Sanctions, Politics

From ZaInternetHistory

The Fidonet gateway at Rhodes was established at a most difficult time in the history of South Africa. The apartheid government was under enormous threat from the majority of the populace, and was doing its utmost to control the flow of information out of the country. Never mind the government of the USA putting sanctions in the way of contact with South Africa, the South African government was imposing its will regarding communications, and was doing so with an iron fist. The government also viewed Rhodes University as a hotbed of liberal opposition, and had its spies infiltrate many aspects of the University's activities.

Mike Lawrie thus had solid grounds for concern that the gateway might be summarily closed down by the South African government. Fortunately, the design was such that the gateway could have been operated from anywhere near a telephone that could dial through to the USA. It would have been difficult to do this, but it would have been possible should the need have arisen. Fortunately, the need did not arise, but there were times when Mike thought that it might. There was a goodly amount of anti-government information being sent out of that gateway.

Another coincidence still puzzles Mike Lawrie. It was almost a year to the day after the Fidonet gateway went into general operation at Rhodes (Feb 1989) that President F W de Klerk stood up in parliament and announced that Nelson Mandela would be freed, the ANC unbanned, and a host of other reforms (2 Feb 1990).