The Rivonia trial

2009-05-20 20:05
Eight men, including Nelson Mandela, raise their fists in defiance after being sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia trial. (AFP)

Eight men, including Nelson Mandela, raise their fists in defiance after being sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia trial. (AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Johannesburg - The Rivonia trial and Nelson Mandela are synonymous.

At this 1964 trial he and seven members of the African National Congress were jailed for life on charges of sabotage committed by, among others, the newly formed military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto weSizwe (MK).

Mandela, accused number one, was the commander of MK at the time some of the sabotage was committed.

The trial, which lasted from October 1963 to June 1964, was called the Rivonia trial because it began with a police raid on the farm Liliesleaf, in Rivonia, north of Johannesburg.

Mandela had earlier hidden there with the assistance of Arthur Goldreich, a sympathiser who rented the farm.

Goldreich was also arrested during the raid but he and three others managed to bribe a warder and flee the country.

He said he was no communist

The State's charge sheet named the farm as the headquarters of MK. Mandela said during the trial that this wasn't true of the time he'd lived there. But he had heard that the South African Communist Party (SACP) approved of his activities there.

At the time of the raid and during the trial, Mandela was already serving another sentence. He had been arrested shortly after his return to South Africa in July 1962 and sentenced to five years in jail for leaving the country illegally in January 1962; and for inciting people to strike when South Africa became a Republic at the end of May 1961.

The acts of sabotage with which he and his co-accused were charged included the very first operation by MK on December 16 1961. Government buildings in Johannesburg, Durban and Port Elizabeth were attacked. The charge sheet included 193 acts of sabotage.

Mandela denied MK involvement in deeds which endangered human lives, because this wasn't MK policy.

In his historic opening statement for the defence, he explained the reasons for MK's involvement in other acts of sabotage.

Mandela explained how the ANC decided that the peaceful and constitutional way to freedom was no longer feasible on its own.

He quoted from MK's manifesto, which had been issued on the day of its first acts of sabotage:

"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".

"I can only say that I felt morally obliged to do what I did," Mandela said afterwards.

The State also alleged that the aims of the ANC and the SACP were identical. Mandela denied this and said he was not a communist himself.

Prepared to die for his beliefs

He said the two organisations worked together because they wanted to end white domination, but their theoretical basis and goals differed. The ANC, for example, was not a socialist organisation.

"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," he said of co-operation between the ANC and the SACP.

Mandela ended his opening statement with the words: 

"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."

Read more on:    nelson mandela

RIP Nelson Mandela

2013-12-06 08:36

SHARE: publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Interactive Advertising Bureau
© 2016 All rights reserved.
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.