This is the Nelson Mandela speech, read by him after
pleading "not guilty" with his 10 co-accused, during
the "Rivonia Trial" at the Palace of Justice in Pretoria.
The trial began on 26 November 1963 and concluded on 12 June 1964, after
which, having been found guilty on four charges of sabotage, Nelson
Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island, a maximum
security prison, 7kms. (4 miles) off Cape Town.
" I am the First Accused.
I hold a Bachelor's Degree in Arts and practised as an attorney in
Johannesburg for a number of years in partnership with Oliver Tambo. I
am a convicted prisoner serving five years for leaving the country without
a permit and for inciting people to go on strike at the end of May 1961. "
The Palace of Justice in Pretoria, where Nelson Mandela stood trial in 1964
The Nelson Mandela speech continued .....
" At the outset, I want to say that the suggestion made by the State
in its opening that the struggle in South Africa is under the influence
of foreigners or communists is wholly incorrect. I have done whatever I
did, both as an individual and as a leader of my people, because of my
experience in South Africa and my own proudly felt African background,
and not because of what any outsider might have said.
In my youth in the Transkei I listened to the elders of my tribe
telling stories of the old days. Amongst the tales they related to me were
those of wars fought by our ancestors in defence of the fatherland. The
names of Dingane and Bambata, Hintsa and Makana, Squngthi and Dalasile,
Moshoeshoe and Sekhukhuni, were praised as the glory of the entire African
nation. I hoped then that life might offer me the opportunity to serve
my people and make my own humble contribution to their freedom struggle.
This is what has motivated me in all that I have done in relation to the
charges made against me in this case.
Having said this, I must deal immediately and at some length with
the question of violence. Some of the things so far told to the Court are
true and some are untrue. I do not, however, deny that I planned sabotage.
I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love
of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of
the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation,
and oppression of my people by the Whites.
I admit immediately that I was one of the persons who helped to form
Umkhonto we Sizwe, and that I played a prominent role in its affairs until
I was arrested in August 1962. "
The Nelson Mandela speech continued .....
" In the statement which I am about to make I shall correct certain
false impressions which have been created by State witnesses. Amongst other
things, I will demonstrate that certain of the acts referred to in the
evidence were not and could not have been committed by Umkhonto. I will
also deal with the relationship between the African National Congress and
Umkhonto, and with the part which I personally have played in the affairs
of both organizations. I shall deal also with the part played by the Communist
Party. In order to explain these matters properly, I will have to explain
what Umkhonto set out to achieve; what methods it prescribed for the achievement
of these objects, and why these methods were chosen. I will also have to
explain how I became involved in the activities of these organizations.
I deny that Umkhonto was responsible for a number of acts which clearly
fell outside the policy of the organization, and which have been charged
in the indictment against us. I do not know what justification there was
for these acts, but to demonstrate that they could not have been authorized
by Umkhonto, I want to refer briefly to the roots and policy of the organization.
I have already mentioned that I was one of the persons who helped
to form Umkhonto. I, and the others who started the organization, did so
for two reasons. Firstly, we believed that as a result of Government policy,
violence by the African people had become inevitable, and that unless responsible
leadership was given to canalize and control the feelings of our people,
there would be outbreaks of terrorism which would produce an intensity
of bitterness and hostility between the various races of this country which
is not produced even by war. Secondly, we felt that without violence there
would be no way open to the African people to succeed in their struggle
against the principle of white supremacy. All lawful modes of expressing
opposition to this principle had been closed by legislation, and we were
placed in a position in which we had either to accept a permanent state
of inferiority, or to defy the Government. We chose to defy the law. We
first broke the law in a way which avoided any recourse to violence; when
this form was legislated against, and then the Government resorted to a
show of force to crush opposition to its policies, only then did we decide
to answer violence with violence. "
The Nelson Mandela speech continued .....
" But the violence which we chose to adopt was not terrorism. We who
formed Umkhonto were all members of the African National Congress, and
had behind us the ANC tradition of non-violence and negotiation as a means
of solving political disputes. We believe that South Africa belongs to
all the people who live in it, and not to one group, be it black or white.
We did not want an interracial war, and tried to avoid it to the last minute.
If the Court is in doubt about this, it will be seen that the whole history
of our organization bears out what I have said, and what I will subsequently
say, when I describe the tactics which Umkhonto decided to adopt. I want,
therefore, to say something about the African National Congress.
The African National Congress was formed in 1912 to defend the rights
of the African people which had been seriously curtailed by the South Africa
Act, and which were then being threatened by the Native Land Act. For thirty-seven
years - that is until 1949 - it adhered strictly to a constitutional struggle.
It put forward demands and resolutions; it sent delegations to the Government
in the belief that African grievances could be settled through peaceful
discussion and that Africans could advance gradually to full political
rights. But White Governments remained unmoved, and the rights of Africans
became less instead of becoming greater. In the words of my leader, Chief
Lutuli, who became President of the ANC in 1952, and who was later awarded
the Nobel Peace Prize:
Who will deny that thirty years of my life have been spent
knocking in vain, patiently, moderately, and modestly at a closed and barred
door? What have been the fruits of moderation? The past thirty years have
seen the greatest number of laws restricting our rights and progress, until
today we have reached a stage where we have almost no rights at all.
Even after 1949, the ANC remained determined to avoid violence. At
this time, however, there was a change from the strictly constitutional
means of protest which had been employed in the past. The change was embodied
in a decision which was taken to protest against apartheid legislation
by peaceful, but unlawful, demonstrations against certain laws. Pursuant
to this policy the ANC launched the Defiance Campaign, in which I was placed
in charge of volunteers. This campaign was based on the principles of passive
resistance. More than 8,500 people defied apartheid laws and went to jail.
Yet there was not a single instance of violence in the course of this campaign
on the part of any defier. I and nineteen colleagues were convicted for
the role which we played in organizing the campaign, but our sentences
were suspended mainly because the Judge found that discipline and non-violence
had been stressed throughout. This was the time when the volunteer section
of the ANC was established, and when the word 'Amadelakufa' was first used:
this was the time when the volunteers were asked to take a pledge to uphold
certain principles. Evidence dealing with volunteers and their pledges
has been introduced into this case, but completely out of context. The
volunteers were not, and are not, the soldiers of a black army pledged
to fight a civil war against the whites. They were, and are, dedicated
workers who are prepared to lead campaigns initiated by the ANC to distribute
leaflets, to organize strikes, or do whatever the particular campaign required.
They are called volunteers because they volunteer to face the penalties
of imprisonment and whipping which are now prescribed by the legislature
for such acts. "
The Nelson Mandela speech continued .....
" During the Defiance Campaign, the Public Safety Act and the Criminal
Law Amendment Act were passed. These Statutes provided harsher penalties
for offences committed by way of protests against laws. Despite this, the
protests continued and the ANC adhered to its policy of non-violence. In
1956, 156 leading members of the Congress Alliance, including myself, were
arrested on a charge of high treason and charges under the Suppression
of Communism Act. The non-violent policy of the ANC was put in issue by
the State, but when the Court gave judgement some five years later, it
found that the ANC did not have a policy of violence. We were acquitted
on all counts, which included a count that the ANC sought to set up a communist
state in place of the existing regime. The Government has always sought
to label all its opponents as communists. This allegation has been repeated
in the present case, but as I will show, the ANC is not, and never has
been, a communist organization.
In 1960 there was the shooting at Sharpeville, which resulted in
the proclamation of a state of emergency and the declaration of the ANC
as an unlawful organization. My colleagues and I, after careful consideration,
decided that we would not obey this decree. The African people were not
part of the Government and did not make the laws by which they were governed.
We believed in the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
that 'the will of the people shall be the basis of authority of the Government,'
and for us to accept the banning was equivalent to accepting the silencing
of the Africans for all time. The ANC refused to dissolve, but instead
went underground. We believed it was our duty to preserve this organization
which had been built up with almost fifty years of unremitting toil. I
have no doubt that no self-respecting White political organization would
disband itself if declared illegal by a government in which it had no say.
In 1960 the Government held a referendum which led to the establishment
of the Republic. Africans, who constituted approximately 70 per cent of
the population of South Africa, were not entitled to vote, and were not
even consulted about the proposed constitutional change. All of us were
apprehensive of our future under the proposed White Republic, and a resolution
was taken to hold an All-In African Conference to call for a National Convention,
and to organize mass demonstrations on the eve of the unwanted Republic,
if the Government failed to call the Convention. The conference was attended
by Africans of various political persuasions. I was the Secretary of the
conference and undertook to be responsible for organizing the national
stay-at-home which was subsequently called to coincide with the declaration
of the Republic. As all strikes by Africans are illegal, the person organizing
such a strike must avoid arrest. I was chosen to be this person, and consequently
I had to leave my home and family and my practice and go into hiding to
The stay-at-home, in accordance with ANC policy, was to be a peaceful
demonstration. Careful instructions were given to organizers and members
to avoid any recourse to violence. The Government's answer was to introduce
new and harsher laws, to mobilize its armed forces, and to send Saracens,
armed vehicles, and soldiers into the townships in a massive show of force
designed to intimidate the people. This was an indication that the Government
had decided to rule by force alone, and this decision was a milestone on
the road to Umkhonto.
Some of this may appear irrelevant to this trial. In fact, I believe
none of it is irrelevant because it will, I hope, enable the Court to appreciate
the attitude eventually adopted by the various persons and bodies concerned
in the National Liberation Movement. When I went to jail in 1962, the dominant
idea was that loss of life should be avoided. I now know that this was
still so in 1963.
I must return to June 1961. What were we, the leaders of our people,
to do? Were we to give in to the show of force and the implied threat against
future action, or were we to fight it and, if so, how?
We had no doubt that we had to continue the fight. Anything else
would have been abject surrender. Our problem was not whether to fight,
but was how to continue the fight. We of the ANC had always stood for a
non-racial democracy, and we shrank from any action which might drive the
races further apart than they already were. But the hard facts were that
fifty years of non-violence had brought the African people nothing but
more and more repressive legislation, and fewer and fewer rights. It may
not be easy for this Court to understand, but it is a fact that for a long
time the people had been talking of violence - of the day when they would
fight the White man and win back their country - and we, the leaders of
the ANC, had nevertheless always prevailed upon them to avoid violence
and to pursue peaceful methods. When some of us discussed this in May and
June of 1961, it could not be denied that our policy to achieve a non-racial
State by non-violence had achieved nothing, and that our followers were
beginning to lose confidence in this policy and were developing disturbing
ideas of terrorism. "
" Apartheid is the rule of the gun and
the hangman "
The Nelson Mandela speech continued .....
" It must not be forgotten that by this time violence had, in fact,
become a feature of the South African political scene. There had been violence
in 1957 when the women of Zeerust were ordered to carry passes; there was
violence in 1958 with the enforcement of cattle culling in Sekhukhuniland;
there was violence in 1959 when the people of Cato Manor protested against
pass raids; there was violence in 1960 when the Government attempted to
impose Bantu Authorities in Pondoland. Thirty-nine Africans died in these
disturbances. In 1961 there had been riots in Warmbaths, and all this time
the Transkei had been a seething mass of unrest. Each disturbance pointed
clearly to the inevitable growth among Africans of the belief that violence
was the only way out - it showed that a Government which uses force to
maintain its rule teaches the oppressed to use force to oppose it. Already
small groups had arisen in the urban areas and were spontaneously making
plans for violent forms of political struggle. There now arose a danger
that these groups would adopt terrorism against Africans, as well as Whites,
if not properly directed. Particularly disturbing was the type of violence
engendered in places such as Zeerust, Sekhukhuniland, and Pondoland amongst
Africans. It was increasingly taking the form, not of struggle against
the Government - though this is what prompted it - but of civil strife
amongst themselves, conducted in such a way that it could not hope to achieve
anything other than a loss of life and bitterness.
At the beginning of June 1961, after a long and anxious assessment
of the South African situation, I, and some colleagues, came to the conclusion
that as violence in this country was inevitable, it would be unrealistic
and wrong for African leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence
at a time when the Government met our peaceful demands with force.
This conclusion was not easily arrived at. It was only when all else
had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us,
that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle,
and to form Umkhonto we Sizwe. We did so not because we desired such a
course, but solely because the Government had left us with no other choice.
In the Manifesto of Umkhonto published on 16 December 1961, which is Exhibit
AD, we said:
The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain
only two choices - submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa.
We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means
in our power in defence of our people, our future, and our freedom.
The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain
only two choices - submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa.
We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means
in our power in defence of our people, our future, and our freedom.
This was our feeling in June of 1961 when we decided to press for
a change in the policy of the National Liberation Movement. I can only
say that I felt morally obliged to do what I did.
We who had taken this decision started to consult leaders of various
organizations, including the ANC. I will not say whom we spoke to, or what
they said, but I wish to deal with the role of the African National Congress
in this phase of the struggle, and with the policy and objectives of Umkhonto
we Sizwe. "
" To overthrow oppression is the highest
aspiration of every free man "
The Nelson Mandela speech continued .....
" As far as the ANC was concerned, it formed a clear view which can
be summarized as follows:
It was a mass political organization with a
political function to fulfil. Its members had joined on the express policy of non-violence.
Because of all this, it could not and would not undertake violence.
This must be stressed. One cannot turn such a body into the small, closely
knit organization required for sabotage. Nor would this be politically
correct, because it would result in members ceasing to carry out this essential
activity: political propaganda and organization. Nor was it permissible
to change the whole nature of the organization.
On the other hand, in view of this situation I have described, the
ANC was prepared to depart from its fifty-year-old policy of non-violence
to this extent that it would no longer disapprove of properly controlled
violence. Hence members who undertook such activity would not be subject
to disciplinary action by the ANC.
I say 'properly controlled violence' because I made it clear that
if I formed the organization I would at all times subject it to the political
guidance of the ANC and would not undertake any different form of activity
from that contemplated without the consent of the ANC. And I shall now
tell the Court how that form of violence came to be determined.
As a result of this decision, Umkhonto was formed in November 1961.
When we took this decision, and subsequently formulated our plans, the
ANC heritage of non-violence and racial harmony was very much with us.
We felt that the country was drifting towards a civil war in which Blacks
and Whites would fight each other. We viewed the situation with alarm.
Civil war could mean the destruction of what the ANC stood for; with civil
war, racial peace would be more difficult than ever to achieve. We already
have examples in South African history of the results of war. It has taken
more than fifty years for the scars of the South African War to disappear.
How much longer would it take to eradicate the scars of inter-racial civil
war, which could not be fought without a great loss of life on both sides?
The avoidance of civil war had dominated our thinking for many years,
but when we decided to adopt violence as part of our policy, we realized
that we might one day have to face the prospect of such a war. This had
to be taken into account in formulating our plans. We required a plan which
was flexible and which permitted us to act in accordance with the needs
of the times; above all, the plan had to be one which recognized civil
war as the last resort, and left the decision on this question to the future.
We did not want to be committed to civil war, but we wanted to be ready
if it became inevitable.
Four forms of violence were possible. There is sabotage, there is
guerrilla warfare, there is terrorism, and there is open revolution. We
chose to adopt the first method and to exhaust it before taking any other
In the light of our political background the choice was a logical
one. Sabotage did not involve loss of life, and it offered the best hope
for future race relations. Bitterness would be kept to a minimum and, if
the policy bore fruit, democratic government could become a reality. This
is what we felt at the time, and this is what we said in our Manifesto
We of Umkhonto we Sizwe have always sought to achieve liberation
without bloodshed and civil clash. We hope, even at this late hour, that
our first actions will awaken everyone to a realization of the disastrous
situation to which the Nationalist policy is leading. We hope that we will
bring the Government and its supporters to their senses before it is too
late, so that both the Government and its policies can be changed before
matters reach the desperate state of civil war.
The initial plan was based on a careful analysis of the political
and economic situation of our country. We believed that South Africa depended
to a large extent on foreign capital and foreign trade. We felt that planned
destruction of power plants, and interference with rail and telephone communications,
would tend to scare away capital from the country, make it more difficult
for goods from the industrial areas to reach the seaports on schedule,
and would in the long run be a heavy drain on the economic life of the
country, thus compelling the voters of the country to reconsider their
Attacks on the economic life-lines of the country were to be linked
with sabotage on Government buildings and other symbols of apartheid. These
attacks would serve as a source of inspiration to our people. In addition,
they would provide an outlet for those people who were urging the adoption
of violent methods and would enable us to give concrete proof to our followers
that we had adopted a stronger line and were fighting back against Government
In addition, if mass action were successfully organized, and mass
reprisals taken, we felt that sympathy for our cause would be roused in
other countries, and that greater pressure would be brought to bear on
the South African Government.
This then was the plan. Umkhonto was to perform sabotage, and strict
instructions were given to its members right from the start, that on no
account were they to injure or kill people in planning or carrying out
operations. These instructions have been referred to in the evidence of
'Mr. X' and 'Mr. Z.'
The affairs of the Umkhonto were controlled and directed by a National
High Command, which had powers of co-option and which could, and did, appoint
Regional Commands. The High Command was the body which determined tactics
and targets and was in charge of training and finance. Under the High Command
there were Regional Commands which were responsible for the direction of
the local sabotage groups. Within the framework of the policy laid down
by the National High Command, the Regional Commands had authority to select
the targets to be attacked. They had no authority to go beyond the prescribed
framework and thus had no authority to embark upon acts which endangered
life, or which did not fit into the overall plan of sabotage. For instance,
Umkhonto members were forbidden ever to go armed into operation. Incidentally,
the terms High Command and Regional Command were an importation from the
Jewish national underground organization Irgun Zvai Leumi, which operated
in Israel between 1944 and 1948.
Umkhonto had its first operation on 16 December 1961, when Government
buildings in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban were attacked. The
selection of targets is proof of the policy to which I have referred. Had
we intended to attack life we would have selected targets where people
congregated and not empty buildings and power stations. The sabotage which
was committed before 16 December 1961 was the work of isolated groups and
had no connection whatever with Umkhonto. In fact, some of these and a
number of later acts were claimed by other organizations.
The Manifesto of Umkhonto was issued on the day that operations commenced.
The response to our actions and Manifesto among the white population was
characteristically violent. The Government threatened to take strong action,
and called upon its supporters to stand firm and to ignore the demands
of the Africans. The Whites failed to respond by suggesting change; they
responded to our call by suggesting the laager.
In contrast, the response of the Africans was one of encouragement.
Suddenly there was hope again. Things were happening. People in the townships
became eager for political news. A great deal of enthusiasm was generated
by the initial successes, and people began to speculate on how soon freedom
would be obtained.
But we in Umkhonto weighed up the white response with anxiety. The
lines were being drawn. The whites and blacks were moving into separate
camps, and the prospects of avoiding a civil war were made less. The white
newspapers carried reports that sabotage would be punished by death. If
this was so, how could we continue to keep Africans away from terrorism?
Already scores of Africans had died as a result of racial friction.
In 1920 when the famous leader, Masabala, was held in Port Elizabeth jail,
twenty-four of a group of Africans who had gathered to demand his release
were killed by the police and white civilians. In 1921 more than one hundred
Africans died in the Bulhoek affair. In 1924 over two hundred Africans
were killed when the Administrator of South-West Africa led a force against
a group which had rebelled against the imposition of dog tax. On 1 May
1950, eighteen Africans died as a result of police shootings during the
strike. On 21 March 1960, sixty-nine unarmed Africans died at Sharpeville.
How many more Sharpevilles would there be in the history of our country?
And how many more Sharpevilles could the country stand without violence
and terror becoming the order of the day? And what would happen to our
people when that stage was reached? In the long run we felt certain we
must succeed, but at what cost to ourselves and the rest of the country?
And if this happened, how could black and white ever live together again
in peace and harmony? These were the problems that faced us, and these
were our decisions. "
" To be free is not merely to cast
off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the
lives of others "
The Nelson Mandela speech continued .....
" Experience convinced us that rebellion would offer the Government
limitless opportunities for the indiscriminate slaughter of our people.
But it was precisely because the soil of South Africa is already drenched
with the blood of innocent Africans that we felt it our duty to make preparations
as a long-term undertaking to use force in order to defend ourselves against
force. If war were inevitable, we wanted the fight to be conducted on terms
most favorable to our people. The fight which held out prospects best for
us and the least risk of life to both sides was guerrilla warfare. We decided,
therefore, in our preparations for the future, to make provision for the
possibility of guerrilla warfare.
All whites undergo compulsory military training, but no such training
was given to Africans. It was in our view essential to build up a nucleus
of trained men who would be able to provide the leadership which would
be required if guerrilla warfare started. We had to prepare for such a
situation before it became too late to make proper preparations. It was
also necessary to build up a nucleus of men trained in civil administration
and other professions, so that Africans would be equipped to participate
in the government of this country as soon as they were allowed to do so.
At this stage it was decided that I should attend the Conference
of the Pan-African Freedom Movement for Central, East, and Southern Africa,
which was to be held early in 1962 in Addis Ababa, and, because of our
need for preparation, it was also decided that, after the conference, I
would undertake a tour of the African States with a view to obtaining facilities
for the training of soldiers, and that I would also solicit scholarships
for the higher education of matriculated Africans. Training in both fields
would be necessary, even if changes came about by peaceful means. Administrators
would be necessary who would be willing and able to administer a non-racial
State and so would men be necessary to control the army and police force
of such a State.
It was on this note that I left South Africa to proceed to Addis
Ababa as a delegate of the ANC. My tour was a success. Wherever I went
I met sympathy for our cause and promises of help. All Africa was united
against the stand of White South Africa, and even in London I was received
with great sympathy by political leaders, such as Mr. Gaitskell and Mr.
Grimond. In Africa I was promised support by such men as Julius Nyerere,
now President of Tanganyika; Mr. Kawawa, then Prime Minister of Tanganyika;
Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia; General Abboud, President of the Sudan;
Habib Bourguiba, President of Tunisia; Ben Bella, now President of Algeria;
Modibo Keita, President of Mali; Leopold Senghor, President of Senegal;
Sekou Toure, President of Guinea; President Tubman of Liberia; and Milton
Obote, Prime Minister of Uganda. It was Ben Bella who invited me to visit
Oujda, the Headquarters of the Algerian Army of National Liberation, the
visit which is described in my diary, one of the Exhibits.
I started to make a study of the art of war and revolution and, whilst
abroad, underwent a course in military training. If there was to be guerrilla
warfare, I wanted to be able to stand and fight with my people and to share
the hazards of war with them. Notes of lectures which I received in Algeria
are contained in Exhibit 16, produced in evidence. Summaries of books on
guerrilla warfare and military strategy have also been produced. I have
already admitted that these documents are in my writing, and I acknowledge
that I made these studies to equip myself for the role which I might have
to play if the struggle drifted into guerrilla warfare. I approached this
question as every African Nationalist should do. I was completely objective.
The Court will see that I attempted to examine all types of authority on
the subject - from the East and from the West, going back to the classic
work of Clausewitz, and covering such a variety as Mao Tse Tung and Che
Guevara on the one hand, and the writings on the Anglo-Boer War on the
other. Of course, these notes are merely summaries of the books I read
and do not contain my personal views.
I also made arrangements for our recruits to undergo military training.
But here it was impossible to organize any scheme without the co-operation
of the ANC offices in Africa. I consequently obtained the permission of
the ANC in South Africa to do this. To this extent then there was a departure
from the original decision of the ANC, but it applied outside South Africa
only. The first batch of recruits actually arrived in Tanganyika when I
was passing through that country on my way back to South Africa.
I returned to South Africa and reported to my colleagues on the results
of my trip. On my return I found that there had been little alteration
in the political scene save that the threat of a death penalty for sabotage
had now become a fact. The attitude of my colleagues in Umkhonto was much
the same as it had been before I left. They were feeling their way cautiously
and felt that it would be a long time before the possibilities of sabotage
were exhausted. In fact, the view was expressed by some that the training
of recruits was premature. This is recorded by me in the document which
is Exhibit R.14. After a full discussion, however, it was decided to go
ahead with the plans for military training because of the fact that it
would take many years to build up a sufficient nucleus of trained soldiers
to start a guerrilla campaign, and whatever happened, the training would
be of value. "
" The mision of reconciliation is
underpinned by what I have dedicated my life to ; uplifting the most
downtrodden sections of our population and all round transformation of
The Nelson Mandela speech continued .....
" I wish to turn now to certain general allegations made in this case
by the State. But before doing so, I wish to revert to certain occurrences
said by witnesses to have happened in Port Elizabeth and East London. I
am referring to the bombing of private houses of pro-Government persons
during September, October and November 1962. I do not know what justification
there was for these acts, nor what provocation had been given. But if what
I have said already is accepted, then it is clear that these acts had nothing
to do with the carrying out of the policy of Umkhonto.
One of the chief allegations in the indictment is that the ANC was
a party to a general conspiracy to commit sabotage. I have already explained
why this is incorrect but how, externally, there was a departure from the
original principle laid down by the ANC. There has, of course, been overlapping
of functions internally as well, because there is a difference between
a resolution adopted in the atmosphere of a committee room and the concrete
difficulties that arise in the field of practical activity. At a later
stage the position was further affected by bannings and house arrests,
and by persons leaving the country to take up political work abroad. This
led to individuals having to do work in different capacities. But though
this may have blurred the distinction between Umkhonto and the ANC, it
by no means abolished that distinction. Great care was taken to keep the
activities of the two organizations in South Africa distinct. The ANC remained
a mass political body of Africans only carrying on the type of political
work they had conducted prior to 1961. Umkhonto remained a small organization
recruiting its members from different races and organizations and trying
to achieve its own particular object. The fact that members of Umkhonto
were recruited from the ANC, and the fact that persons served both organizations,
like Solomon Mbanjwa, did not, in our view, change the nature of the ANC
or give it a policy of violence. This overlapping of officers, however,
was more the exception than the rule. This is why persons such as 'Mr.
X' and 'Mr. Z,' who were on the Regional Command of their respective areas,
did not participate in any of the ANC committees or activities, and why
people such as Mr. Bennett Mashiyana and Mr. Reginald Ndubi did not hear
of sabotage at their ANC meetings.
Another of the allegations in the indictment is that Rivonia was
the headquarters of Umkhonto. This is not true of the time when I was there.
I was told, of course, and knew that certain of the activities of the Communist
Party were carried on there. But this is no reason (as I shall presently
explain) why I should not use the place.
I came there in the following manner:
As already indicated, early in April 1961 I went underground to
organize the May general strike. My work entailed travelling throughout
the country, living now in African townships, then in country villages
and again in cities.
During the second half of the year I started visiting the Parktown
home of Arthur Goldreich, where I used to meet my family privately. Although
I had no direct political association with him, I had known Arthur Goldreich
socially since 1958.
In October, Arthur Goldreich informed me that he was moving out
of town and offered me a hiding place there. A few days thereafter, he
arranged for Michael Harmel to take me to Rivonia. I naturally found Rivonia
an ideal place for the man who lived the life of an outlaw. Up to that
time I had been compelled to live indoors during the daytime and could
only venture out under cover of darkness. But at Liliesleaf [farm, Rivonia,]
I could live differently and work far more efficiently.
For obvious reasons, I had to disguise myself and I assumed the
fictitious name of David. In December, Arthur Goldreich and his family
moved in. I stayed there until I went abroad on 11 January 1962. As already
indicated, I returned in July 1962 and was arrested in Natal on 5 August.
Up to the time of my arrest, Liliesleaf farm was the headquarters
of neither the African National Congress nor Umkhonto. With the exception
of myself, none of the officials or members of these bodies lived there,
no meetings of the governing bodies were ever held there, and no activities
connected with them were either organized or directed from there. On numerous
occasions during my stay at Liliesleaf farm I met both the Executive Committee
of the ANC, as well as the NHC, but such meetings were held elsewhere and
not on the farm.
Whilst staying at Liliesleaf farm, I frequently visited Arthur Goldreich
in the main house and he also paid me visits in my room. We had numerous
political discussions covering a variety of subjects. We discussed ideological
and practical questions, the Congress Alliance, Umkhonto and its activities
generally, and his experiences as a soldier in the Palmach, the military
wing of the Haganah. Haganah was the political authority of the Jewish
National Movement in Palestine.
Because of what I had got to know of Goldreich, I recommended on
my return to South Africa that he should be recruited to Umkhonto. I do
not know of my personal knowledge whether this was done.
Another of the allegations made by the State is that the aims and
objects of the ANC and the Communist Party are the same. I wish to deal
with this and with my own political position, because I must assume that
the State may try to argue from certain Exhibits that I tried to introduce
Marxism into the ANC. The allegation as to the ANC is false. This is an
old allegation which was disproved at the Treason Trial and which has again
reared its head. But since the allegation has been made again, I shall
deal with it as well as with the relationship between the ANC and the Communist
Party and Umkhonto and that party.
The ideological creed of the ANC is, and always has been, the creed
of African Nationalism. It is not the concept of African Nationalism expressed
in the cry, 'Drive the White man into the sea.' The African Nationalism
for which the ANC stands is the concept of freedom and fulfilment for the
African people in their own land. The most important political document
ever adopted by the ANC is the 'Freedom Charter.' It is by no means a blueprint
for a socialist state. It calls for redistribution, but not nationalization,
of land; it provides for nationalization of mines, banks, and monopoly
industry, because big monopolies are owned by one race only, and without
such nationalization racial domination would be perpetuated despite the
spread of political power. It would be a hollow gesture to repeal the Gold
Law prohibitions against Africans when all gold mines are owned by European
companies. In this respect the ANC's policy corresponds with the old policy
of the present Nationalist Party which, for many years, had as part of
its programme the nationalization of the gold mines which, at that time,
were controlled by foreign capital. Under the Freedom Charter, nationalization
would take place in an economy based on private enterprise. The realization
of the Freedom Charter would open up fresh fields for a prosperous African
population of all classes, including the middle class. The ANC has never
at any period of its history advocated a revolutionary change in the economic
structure of the country, nor has it, to the best of my recollection, ever
condemned capitalist society.
As far as the Communist Party is concerned, and if I understand its
policy correctly, it stands for the establishment of a State based on the
principles of Marxism. Although it is prepared to work for the Freedom
Charter, as a short term solution to the problems created by white supremacy,
it regards the Freedom Charter as the beginning, and not the end, of its
The ANC, unlike the Communist Party, admitted Africans only as members.
Its chief goal was, and is, for the African people to win unity and full
political rights. The Communist Party's main aim, on the other hand, was
to remove the capitalists and to replace them with a working-class government.
The Communist Party sought to emphasize class distinctions whilst the ANC
seeks to harmonize them. This is a vital distinction.
It is true that there has often been close co-operation between the
ANC and the Communist Party. But co-operation is merely proof of a common
goal - in this case the removal of white supremacy - and is not proof of
a complete community of interests.
The history of the world is full of similar examples. Perhaps the
most striking illustration is to be found in the co-operation between Great
Britain, the United States of America, and the Soviet Union in the fight
against Hitler. Nobody but Hitler would have dared to suggest that such
co-operation turned Churchill or Roosevelt into communists or communist
tools, or that Britain and America were working to bring about a communist
Another instance of such co-operation is to be found precisely in
Umkhonto. Shortly after Umkhonto was constituted, I was informed by some
of its members that the Communist Party would support Umkhonto, and this
then occurred. At a later stage the support was made openly.
I believe that communists have always played an active role in the
fight by colonial countries for their freedom, because the short-term objects
of communism would always correspond with the long-term objects of freedom
movements. Thus communists have played an important role in the freedom
struggles fought in countries such as Malaya, Algeria, and Indonesia, yet
none of these States today are communist countries. Similarly in the underground
resistance movements which sprung up in Europe during the last World War,
communists played an important role. Even General Chiang Kai-Shek, today
one of the bitterest enemies of communism, fought together with the communists
against the ruling class in the struggle which led to his assumption of
power in China in the 1930s.
This pattern of co-operation between communists and non-communists
has been repeated in the National Liberation Movement of South Africa.
Prior to the banning of the Communist Party, joint campaigns involving
the Communist Party and the Congress movements were accepted practice.
African communists could, and did, become members of the ANC, and some
served on the National, Provincial, and local committees. Amongst those
who served on the National Executive are Albert Nzula, a former Secretary
of the Communist Party, Moses Kotane, another former Secretary, and J.
B. Marks, a former member of the Central Committee.
I joined the ANC in 1944, and in my younger days I held the view
that the policy of admitting communists to the ANC, and the close co-operation
which existed at times on specific issues between the ANC and the Communist
Party, would lead to a watering down of the concept of African Nationalism.
At that stage I was a member of the African National Congress Youth League,
and was one of a group which moved for the expulsion of communists from
the ANC. This proposal was heavily defeated. Amongst those who voted against
the proposal were some of the most conservative sections of African political
opinion. They defended the policy on the ground that from its inception
the ANC was formed and built up, not as a political party with one school
of political thought, but as a Parliament of the African people, accommodating
people of various political convictions, all united by the common goal
of national liberation. I was eventually won over to this point of view
and I have upheld it ever since.
It is perhaps difficult for white South Africans, with an ingrained
prejudice against communism, to understand why experienced African politicians
so readily accept communists as their friends. But to us the reason is
obvious. Theoretical differences amongst those fighting against oppression
is a luxury we cannot afford at this stage. What is more, for many decades
communists were the only political group in South Africa who were prepared
to treat Africans as human beings and their equals; who were prepared to
eat with us; talk with us, live with us, and work with us. They were the
only political group which was prepared to work with the Africans for the
attainment of political rights and a stake in society. Because of this,
there are many Africans who, today, tend to equate freedom with communism.
They are supported in this belief by a legislature which brands all exponents
of democratic government and African freedom as communists and bans many
of them (who are not communists) under the Suppression of Communism Act.
Although I have never been a member of the Communist Party, I myself have
been named under that pernicious Act because of the role I played in the
Defiance Campaign. I have also been banned and imprisoned under that Act.
It is not only in internal politics that we count communists as amongst
those who support our cause. In the international field, communist countries
have always come to our aid. In the United Nations and other Councils of
the world the communist bloc has supported the Afro-Asian struggle against
colonialism and often seems to be more sympathetic to our plight than some
of the Western powers. Although there is a universal condemnation of apartheid,
the communist bloc speaks out against it with a louder voice than most
of the white world. In these circumstances, it would take a brash young
politician, such as I was in 1949, to proclaim that the Communists are
I turn now to my own position. I have denied that I am a communist,
and I think that in the circumstances I am obliged to state exactly what
my political beliefs are.
I have always regarded myself, in the first place, as an African
patriot. After all, I was born in Umtata, forty-six years ago. My guardian
was my cousin, who was the acting paramount chief of Tembuland, and I am
related both to the present paramount chief of Tembuland, Sabata Dalindyebo,
and to Kaizer Matanzima, the Chief Minister of the Transkei.
Today I am attracted by the idea of a classless society, an attraction
which springs in part from Marxist reading and, in part, from my admiration
of the structure and organization of early African societies in this country.
The land, then the main means of production, belonged to the tribe. There
were no rich or poor and there was no exploitation.
It is true, as I have already stated, that I have been influenced
by Marxist thought. But this is also true of many of the leaders of the
new independent States. Such widely different persons as Gandhi, Nehru,
Nkrumah, and Nasser all acknowledge this fact. We all accept the need for
some form of socialism to enable our people to catch up with the advanced
countries of this world and to overcome their legacy of extreme poverty.
But this does not mean we are Marxists.
Indeed, for my own part, I believe that it is open to debate whether
the Communist Party has any specific role to play at this particular stage
of our political struggle. The basic task at the present moment is the
removal of race discrimination and the attainment of democratic rights
on the basis of the Freedom Charter. In so far as that Party furthers this
task, I welcome its assistance. I realize that it is one of the means by
which people of all races can be drawn into our struggle.
From my reading of Marxist literature and from conversations with
Marxists, I have gained the impression that communists regard the parliamentary
system of the West as undemocratic and reactionary. But, on the contrary,
I am an admirer of such a system.
The Magna Carta, the Petition of Rights, and the Bill of Rights are
documents which are held in veneration by democrats throughout the world.
I have great respect for British political institutions, and for
the country's system of justice. I regard the British Parliament as the
most democratic institution in the world, and the independence and impartiality
of its judiciary never fails to arouse my admiration.
The American Congress, that country's doctrine of separation of powers,
as well as the independence of its judiciary, arouses in me similar sentiments.
I have been influenced in my thinking by both West and East. All
this has led me to feel that in my search for a political formula, I should
be absolutely impartial and objective. I should tie myself to no particular
system of society other than of socialism. I must leave myself free to
borrow the best from the West and from the East . . .
There are certain Exhibits which suggest that we received financial
support from abroad, and I wish to deal with this question.
Our political struggle has always been financed from internal sources
- from funds raised by our own people and by our own supporters. Whenever
we had a special campaign or an important political case - for example,
the Treason Trial - we received financial assistance from sympathetic individuals
and organizations in the Western countries. We had never felt it necessary
to go beyond these sources.
But when in 1961 the Umkhonto was formed, and a new phase of struggle
introduced, we realized that these events would make a heavy call on our
slender resources, and that the scale of our activities would be hampered
by the lack of funds. One of my instructions, as I went abroad in January
1962, was to raise funds from the African states.
I must add that, whilst abroad, I had discussions with leaders of
political movements in Africa and discovered that almost every single one
of them, in areas which had still not attained independence, had received
all forms of assistance from the socialist countries, as well as from the
West, including that of financial support. I also discovered that some
well-known African states, all of them non-communists, and even anti-communists,
had received similar assistance.
On my return to the Republic, I made a strong recommendation to the
ANC that we should not confine ourselves to Africa and the Western countries,
but that we should also send a mission to the socialist countries to raise
the funds which we so urgently needed.
I have been told that after I was convicted such a mission was sent,
but I am not prepared to name any countries to which it went, nor am I
at liberty to disclose the names of the organizations and countries which
gave us support or promised to do so.
As I understand the State case, and in particular the evidence of
'Mr. X,' the suggestion is that Umkhonto was the inspiration of the Communist
Party which sought by playing upon imaginary grievances to enroll the African
people into an army which ostensibly was to fight for African freedom,
but in reality was fighting for a communist state. Nothing could be further
from the truth. In fact the suggestion is preposterous. Umkhonto was formed
by Africans to further their struggle for freedom in their own land. Communists
and others supported the movement, and we only wish that more sections
of the community would join us.
Our fight is against real, and not imaginary, hardships or, to use
the language of the State Prosecutor, 'so-called hardships.' Basically,
we fight against two features which are the hallmarks of African life in
South Africa and which are entrenched by legislation which we seek to have
repealed. These features are poverty and lack of human dignity, and we
do not need communists or so-called 'agitators' to teach us about these
South Africa is the richest country in Africa, and could be one of
the richest countries in the world. But it is a land of extremes and remarkable
contrasts. The whites enjoy what may well be the highest standard of living
in the world, whilst Africans live in poverty and misery. Forty per cent
of the Africans live in hopelessly overcrowded and, in some cases, drought-stricken
Reserves, where soil erosion and the overworking of the soil makes it impossible
for them to live properly off the land. Thirty per cent are laborers, labor
tenants, and squatters on white farms and work and live under conditions
similar to those of the serfs of the Middle Ages. The other 30 per cent
live in towns where they have developed economic and social habits which
bring them closer in many respects to white standards. Yet most Africans,
even in this group, are impoverished by low incomes and high cost of living.
The highest-paid and the most prosperous section of urban African
life is in Johannesburg. Yet their actual position is desperate. The latest
figures were given on 25 March 1964 by Mr. Carr, Manager of the Johannesburg
Non-European Affairs Department. The poverty datum line for the average
African family in Johannesburg (according to Mr. Carr's department) is
R42.84 per month. He showed that the average monthly wage is R32.24 and
that 46 per cent of all African families in Johannesburg do not earn enough
to keep them going.
Poverty goes hand in hand with malnutrition and disease. The incidence
of malnutrition and deficiency diseases is very high amongst Africans.
Tuberculosis, pellagra, kwashiorkor, gastro-enteritis, and scurvy bring
death and destruction of health. The incidence of infant mortality is one
of the highest in the world. According to the Medical Officer of Health
for Pretoria, tuberculosis kills forty people a day (almost all Africans),
and in 1961 there were 58,491 new cases reported. These diseases not only
destroy the vital organs of the body, but they result in retarded mental
conditions and lack of initiative, and reduce powers of concentration.
The secondary results of such conditions affect the whole community and
the standard of work performed by African laborers.
The complaint of Africans, however, is not only that they are poor
and the whites are rich, but that the laws which are made by the whites
are designed to preserve this situation. There are two ways to break out
of poverty. The first is by formal education, and the second is by the
worker acquiring a greater skill at his work and thus higher wages. As
far as Africans are concerned, both these avenues of advancement are deliberately
curtailed by legislation.
The present Government has always sought to hamper Africans in their
search for education. One of their early acts, after coming into power,
was to stop subsidies for African school feeding. Many African children
who attended schools depended on this supplement to their diet. This was
a cruel act.
There is compulsory education for all white children at virtually
no cost to their parents, be they rich or poor. Similar facilities are
not provided for the African children, though there are some who receive
such assistance. African children, however, generally have to pay more
for their schooling than whites. According to figures quoted by the South
African Institute of Race Relations in its 1963 journal, approximately
40 per cent of African children in the age group between seven to fourteen
do not attend school. For those who do attend school, the standards are
vastly different from those afforded to white children. In 1960-61 the
per capita Government spending on African students at State-aided schools
was estimated at R12.46. In the same years, the per capita spending on
white children in the Cape Province (which are the only figures available
to me) was R144.57. Although there are no figures available to me, it can
be stated, without doubt, that the white children on whom R144.57 per head
was being spent all came from wealthier homes than African children on
whom R12.46 per head was being spent.
The quality of education is also different. According to the Bantu
Educational Journal, only 5,660 African children in the whole of South
Africa passed their Junior Certificate in 1962, and in that year only 362
passed matric. This is presumably consistent with the policy of Bantu education
about which the present Prime Minister said, during the debate on the Bantu
Education Bill in 1953:
When I have control of Native education I will reform it so
that Natives will be taught from childhood to realize that equality with
Europeans is not for them . . . People who believe in equality are not
desirable teachers for Natives. When my Department controls Native education
it will know for what class of higher education a Native is fitted, and
whether he will have a chance in life to use his knowledge.
The other main obstacle to the economic advancement of the African
is the industrial color-bar under which all the better jobs of industry
are reserved for Whites only. Moreover, Africans who do obtain employment
in the unskilled and semi-skilled occupations which are open to them are
not allowed to form trade unions which have recognition under the Industrial
Conciliation Act. This means that strikes of African workers are illegal,
and that they are denied the right of collective bargaining which is permitted
to the better-paid White workers. The discrimination in the policy of successive
South African Governments towards African workers is demonstrated by the
so-called 'civilized labor policy' under which sheltered, unskilled Government
jobs are found for those white workers who cannot make the grade in industry,
at wages which far exceed the earnings of the average African employee
The Government often answers its critics by saying that Africans
in South Africa are economically better off than the inhabitants of the
other countries in Africa. I do not know whether this statement is true
and doubt whether any comparison can be made without having regard to the
cost-of-living index in such countries. But even if it is true, as far
as the African people are concerned it is irrelevant. Our complaint is
not that we are poor by comparison with people in other countries, but
that we are poor by comparison with the white people in our own country,
and that we are prevented by legislation from altering this imbalance.
The lack of human dignity experienced by Africans is the direct result
of the policy of white supremacy. White supremacy implies black inferiority.
Legislation designed to preserve white supremacy entrenches this notion.
Menial tasks in South Africa are invariably performed by Africans. When
anything has to be carried or cleaned the white man will look around for
an African to do it for him, whether the African is employed by him or
not. Because of this sort of attitude, whites tend to regard Africans as
a separate breed. They do not look upon them as people with families of
their own; they do not realize that they have emotions - that they fall
in love like white people do; that they want to be with their wives and
children like white people want to be with theirs; that they want to earn
enough money to support their families properly, to feed and clothe them
and send them to school. And what 'house-boy' or 'garden-boy' or labourer
can ever hope to do this?
Pass laws, which to the Africans are among the most hated bits of
legislation in South Africa, render any African liable to police surveillance
at any time. I doubt whether there is a single African male in South Africa
who has not at some stage had a brush with the police over his pass. Hundreds
and thousands of Africans are thrown into jail each year under pass laws.
Even worse than this is the fact that pass laws keep husband and wife apart
and lead to the breakdown of family life.
Poverty and the breakdown of family life have secondary effects.
Children wander about the streets of the townships because they have no
schools to go to, or no money to enable them to go to school, or no parents
at home to see that they go to school, because both parents (if there be
two) have to work to keep the family alive. This leads to a breakdown in
moral standards, to an alarming rise in illegitimacy, and to growing violence
which erupts not only politically, but everywhere. Life in the townships
is dangerous. There is not a day that goes by without somebody being stabbed
or assaulted. And violence is carried out of the townships in the white
living areas. People are afraid to walk alone in the streets after dark.
Housebreakings and robberies are increasing, despite the fact that the
death sentence can now be imposed for such offences. Death sentences cannot
cure the festering sore.
Africans want to be paid a living wage. Africans want to perform
work which they are capable of doing, and not work which the Government
declares them to be capable of. Africans want to be allowed to live where
they obtain work, and not be endorsed out of an area because they were
not born there. Africans want to be allowed to own land in places where
they work, and not to be obliged to live in rented houses which they can
never call their own. Africans want to be part of the general population,
and not confined to living in their own ghettoes. African men want to have
their wives and children to live with them where they work, and not be
forced into an unnatural existence in men's hostels. African women want
to be with their menfolk and not be left permanently widowed in the Reserves.
Africans want to be allowed out after eleven o'clock at night and not to
be confined to their rooms like little children. Africans want to be allowed
to travel in their own country and to seek work where they want to and
not where the Labor Bureau tells them to. Africans want a just share in
the whole of South Africa; they want security and a stake in society.
Above all, we want equal political rights, because without them our
disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the
whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans.
This makes the white man fear democracy.
But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution
which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true
that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political
division, based on color, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears,
so will the domination of one color group by another. The ANC has spent
half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs it will not
change that policy.
This then is what the ANC is fighting. Their struggle is a truly
national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by their
own suffering and their own experience. It is a struggle for the right
During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the
African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought
against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and
free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal
opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.
But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die. "
Nelson Mandela - 20th April 1964