Mandela co-accused remembers

2013-06-12 22:46

Johannesburg - As Nelson Mandela spent a fifth day in hospital on Wednesday, one of his comrades recalled the day exactly 49 years ago when they were sentenced to life imprisonment by then then government. 

Mandela's co-accused Andrew Mlangeni, 87, remembers 12 June, 1964, the day of their sentencing, "like yesterday".

"It is still so clear," he told AFP, it was a "turning point in the history of South Africa".

"On that day Mandela accepted his fate and made it clear that he was prepared to die" for the struggle to empower non-white South Africans.

Mlangeni, and a half dozen others, had been arrested almost a year earlier on a farm in Rivonia, north of Johannesburg, during a police raid.

Mandela was already in custody, but Liliesleaf, as the farm was known, was a meeting place for activists plotting against the regime.

It was also the headquarters of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC and crucially for Mandela, where he left his diary.

After being convicted by the Pretoria court on 11 June, eight men reappeared in the dock to hear their sentence, with some, including Mandela, expecting to hang.

But instead Mandela and seven other anti-apartheid activists were sentenced to life imprisonment.

"As a top suspect, we expected Mandela to get a stiff sentence, but a life sentence still came as a shock," said Mlangeni who was to himself spend 26 years on Robben Island prison.

"The mood was that of acceptance," he said, adding that Mandela took the sentence in his stride.

Mlangeni acknowledged the pressure piled on the apartheid regime by the international community likely helped to avoid the death sentence.

"I think they relented. After all they didn't want us to become the martyrs of the black struggle."

Ten men initially stood trial. Eight of them were convicted including Mandela, Mlangeni, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, Denis Goldberg, Raymond Mhlaba and Elias Motsoaledi.

Only Goldberg, who was white, was not sent to Robben Island.

But the trial was, in the words of the Mandela Centre of Memory, "arguably the most significant political trial in South African history".

During his defence, instead of responding to the charges, Mandela chose to make speech that was to electrify the courtroom, South Africa and the world.

It ended with the words: "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."

The speech was to become the manifesto of the anti-apartheid movement.

"Mandela's speech on the dock was not only directed to the South African white rulers. He addressed the entire world," said Political analyst Zamikhaya Maseti.

"He managed to get the attention of the world before disappearing for decades," he added.

But the sentencing also had a "demobilising effect" on the anti-apartheid struggle.

"The imprisonment of leaders like Mandela, Sisulu and Mbeki created a leadership vacuum," said Maseti.

Mandela and others were flown to Robben Island on a military aircraft.

He spent 18 of his 27 years in prison on the island.

On 11 February, 1990 he walked free from a Paarl prison where he was later moved, to lead political negotiations that paved the way for the country's first democratic elections in 1994.

The elections saw him elected the country's first black president, a job he held for a single four-year term.

Today only Mlangeni, Goldberg, Kathrada and Mandela survive.

  • Nico de Jongh - 2013-06-12 23:56

    Two sides of the apartheid coin - we know the down side when Mandela and others were imprison etc.. My question is...would Mandela have become this world icon without apartheid .. for is this not the other side of the same coin?. A strange historical twist if you ask me.

      Malcolm Lion Maifala - 2013-06-13 00:21

      Reading his book Long Walk to Freedom, you would realise his greatness is not limited to apartheid. He has been a believer of equality irrespective of status or race.

      Nthokolose Puleng Marope - 2013-06-13 01:43

      Nico what's your point exactly?

  • Luanda Gqirana - 2013-06-13 02:34

    I dont think you expect Mr N Mandela to thank the oppressive apartheid for his current stature. Apartheid was not necessary and all South Africans lives would've been different if it was never implemented. When I say all I mean all races.

      Quota Domino - 2013-06-13 07:00

      Really? Look at all the crime, strikes, economy etc etc after 15 plus years... imagine what syate we would've been in if cANCer ruled for the last 50 years... btw stop white genocide!!! Ffs man

  • Chantel Fourie - 2013-06-13 02:35

    I dont mean any disrepect to Mr Mandela but why is he so silent? You dont hear him say anything. Its always other people that speaks for or on behalf of him which in a way is sad

      Nkululeko Madi - 2013-06-13 04:16

      I don't mean any disrespect on you Chantel but - why do you ask irrelevent questions? Why does it bother you? Is there any point perhaps you trying to make?

      Godfrey Kleinhans - 2013-06-13 08:09

      The man is sick! Don't you read the papers, listen to the radio or watch TV.

      Jacqui Daane Van Rensburg - 2013-06-13 10:02

      Chantel Fourie. He is an old, fragile man, you can hardly expect him to have a press conference once a week. Besides he is no longer in politics and thus doesn't have the right to meddle.

  • Luanda Gqirana - 2013-06-13 02:39

    I dont think that is what is meant to be.

  • Luanda Gqirana - 2013-06-13 02:50

    There are many untold apartheid stories, like many South Africans (all races), I have a personal experience. These stories remain untold and hold people emotionally backwards. We will still come across articles like these for generations to come.

      Quota Domino - 2013-06-13 06:57

      Most of it never happened.. everyone wants to be a hero..

      Jacqui Daane Van Rensburg - 2013-06-13 10:04

      Quota Domino. Those of us who were there know what happened. That is all that matters.

  • solomon.shingange.9 - 2013-06-13 04:41

    The TRUE hero. Not Zuma. Mandela. Zuma is bad news. Should've learned from the greatest hero.

      Jacqui Daane Van Rensburg - 2013-06-13 10:05

      Mdu Vilakazi. At the end of the day it is what you put in your mind map that will create your reality.

  • Mdu Vilakazi - 2013-06-13 06:04

    Solomon. Quickly scan through the posted comments and make a snapshot analysis using any criteria. Do you see the underlying undertones and the hidden context in most of the comments? Do you see any pattern? Always think critically and use mind maps to visualize the complexities of the situation in our country.

  • Cecil Wright - 2013-06-13 07:14

    One can see the lack of intelligence by the people placing the comments. It is also obvious that they are totally unaware of how this country has deteriorated over the past 19 years under ANC rule. The spelling is shocking which shows a lack of education, which is obviously less important that jumping up and down with sticks and panga's. the only one' to prosper in this country have been the top ANC comrades and not their own people who are now suffering and are worse off than they ever were.

      Ngceboyamakhalimeshe Zulu - 2013-06-13 14:00

      What r u tryn 2 imply axcl madm

  • Sibongile Mkhatshwa - 2013-06-13 07:27

    Nxa wena Oom Kaspaas...........Idiot.

  • Bhekubaba Mawelela - 2013-06-13 07:31

    Thank you combrades .you are pillars of SA.

  • Louis Nolte - 2013-06-13 07:52

    Nice words, empty promises, probably because of Apartheid, end result is an incapable government, also probably because of Apartheid.

  • Jacqui Daane Van Rensburg - 2013-06-13 09:36

    We remember and will not forget.

  • Jacob Molife - 2013-06-13 18:17

    These are among the words spoken by a human tongue, I refer to as TRUE and remain with a free conscience. Mandela's words I mean.

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