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Mystery Man Who Helped End S. Africa Apartheid


Segregation officially ended in South Africa with the election of President Nelson Mandela in 1994. The former prisoner became the symbol of freedom for the country.

But French businessman Jean-Yves Ollivier was a key figure in the fall of apartheid. Now his story is coming to light in a film called "Plot for Peace."

"My plan was never to write, never to talk. I didn't take any pictures and didn't keep any documentation. I want my story to be mine," Ollivier said in a recent interview with CBN News.

The French man-of-mystery began his work against apartheid not long after his first visit to the country in 1981.

"I found a country which was going nowhere, at the verge of civil war," Ollivier said, recalling that visit. 

The foreign commodity trader used his business connections to build a lifeline of top secret contacts and quiet negotiations. He was often called "Monsieur Jacques" in classified correspondence.

Those who know Ollivier say his trade secret was trust, but he shared another secret weapon with CBN News.

"I believe in God," Ollivier said. "I fundamentally believe in God. And so many times I had the feeling that God was assisting me or saving me. So that gave me the extraordinary confidence that nothing is impossible as long as God is with you."

Ollivier's story is a political thriller. And it took time for producers to convince the normally private man to share it. In the end, Ollivier relented because he felt it could send a message to those who see it.

"It is a story that is important to be known, not because it is a story as such, but because there is a message in this story and that message is how as an individual you can make things move."

The evils of apartheid may have ended in South Africa, but Ollivier says there are still other struggles all over the world -- and of many of them are even more difficult to win.

"Conflicts now are related to belief," Ollivier explained. "If someone believes differently than you, they don't try to understand you. They don't try to make you see the same in a peaceful way - they fight and they want to destroy you and we are living unfortunately in this world of religion war."

The work to bring peace to the world is why Ollivier started The Brazzaville Foundation for Peace and Conservation.

He said he feels that work will be his legacy.

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