In comparison to the conditions at Robben Island, Pollsmoor was a great improvement. Although smaller, he got along well with the commanding officer, and was allowed to grow a rooftop garden. (Gardening is a lifelong passion of Mandela's.) He was allowed to read a great deal more and was permitted 52 letters a year.
During this time, violence was escalating across South Africa, with racial tensions at its peak. In 1985 Prime Minister P.W. Botha offered Mandela a release from prison on the condition that he "unconditionally rejected violence as a political weapon." Mandela scoffed at him and released a statement, "What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people (ANC) remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts."