In No Uncertain Terms by Helen Suzman Sinclair-Stevenson $305 ONE of South Africa's most famous politicians, Helen Suzman could equally have titled her memoirs The Long, Lonely Years. For 13 years she was the sole voice in the South African Parliament of the Progressive Party: indeed, that lonely vigil was unquestionably the springboard which eventually catapulted the tiny party into the role of Official Opposition after its reformation as the Progressive Federal Party. Mrs Suzman, a former nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, waged a relentless battle to eradicate racist laws from the statutes, an unenviable task in a male-dominated House where the ruling National Party MPs and even representatives of other Opposition parties took every opportunity to deride her crusade for justice. Yet even among those who feared her most and were most audible in their attempts to discredit her, she aroused deep respect. She was often the sole conduit for information reaching the public, and Parliament itself, about the condition of political prisoners incarcerated for generations on Robben Island, among them Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu. Her visits to the infamous island off the shores of Cape Town helped bring dramatic improvements in prison conditions and her narrative of her meetings with some of South Africa's most famous political prisoners are poignant indications of the extent to which Mrs Suzman was prepared to go to in her quest for justice, knowledge and political freedom. In a foreword, Mr Mandela, this year's joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize with South African President Frederik De Klerk, says: ''This book relives a magnificent battle against apartheid . . . provides extraordinary historical facts and a succinct account of the political processes contained within the apartheid machinery.'' His words are not exaggerated. Mrs Suzman was one of South Africa's longest-serving MPs, winning her first seat for the United Party in Houghton in 1953 and holding it, after running out of patience with the Official Opposition's reluctance to shake off conservatism and joining the Progressive Party, until her resignation in 1989. Her memoirs provide a startling insight into the inexorable onslaught on human rights by the Afrikaner government after its rise to power in 1948. But the tiny grey-haired woman who brought hope to millions in their fight against oppression fails, perhaps, to bring home just how big a part she played in changing the face of South African politics. Her memoirs are as sharp and witty, sometimes devastatingly blunt, as she was in Parliament. And her sense of humour knew no bounds. Once, on a verboten trip to Moscow, she sent a postcard to the Minister of Police, Louis Le Grange, addressing it to Comrade Louis and signing it Comrade Helen. Le Grange never admitted he received it, not surprising in a country where Communism was considered the greatest single threat to the government's narrow view of democracy, and where any word or action deemed to be promoting its cause was a criminal offence. In No Uncertain Terms is a testament to the extraordinary efforts of not only Mrs Suzman in the 40-year struggle to restore human rights in South Africa, but of many others who played crucial roles in the process. It gives a stark, if abbreviated, account of how a government used its powers to consolidate white domination through an extraordinary web of discriminatory laws and recalls events surrounding the deaths of some of those who dared to challenge it.