’s remarkable hidden contributions to this historic transformation.
Jean-Yves Ollivier unwinds the documentary’s narrative thread inside the labyrinth of Southern Africa. He is the lens through which PLOT FOR PEACE finds its focus and leads us through a rugged landscape of moral dilemmas. To Mbeki and militants for transparency, Ollivier was a sanctions buster, a secret go-between, a French spy. For Winnie Mandela and Mozambique’s former President Chissano, Ollivier was a trusted friend and a man of bold vision. Ollivier received high honors from both the last stalwart of apartheid, P.W. Botha and the first president of the new South Africa, Nelson Mandela.
Blackfilm.com recently spoke with Jean-Yves Ollivier, who was known as dubbed “Monsieur Jacques” in classified correspondence about telling his story now after so many years.
Why was there such a long wait for your story to be told?
Jean-Yves Ollivier: We are living in a different world today and I think it was time now to use a different method to get the story out. I also created a peace foundation called the Brazzaville Foundation, which is now taking on all of which I’ve been doing.
Was there anything left out the documentary for security reasons?
Jean-Yves Ollivier: No, there wasn’t anything to be hidden. I think I told everything which is now possible to be told. In the past, I couldn’t say much, but now everybody enjoys it that I’m talking about it, including the people who were working with me and are really eager to come out and talk on camera.
There are a good number of people who were willing to be on camera, including Winnie Mandela. Was there any hesitation in the beginning from any of them?
Jean-Yves Ollivier: Actually not. They all wanted to be on camera, but some of them weren’t physically able to be on camera. I’m sure that if Mr. Mandela was in the best physical shape, he would have gone on camera and done it. More than that, there were people like Winnie Mandela who did go on camera after 10 years of silence and only for me.
How long did it take for this documentary to be put together?
Jean-Yves Ollivier: While I’m the subject of the story, not the director, the movie took 3 1/2 years to be shot and is now ready to be released in more places.
What do you audiences will get out from watching this film?
Jean-Yves Ollivier: This is the whole game of the movie. It’s the start of a new thing in different circumstances. We are hoping the younger generation knows this information and also in this world of conflict, we would like to make clear to the public that there are other ways to solve a conflict than sending arms and troops. That’s the aim of the movie. The movie is made for the future and not for the past. We’re the using the past to project the future.
What initially got you involved in the first place?
Jean-Yves Ollivier: There’s a certain moment in your life when you know you can do something and it has to do with peace and war. It has to do with human life and you are brought into a situation where you just know you can help and you just do it. The catalyst of all this is the value of what you are doing. You never know of whether you are going to succeed or not or whether it will lead to something positive or not; but as long as you follow the belief that you are doing something good, you do it.
At any given time, did you ever feel that you were in over your head?
Jean-Yves Ollivier: It was over my head, I would try to climb a little higher to get it. Not really because the levels of contacts I had and the friendships I made, I never had a feeling anything I was doing was over my head.
What’s next for you?
Jean-Yves Ollivier: There are conflicts still going on in different places and no one is looking for ways in solving them and we are involved to see how we can help to solve those conflicts or at least come up with a way to a solution. After all, people want to see peace coming from the next corner.