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from the court record of the trial of Mandela held in the Old Synagogue court,
Pretoria, from 15 October to 7 November 1962. Mandela was accused on two
counts, that of inciting persons to strike illegally (during the 1961
stay-at-home) and that of leaving the country without a valid passport. He
conducted his own defence.
MANDELA: Your Worship, before I plead to the
charge, there are one or two points I would like to raise.
Your Worship will recall that this matter was postponed last Monday at my
request until today, to enable Counsel to make the arrangements to be available
here today. Although Counsel is now available, after consultation with him and
my attorneys, I have elected to conduct my own defence. Some time during the
progress of these proceedings, I hope to be able to indicate that this case is
a trial of the aspirations of the African people, and because of that I thought
it proper to conduct my own defence. Nevertheless, I have decided to retain the
services of Counsel, who will be here throughout these proceedings, and I also
would like my attorney to be available in the course of these proceedings as
well, but subject to that I will conduct my own defence.
point I would like to raise is an application which is addressed to Your
Worship. Now at the outset, I want to make it perfectly clear that the remarks
I am going to make are not addressed to Your Worship in his personal capacity,
nor are they intended to reflect upon the integrity of the court. I hold Your Worship
in high esteem and I do not for one single moment doubt your sense of fairness
and justice. I must also mention that nothing I am going to raise in this
application is intended to reflect against the Prosecutor in his personal
I wish to raise in my argument is based not on personal considerations, but on
important questions that go beyond the scope of this present trial. I might
also mention that in the course of this application I am frequently going to
refer to the white man and the white people. I want at once to make it clear
that I am no racialist, and I detest racialism, because I regard it as a
barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or from a white man. The
terminology that I am going to employ will be compelled on me by the nature of
the application I am making.
I want to
apply for Your Worship’s recusal from this case. I challenge the right of this
court to hear my case on two grounds.
challenge it because I fear that I will not be given a fair and proper trial.
Secondly, I consider myself neither legally nor morally bound to obey laws made
by a parliament in which I have no representation.
political trial such as this one, which involves a clash of the aspirations of
the African people and those of whites, the country’s courts, as presently
constituted, cannot be impartial and fair.
cases, whites are interested parties. To have a white judicial officer
presiding, however high his esteem, and however strong his sense of fairness
and justice, is to make whites judges in their own case.
improper and against the elementary principles of justice to entrust whites
with cases involving the denial by them of basic human rights to the African
of justice is this that enables the aggrieved to sit in judgement over those
against whom they have laid a charge?
judiciary controlled entirely by whites and enforcing laws enacted by a white
parliament in which Africans have no representation – laws which in most cases
are passed in the face of unanimous opposition from Africans –
MAGISTRATE: I am wondering whether I shouldn’t
interfere with you at this stage, Mr Mandela. Aren’t we going beyond the scope
of the proceedings? After all is said and done, there is only one court today
and that is the White Man’s court. There is no other court. What purpose does
it serve you to make an application when there is only one court, as you know
yourself. What court do you wish to be tried by?
MANDELA: Well, Your Worship, firstly I would
like Your Worship to bear in mind that in a series of cases our courts have
laid it down that the right of a litigant to ask for a recusal of a judicial
officer is an extremely important right, which must be given full protection by
the court, as long as that right is exercised honestly. Now I honestly have
apprehensions, as I am going to demonstrate just now, that this unfair
discrimination throughout my life has been responsible for very grave
injustices, and I am going to contend that that race discrimination which
outside this court has been responsible for all my troubles, I fear in this
court is going to do me the same injustice. Now Your Worship may disagree with
that, but Your Worship is perfectly entitled, in fact, obliged to listen to me
and because of that I feel that Your Worship-
MAGISTRATE: I would like to listen, but I would
like you to give me the grounds for your application for me to recuse myself.
MANDELA: Well, these are the grounds, I am
developing them, sir. If Your Worship will give me time –
MAGISTRATE: I don’t wish to go out of the scope
of the proceedings.
MANDELA: – Of the scope of the application.
I am within the scope of the application, because I am putting forward grounds
which in my opinion are likely not to give me a fair and proper trial.
MAGISTRATE: Anyway proceed.
MANDELA: As your Worship pleases. I was
developing the point that a judiciary controlled entirely by whites and
enforcing laws enacted by a white parliament in which we have no
representation, laws which in most cases are passed in the face of unanimous
opposition from Africans, cannot be regarded as an impartial tribunal in a
political trial where an African stands as an accused.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that all men are equal before
the law, and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the
law. In May 1951, Dr D F Malan, then Prime Minister, told the Union parliament
that this provision of the Declaration applies in this country. Similar
statements have been made on numerous occasions in the past by prominent whites
in this country, including judges and magistrates. But the real truth is that
there is in fact no equality before the law whatsoever as far as our people are
concerned, and statements to the contrary are definitely incorrect and
It is true
that an African who is charged in a court of law enjoys, on the surface, the
same rights and privileges as an accused who is white in so far as the conduct
of this trial is concerned. He is governed by the same rules of procedure and
evidence as apply to a white accused. But it would be grossly inaccurate to
conclude from this fact that an African consequently enjoys equality before the
proper meaning equality before the law means the right to participate in the
making of the laws by which one is governed, a constitution which guarantees
democratic rights to all sections of the population, the right to approach the
court for protection or relief in the case of the violation of rights
guaranteed in the constitution, and the right to take part in the
administration of justice as judges, magistrates, attorneys-general, law
advisers and similar positions.
absence of these safeguards the phrase ‘equality before the law’, in so far as
it is intended to apply to us, is meaningless and misleading. All the rights
and privileges to which I have referred are monopolised by whites, and we enjoy
none of them.
man makes all the laws, he drags us before his courts and accuses us, and he
sits in judgement over us.
It is fit
and proper to raise the question sharply, what is this rigid colour-bar in the
administration of justice? Why is it that in this courtroom I face a white
magistrate, am confronted by a white prosecutor, and escorted into the dock by
a white orderly? Can anyone honestly and seriously suggest that in this type of
atmosphere the scales of justice are evenly balanced?
Why is it
that no African in the history of this country has ever had the honour of being
tried by his own kith and kin, by his own flesh and blood?
tell Your Worship why: the real purpose of this rigid colour-bar is to ensure
that the justice dispensed by the courts should conform to the policy of the
country, however much that policy might be in conflict with the norms of
justice accepted in judiciaries throughout the civilised world.
oppressed by the atmosphere of white domination that lurks all around in this
courtroom. Somehow this atmosphere calls to mind the inhuman injustices caused
to my people outside this courtroom by this same white domination.
me that I am voteless because there is a parliament in this country that is
white-controlled. I am without land because the white minority has taken a
lion’s share of my country and forced me to occupy poverty-stricken Reserves,
over-populated and over-stocked. We are ravaged by starvation and disease . . .
MAGISTRATE: What has that got to do with the
case, Mr. Mandela?
MANDELA: With the last point, Sir, it hangs
together, if Your Worship will give me the chance to develop it.
MAGISTRATE: You have been developing it for
quite a while now, and I feel you are going beyond the scope of your
MANDELA: Your Worship, this to me is an
extremely important ground which the court must consider.
MAGISTRATE: I fully realise your position, Mr
Mandela, but you must confine yourself to the application and not go beyond it.
I don’t want to know about starvation. That in my view has got nothing to do
with the case at the present moment.
MANDELA: Well, Your Worship has already
raised the point that here in this country there is only a white court. What is
the point of all this? Now if I can demonstrate to Your Worship that outside
this courtroom race discrimination has been used in such a way as to deprive me
of my rights, not to treat me fairly, certainly this is a relevant fact from
which to infer that wherever race discrimination is practised, this will be the
same result, and this is the only reason why I am using this point.
MAGISTRATE: I am afraid that I will have to
interrupt you, and you will have to confine yourself to the reasons, the real
reasons for asking me to recuse myself.
MANDELA: Your Worship, the next point which
I want to make is this: I raise the question, how can I be expected to believe
that this same racial discrimination which has been the cause of so much
injustice and suffering right through the years should now operate here to give
me a fair and open trial? Is there no danger that an African accused may regard
the courts not as impartial tribunals, dispensing justice without fear or
favour, but as instruments used by the white man to punish those amongst us who
clamour for deliverance from the fiery furnace of white rule. I have grave
fears that this system of justice may enable the guilty to drag the innocent
before the courts. It enables the unjust to prosecute and demand vengeance
against the just. It may tend to lower the standards of fairness and justice
applied in the country’s courts by white judicial officers to black litigants.
This is the first ground for this application: that I will not receive a fair
and proper trial.
ground of my objection is that I consider myself neither morally nor legally
obliged to obey laws made by a parliament in which I am not represented.
will of the people is the basis of the authority of government is a principle
universally acknowledged as sacred throughout the civilised world, and
constitutes the basic foundations of freedom and justice. It is understandable
why citizens, who have the vote as well as the right to direct representation
in the country’s governing bodies, should be morally and legally bound by the
laws governing the country.
be equally understandable why we, as Africans, should adopt the attitude that
we are neither morally nor legally bound to obey laws which we have not made,
nor can we be expected to have confidence in courts which enforce such laws.
I am aware
that in many cases of this nature in the past, South African courts have upheld
the right of the African people to work for democratic changes. Some of our
judicial officers have even openly criticised the policy which refuses to
acknowledge that all men are born free and equal, and fearlessly condemned the
denial of opportunities to our people.
exceptions exist in spite of, not because of, the grotesque system of justice
that has been built up in this country. These exceptions furnish yet another
proof that even among the country’s whites there are honest men whose sense of
fairness and justice revolts against the cruelty perpetrated by their own white
brothers to our people.
existence of genuine democratic values among some of the country’s whites in
the judiciary, however slender they may be, is welcomed by me. But I have no
illusions about the significance of this fact, healthy a sign as it might be.
Such honest and upright whites are few and they have certainly not succeeded in
convincing the vast majority of the rest of the white population that white
supremacy leads to dangers and disaster.
it would be a hopeless commandant who relied for his victories on the few
soldiers in the enemy camp who sympathise with his cause. A competent general
pins his faith on the superior striking power he commands and on the justness
of his cause which he must pursue uncompromisingly to the bitter end.
race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought
it all during my life; I fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days.
Even although I now happen to be tried by one whose opinion I hold in high
esteem, I detest most violently the set-up that surrounds me here. It makes me
feel that I am a black man in a white man’s court. This should not be. I should
feel perfectly at ease and at home with the assurance that I am being tried by
a fellow South African who does not regard me as an inferior, entitled to a
special type of justice.
not the type of atmosphere most conducive to feelings of security and
confidence in the impartiality of a court.
might reply to this part of my argument by assuring me that it will try my case
fairly and without fear or favour, that in deciding whether or not I am guilty
of the offence charged by the State, the court will not be influenced by the
colour of my skin or by any other improper motive.
well be so. But such a reply would completely miss the point of my argument.
indicated, my objection is not directed to Your Worship in his personal
capacity, nor is it intended to reflect upon the integrity of the court. My
objection is based upon the fact that our courts, as presently constituted,
create grave doubts in the minds of an African accused, whether he will receive
a fair and proper trial.
springs from objective facts relating to the practice of unfair discrimination
against the black man in the constitution of the country’s courts. Such doubts
cannot be allayed by mere verbal assurances from a presiding officer, however
sincere such assurances might be. There is only one way, and one way only, of
allaying such doubts, namely, by removing unfair discrimination in judicial
appointments. This is my first difficulty.
I have yet
another difficulty about similar assurances Your Worship might give. Broadly
speaking, Africans and whites in this country have no common standard of
fairness, morality, and ethics, and it would be very difficult to determine on
my part what standard of fairness and justice Your Worship has in mind.
relationship with us, South African whites regard it as fair and just to pursue
policies which have outraged the conscience of mankind and of honest and
upright men throughout the civilised world. They suppress our aspirations, bar
our way to freedom, and deny us opportunities to promote our moral and material
progress, to secure ourselves from fear and want. All the good things of life
are reserved for the white folk and we blacks are expected to be content to
nourish our bodies with such pieces of food as drop from the tables of men with
white skins. This is the white man’s standard of justice and fairness. Herein
lies his conceptions of ethics. Whatever he himself may say in his defence, the
white man’s moral standards in this country must be judged by the extent to
which he has condemned the vast majority of its inhabitants to serfdom and
We, on the
other hand, regard the struggle against colour discrimination and for the
pursuit of freedom and happiness as the highest aspiration of all men. Through bitter
experience, we have learnt to regard the white man as a harsh and merciless
type of human being whose contempt for our rights, and whose utter indifference
to the promotion of our welfare, makes his assurances to us absolutely
meaningless and hypocritical.
I have the
hope and confidence that Your Worship will not hear this objection lightly nor
regard it as frivolous. I have decided to speak frankly and honestly because
the injustice I have referred to contains the seeds of an extremely dangerous
situation for our country and people. I make no threat when I say that unless
these wrongs are remedied without delay, we might well find that even plain
talk before the country’s courts is too timid a method to draw the attention of
the country to our political demands.
need only to say that the courts have said that the possibility of bias and not
actual bias is all that needs be proved to ground an application of this
nature. In this application I have merely referred to certain objective facts,
from which I submit that the possibility be inferred that I will not receive a
fair and proper trial.
MAGISTRATE: Mr. Prosecutor, have you anything
Very briefly, Your Worship, I just wish to point out that there are certain
legal grounds upon which an accused person is entitled to apply for the recusal
of a judicial officer from the case in which he is to be tried. I submit that
the Accused’s application is not based on one of those principles, and I ask
the Court to reject it.
MAGISTRATE: [to Mandela] Your application is
dismissed. Will you now plead to your charges?
MANDELA: I plead NOT GUILTY to both charges,
to all the charges.
the witnesses was Mr. Barnard, the private secretary to the then Prime
Minister, Dr H F Verwoerd, whom Mandela cross-examined on the subject of a
letter sent by Mandela to the Prime Minister demanding a National Convention in
May 1961. In cross-examining the witness, Mandela first read the contents of
directed by the All-in African National Action Council to address your
government in the following terms:
All-in African National Action Council was established in terms of a resolution
adopted at a conference held at Pietermaritzburg on 25 and 26 March 1961. This
conference was attended by 1,500 delegates from town and country, representing
145 religious, social, cultural, sporting, and political bodies.
noted that your government, after receiving a mandate from a section of the
European population, decided to proclaim a republic on 31 May.
the firm view of delegates that your government, which represents only a
minority of the population in this country, is not entitled to take such a
decision without first seeking the views and obtaining the express consent of
the African people. Conference feared that under this proposed republic your
government, which is already notorious the world over for its obnoxious
policies, would continue to make even more savage attacks on the rights and
living conditions of the African people.
carefully considered the grave political situation facing the African people
today. Delegate after delegate drew attention to the vicious manner in which
your government forced the people of Zeerust, Sekhukhuniland, Pondoland, Nongoma,
Tembuland and other areas to accept the unpopular system of Bantu Authorities,
and pointed to numerous facts and incidents which indicate the rapid manner in
which race relations are deteriorating in this country.
‘It was the earnest opinion of Conference that this dangerous situation could
be averted only by the calling of a sovereign national convention
representative of all South Africans, to draw up a new non-racial and
democratic Constitution. Such a convention would discuss our national problems
in a sane and sober manner, and would work out solutions which sought to
preserve and safeguard the interests of all sections of the population.
unanimously decided to call upon your government to summon such a convention
before 31 May.
further decided that unless your government calls the convention before the
above-mentioned date, countrywide demonstrations would be held on the eve of
the republic in protest. Conference also resolved that in addition to the
demonstrations, the African people would be called upon to refuse to co-operate
with the proposed republic.
the Resolutions of the Conference for your attention and necessary action.
demand that your government call the convention before 31 May, failing which we
propose to adopt the steps indicated in paragraphs 8 and 9 of this letter.
demonstrations will be conducted in a disciplined and peaceful manner.
fully aware of the implications of this decision, and the action we propose
taking. We have no illusions about the counter-measures your government might
take in this matter. After all, South Africa and the world know that during the
last thirteen years your government has subjected us to merciless and arbitrary
rule. Hundreds of our people have been banned and confined to certain areas.
Scores have been banished to remote parts of the country, and many arrested and
jailed for a multitude of offences. It has become extremely difficult to hold
meetings, and freedom of speech has been drastically curtailed. During the last
twelve months we have gone through a period of grim dictatorship, during which
seventy-five people were killed and hundreds injured while peacefully
demonstrating against passes.
organisations were declared unlawful, and thousands flung into jail without
trial. Your government can only take these measures to suppress the forthcoming
demonstrations, and these measures have failed to stop opposition to the
policies of your government. We are not deterred by threats of force and
violence made by you and your government, and will carry out our duty without
MANDELA: You remember the contents of this
WITNESS: I do.
MANDELA: Did you place this letter before
your Prime Minister?
MANDELA: On what date? Can you remember?
WITNESS: It is difficult to remember, but I
gather from the date specified on the date stamp, the Prime Minister’s Office
MANDELA: That is 24 April. Now was any reply
given to this letter by the Prime Minister? Did he reply to this letter?
WITNESS: He did not reply to the writer.
MANDELA: He did not reply to the letter.
Now, will you agree that this letter raises matters of vital concern to the
vast majority of the citizens of this country?
WITNESS: I do not agree.
MANDELA: You don’t agree? You don’t agree
that the question of human rights, of civil liberties, is a matter of vital
importance to the African people?
WITNESS: Yes, that is so, indeed.
MANDELA: Are these things mentioned here?
WITNESS: Yes, I think so.
MANDELA: They are mentioned. You agree that
this letter deals with matters of vital importance to the African people in
this country? You have already agreed that this letter raises questions like
the rights of freedom, civil liberties, and so on?
WITNESS: Yes, the letter raises it.
MANDELA: Important questions to any citizen?
MANDELA: Now, you know of course that
Africans don’t enjoy the rights demanded in this letter. They are denied the
rights of government?
WITNESS: Some rights.
MANDELA: No African is a member of
WITNESS: That is right.
MANDELA: No African can be a member of the
Provincial Council, of the Municipal Councils?
MANDELA: Africans have no vote in this
WITNESS: They have got no vote as far as
parliament is concerned.
MANDELA: Yes, that is what I am talking
about, I am talking about parliament, and other government bodies of the
country, the Provincial Councils, the Municipal Councils. They have no vote?
WITNESS: That is right.
MANDELA: Would you agree with me that in any
civilised country in the world it would be at least most scandalous for a Prime
Minister to fail to reply to a letter raising vital issues affecting the
majority of the citizens of that country. Would you agree with that?
WITNESS: I don’t agree with that.
MANDELA: You don’t agree that it would be
irregular for a Prime Minister to ignore a letter raising vital issues
affecting the vast majority of the citizens of that country?
WITNESS: This letter has not been ignored by
the Prime Minister.
MANDELA: Just answer the question. Do you
regard it proper for a Prime Minister not to respond to pleas made in regard to
vital issues by the vast majority of the citizens of the country? You say that
is not wrong?
WITNESS: The Prime Minister did respond to
MANDELA: Mr. Barnard, I don’t want to be
rude to you. Will you confine yourself to answering my questions? The question
I am putting to you is, do you agree that it is most improper on the part of a
Prime Minister not to reply to a communication raising vital issues affecting
the vast majority of the country?
WITNESS: I do not agree in this special case,
because . . .
MANDELA: As a general proposition? Would you
regard it as improper, speaking generally, for a Prime Minister not to respond
to a letter of this nature, that is, a letter raising vital issues affecting
the majority of the citizens?
PROSECUTOR: (Intervened with objections to
the line of questioning)
MANDELA: You say that the Prime Minister did
not ignore this letter?
WITNESS: He did not acknowledge the letter
to the writer.
MANDELA: This letter was not ignored by the
WITNESS: No, it was not ignored.
MANDELA: It was attended to?
WITNESS: It was indeed.
MANDELA: In what way?
WITNESS: According to the usual procedure,
and that is that the Prime Minister refers correspondence to the respective
Minister, the Minister most responsible for that particular letter.
MANDELA: Was this letter referred to another
WITNESS: That is right.
MANDELA: Which Department?
WITNESS: The Department of Justice.
MANDELA: Can you explain why I was not
favoured with the courtesy of an acknowledgement of this letter, and also the
explanation that it had been referred to the appropriate Department for
WITNESS: When a letter is replied to and
whether it should be replied to, depends on the contents of the letter in many
MANDELA: My question is, can you explain to
me why I was not favoured with the courtesy of an acknowledgement of the
letter, irrespective of what the Prime Minister is going to do about it? Why
was I not favoured with this courtesy?
WITNESS: Because of the contents of this
MANDELA: Because it raises vital issues?
WITNESS: Because of the contents of the
MANDELA: I see. This is not the type of
thing the Prime Minister would ever consider responding to?
WITNESS: The Prime Minister did respond.
MANDELA: You say that the issues raised in
this letter are not the type of thing your Prime Minister could ever respond
WITNESS: The whole tone of the letter was
taken into consideration.
MANDELA: The tone of the letter demanding a
National Convention? Of all South Africans? That is the tone of the letter?
That is not the type of thing your Prime Minister could ever respond to?
WITNESS: The tone of the letter indicates
whether, and to what extent, the Prime Minister responds to correspondence.
MANDELA: I want to put it to you that in
failing to respond to this letter, your Prime Minister fell below the standards
which one expects from one in such a position.
letter, Exhibit 18, is dated 26 June 1961, and it is also addressed to the
Prime Minister, and it reads as follows:
you to my letter of 20 April 1961, to which you do not have the courtesy to
reply or acknowledge receipt. In the letter referred to above I informed you of
the resolutions passed by the All-in African National Conference in
Pietermaritzburg on 26 March 1961, demanding the calling by your government
before 31 May 1961 of a multi-racial and sovereign National Convention to draw
up a new non-racial and democratic Constitution for South Africa. The
Conference Resolution which was attached to my letter indicated that if your
government did not call this convention by the specific date, countrywide
demonstrations would be staged to mark our protest against the White republic
forcibly imposed on us by a minority. The Resolution further indicated that in
addition to the demonstrations, the African people would be called upon not to
co-operate with the republican government, or with any government based on
force. As your government did not respond to our demands, the All-in African
National Council, which was entrusted by the Conference with the task of
implementing its resolutions, called for a General Strike on the 29, 30 and 31
of last month. As predicted in my letter of 30 April 1961, your government
sought to suppress the strike by force. You rushed a special law in parliament
authorising the detention without trial of people connected with the
organisation of the strike. The army was mobilised and European civilians
armed. More than ten thousand innocent Africans were arrested under the pass
laws and meetings banned throughout the country. Long before the factory gates
were opened on Monday, 29 May 1961, senior police officers and Nationalist
South Africans spread a deliberate falsehood and announced that the strike had
failed. All these measures failed to break the strike and our people stood up
magnificently and gave us solid and substantial support. Factory and office
workers, businessmen in town and country, students in university colleges, in
the primary and secondary schools, rose to the occasion and recorded in clear
terms their opposition to the republic. The government is guilty of
self-deception if they say that non Europeans did not respond to the call.
Considerations of honesty demand of your government to realise that the African
people who constitute four-fifths of the country’s population are against your
republic. As indicated above, the Pietermaritzburg resolution provided that in
addition to the countrywide demonstrations, the African people would refuse to
co-operate with the republic or any form of government based on force. Failure
by your government to call the convention makes it imperative for us to launch
a full-scale and countrywide campaign for non-co-operation with your
government. There are two alternatives before you. Either you accede to our
demands and call a National Convention of all South Africans to draw up a
democratic Constitution, which will end the frightful policies of racial
oppression pursued by your government. By pursuing this course and abandoning
the repressive and dangerous policies of your government, you may still save
our country from economic dislocation and ruin and from civil strife and
bitterness. Alternatively, you may choose to persist with the present policies
which are cruel and dishonest and which are opposed by millions of people here
and abroad. For our own part, we wish to make it perfectly clear that we shall
never cease to fight against repression and injustice, and we are resuming active
opposition against your regime. In taking this decision we must again stress
that we have no illusions of the serious implications of our decision. We know
that your government will once again unleash all its fury and barbarity to
persecute the African people. But as the result of the last strike has clearly
proved, no power on earth can stop an oppressed people determined to win their
freedom. History punishes those who resort to force and fraud to suppress the
claims and legitimate aspirations of the majority of the country’s citizens.’
MANDELA: This is the letter which you
received on 28 June 1961? Again there was no acknowledgement or reply by the
Prime Minister to this letter?
WITNESS: I don’t think it is – I think it
shouldn’t be called a letter in the first instance, but an accumulation of
MANDELA: Whatever it is, there was no reply
witness to be called was Warrant Officer Baardman, member of the police Special
Branch in Bloemfontein. He was cross-examined by Mandela:
MANDELA: Is it true to say that the present
constitution of South Africa was passed at a National Convention representing
WITNESS: I don’t know, I was not there.
MANDELA: But from your knowledge?
WITNESS: I don’t know, I was not there.
MANDELA: You don’t know at all?
WITNESS: No, I don’t know.
MANDELA: You want this court to believe
that, that you don’t know?
WITNESS: I don’t know, I was not there.
MANDELA: Just let me put the question. You
don’t know that the National Convention in 1909 was a convention of whites
WITNESS: I don’t know, I was not there.
MANDELA: Do you know that the Union
Parliament is an all-White parliament?
WITNESS: Yes, with representation for
MANDELA: Now, I just want to ask you one or
two personal questions. What standard of education have you passed?
MANDELA: When was that?
WITNESS: In 1932.
MANDELA: In what medium did you write it?
WITNESS: In my mother tongue. (Here the
witness meant Afrikaans.)
MANDELA: I notice you are very proud of
WITNESS: I am.
MANDELA: You know of course that in this
country we have no language rights as Africans?
WITNESS: I don’t agree with you.
MANDELA: None of our languages is an
official language, for example. Would you agree with that?
WITNESS: They are perhaps not in the Statute
Book as official languages, but no one forbids you from using your own
MANDELA: Will you answer the question? Is it
true that in this country there are only two official languages, and they are
English and Afrikaans?
WITNESS: I agree entirely. By name they are
the two official languages, but no one has ever forbidden you to use your own
MANDELA: Is it true that there are only two
official languages in this country, that is English and Afrikaans?
WITNESS: To please you, that is so.
MANDELA: Is it true that the Afrikaner
people in this country have fought for equality of English and Afrikaans? There
was a time, for example, when Afrikaans was not the official language in the
history of the various colonies, like the Cape?
WITNESS: Yes, I agree with you entirely.
Constitutionally, the Afrikaner did fight for his language but not through
third day of the trial Mandela again applied for the recusal of the magistrate.
MANDELA: I want to make application for the
recusal of Your Worship from this case. As I indicated last Monday, I hold Your
Worship in high esteem, and I do not for one single moment doubt Your Worship’s
sense of fairness and justice. I still do, as I assured Your Worship last
Monday. I make this application with the greatest of respect. I have been
placed in possession of information to the effect that after the adjournment
yesterday, Your Worship was seen leaving the courtroom in the company of
Warrant Officer Dirker of the Special Branch, and another member of the Special
Branch. As Your Worship will remember, Warrant Officer Dirker gave evidence in
this case on the first day of the trial. The State Prosecutor then indicated
that he would be called later, on another aspect of this case. I was then given
permission by the court to defer my cross examination of this witness until
then. The second member of the Special Branch who was in the company of Your
Worship, has been seen throughout this trial assisting the State Prosecutor in
presenting the case against me. Your Worship was seen entering a small blue
Volkswagen car; it is believed that Your Worship sat in front, as Warrant
Officer Dirker drove the car. And this other member of the Special Branch sat
behind. At about ten to two Your Worship was seen returning with Warrant
Officer Dirker and this other member of the Special Branch.
Now, it is
not known what communication passed between Your Worship and Warrant Officer
Dirker and this other member of the Special Branch. I, as an accused, was not
there, and was not represented. Now, these facts have created an impression in
my mind that the court has associated itself with the State case. I am left with
the substantial fear that justice is being administered in a secret manner. It
is an elementary rule of justice that a judicial officer should not communicate
or associate in any manner whatsoever with a party to those proceedings. I
submit that Your Worship should not have acted in this fashion, and I must
therefore ask Your Worship to recuse yourself from this case.
MAGISTRATE: I can only say this, that it is not
for me here to give you any reasons. I can assure you, as I here now do, that I
did not communicate with these two gentlemen, and your application is refused.
police witness was Mr. A Moolla, an Indian member of the Special Branch, who
was also cross-examined by Mandela:
MANDELA: You know about the Group Areas Act?
WITNESS: I do.
MANDELA: You know that it is intended to set
certain areas for occupation by the various population groups in the country?
WITNESS: Yes, I do know.
MANDELA: And you know that it has aroused a
great deal of feeling and opposition from the Indian community in this country?
WITNESS: Well, not that I know of. I think
that most of the Indians are satisfied with it.
MANDELA: Is this a sincere opinion?
WITNESS: That is my sincere opinion, from
people that I have met.
MANDELA: And are you aware of the attitude
of the South African Indian Congress, about the Group Areas?
MANDELA: What is the attitude of the South
African Indian Congress?
WITNESS: The South African Indian Congress
is against it.
MANDELA: And the attitude of the Transvaal
MANDELA: They are against it?
MANDELA: And the Transvaal Indian Youth
MANDELA: The Cape Indian Assembly, also
WITNESS: Yes. Well, the Cape Indian Assembly
I do not know about.
MANDELA: Well, you can take it from me that
it is against it. Now, of course, if the Group Areas Act is carried out in its
present form, it means that a large number of Indian merchants would lose their
trading rights in areas which have been declared White Areas?
WITNESS: That is right.
MANDELA: And a large number of members of
the Indian community who are living at the present moment in areas which might
or have been declared as White Areas, would have to leave those homes, and have
to go where they are to be stationed?
WITNESS: I think they will be better off
than where . . .
MANDELA: Answer the question. You know that?
WITNESS: Yes, I know that.
MANDELA: You say that the Indian merchant
class in this country, who are going to lose their business rights, are happy
WITNESS: Well, not all.
MANDELA: Not all. And you are saying that
those members of the Indian community who are going to be driven away from the
areas where they are living at present would be happy to do so?
WITNESS: Yes, they would be.
MANDELA: Well, Mr. Moolla, I want to leave
it at that, but just to say that you have lost your soul.
the closure of the prosecution case against him, Mandela addressed the court:
charged with inciting people to commit an offence by way of protest against the
law, a law which neither I nor any of my people had any say in preparing. The
law against which the protest was directed is the law which established a
republic in the Union of South Africa. I am also charged with leaving the
country without a passport. This court has found that I am guilty of incitement
to commit an offence in opposition to this law as well as of leaving the
country. But in weighing up the decision as to the sentence which is to be
imposed for such an offence, the court must take into account the question of
responsibility, whether it is I who is responsible or whether, in fact, a large
measure of the responsibility does not lie on the shoulders of the government
which promulgated that law, knowing that my people, who constitute the majority
of the population of this country, were opposed to that law, and knowing
further that every legal means of demonstrating that opposition had been closed
to them by prior legislation, and by government administrative action.
starting point in the case against me is the holding of the conference in
Pietermaritzburg on 25 and 26 March last year , known as the All-in
African Conference, which was called by a committee which had been established
by leading people and spokesmen of the whole African population, to consider
the situation which was being created by the promulgation of the republic in
the country, without consultation with us, and without our consent. That
conference unanimously rejected the decision of the government, acting only in
the name of and with the agreement of the white minority of this country, to
establish a republic.
common knowledge that the conference decided that, in place of the unilateral
proclamation of a republic by the white minority of South Africans only, it
would demand in the name of the African people the calling of a truly national
convention representative of all South Africans, irrespective of their colour,
black and white, to sit amicably round a table, to debate a new constitution
for South Africa, which was in essence what the government was doing by the
proclamation of a republic, and furthermore, to press on behalf of the African
people, that such new constitution should differ from the constitution of the
proposed South African Republic by guaranteeing democratic rights on a basis of
full equality to all South Africans of adult age. The conference had assembled,
knowing full well that for a long period the present National Party Government
of the Union of South Africa had refused to deal with, to discuss with, or to
take into consideration the views of, the overwhelming majority of the South
African population on this question. And, therefore, it was not enough for this
conference just to proclaim its aim, but it was also necessary for the
conference to find a means of stating that aim strongly and powerfully, despite
the government’s unwillingness to listen.
it was decided that should the government fail to summon such a National
Convention before 31 May 1961, all sections of the population would be called
on to stage a general strike for a period of three days, both to mark our
protest against the establishment of a republic, based completely on white
domination over a non-white majority, and also, in a last attempt to persuade
the government to heed our legitimate claims, and thus to avoid a period of
increasing bitterness and hostility and discord in South Africa.
conference, an Action Council was elected, and I became its secretary. It was
my duty, as secretary of the committee, to establish the machinery necessary
for publicising the decision of this conference and for directing the campaign
of propaganda, publicity, and organisation which would flow from it.
is aware of the fact that I am an attorney by profession and no doubt the
question will be asked why I, as an attorney who is bound, as part of my code
of behaviour, to observe the laws of the country and to respect its customs and
traditions, should willingly lend myself to a campaign whose ultimate aim was
to bring about a strike against the proclaimed policy of the government of this
that the court shall understand the frame of mind which leads me to action such
as this, it is necessary for me to explain the background to my own political
development and to try to make this court aware of the factors which influenced
me in deciding to act as I did.
ago, when I was a boy brought up in my village in the Transkei, I listened to
the elders of the tribe telling stories about the good old days, before the
arrival of the white man. Then our people lived peacefully, under the
democratic rule of their kings and their amapakati, and moved freely and
confidently up and down the country without let or hindrance. Then the country
was ours, in our own name and right. We occupied the land, the forests, the
rivers; we extracted the mineral wealth beneath the soil and all the riches of
this beautiful country. We set up and operated our own government, we
controlled our own armies and we organised our own trade and commerce. The
elders would tell tales of the wars fought by our ancestors in defence of the
fatherland, as well as the acts of valour performed by generals and soldiers
during those epic days. The names of Dingane and Bambata, among the Zulus, of
Hintsa, Makana, Ndlambe of the AmaXhosa, of Sekhukhuni and others in the north,
were mentioned as the pride and glory of the entire African nation.
and vowed then that, among the treasures that life might offer me, would be the
opportunity to serve my people and make my own humble contribution to their
structure and organisation of early African societies in this country
fascinated me very much and greatly influenced the evolution of my political
outlook. The land, then the main means of production, belonged to the whole
tribe, and there was no individual ownership whatsoever. There were no classes,
no rich or poor and no exploitation of man by man. All men were free and equal
and this was the foundation of government. Recognition of this general
principle found expression in the constitution of the council, variously called
Imbizo, or Pitso, or Kgotla, which governs the affairs of the tribe. The
council was so completely democratic that all members of the tribe could
participate in its deliberations. Chief and subject, warrior and medicine man,
all took part and endeavoured to influence its decisions. It was so weighty and
influential a body that no step of any importance could ever be taken by the
tribe without reference to It.
much in such a society that was primitive and insecure and it certainly could
never measure up to the demands of the present epoch. But in such a society are
contained the seeds of revolutionary democracy in which none will be held in
slavery or servitude, and in which poverty, want, and insecurity shall be no
more. This is the inspiration which, even today, inspires me and my colleagues
in our political struggle.
reached adult stature, I became a member of the African National Congress. That
was in 1944 and I have followed its policy, supported it, and believed in its
aims and outlook for eighteen years. Its policy was one which appealed to my
deepest inner convictions. It sought for the unity of all Africans, overriding
tribal differences among them. It sought the acquisition of political power for
Africans in the land of their birth. The African National Congress further
believed that all people, irrespective of the national groups to which they may
belong, and irrespective of the colour of their skins, all people whose home is
South Africa and who believe in the principles of democracy and of equality of men,
should be treated as Africans; that all South Africans are entitled to live a
free life on the basis of fullest equality of the rights and opportunities in
every field, of full democratic rights, with a direct say in the affairs of the
principles have been embodied in the Freedom Charter, which none in this
country will dare challenge for its place as the most democratic programme of
political principles ever enunciated by any political party or organisation in
this country. It was for me a matter of joy and pride to be a member of an
organisation which has proclaimed so democratic a policy and which campaigned
for it militantly and fearlessly. The principles enumerated in the Charter have
not been those of African people alone, for whom the African National Congress
has always been the spokesman. Those principles have been adopted as well by
the Indian people and the South African Indian Congress; by a section of the
Coloured people, through the South African Coloured People’s Congress, and also
by a farsighted, forward-looking section of the European population, whose
organisation in days gone by was the South African Congress of Democrats. All
these organisations, like the African National Congress, supported completely
the demand for one man, one vote.
the beginning of my career as an attorney I encountered difficulties imposed on
me because of the colour of my skin, and further difficulty surrounding me
because of my membership and support of the African National Congress. I
discovered, for example, that, unlike a white attorney, I could not occupy
business premises in the city unless I first obtained ministerial consent in
terms of the Urban Areas Act. I applied for that consent, but it was never
granted. Although I subsequently obtained a permit, for a limited period, in
terms of the Group Areas Act, that soon expired, and the authorities refused to
renew it. They insisted that my partner, Oliver Tambo, and I should leave the
city and practise in an African location at the back of beyond, miles away from
where clients could reach us during working hours. This was tantamount to
asking us to abandon our legal practice, to give up the legal service of our
people, for which we had spent many years training. No attorney worth his salt
will agree easily to do so. For some years, therefore, we continued to occupy
premises in the city, illegally. The threat of prosecution and ejection hung
menacingly over us throughout that period. It was an act of defiance of the
law. We were aware that it was, but, nevertheless, that act had been forced on
us against our wishes, and we could do no other than to choose between
compliance with the law and compliance with our consciences.
courts where we practised we were treated courteously by many officials but we
were very often discriminated against by some and treated with resentment and
hostility by others. We were constantly aware that no matter how well, how
correctly, how adequately we pursued our career of law, we could not become a prosecutor,
or a magistrate, or a judge. We became aware of the fact that as attorneys we
often dealt with officials whose competence and attainments were no higher than
ours, but whose superior position was maintained and protected by a white skin.
it as a duty which I owed, not just to my people, but also to my profession, to
the practice of law, and to justice for all mankind, to cry out against this
discrimination, which is essentially unjust and opposed to the whole basis of
the attitude towards justice which is part of the tradition of legal training
in this country. I believed that in taking up a stand against this injustice I
was upholding the dignity of what should be an honourable profession.
ago the Transvaal Law Society applied to the Supreme Court to have my name
struck off the roll because of the part I had played in a campaign initiated by
the African National Congress, a campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws.
During the campaign more than eight thousand of the most advanced and farseeing
of my people deliberately courted arrest and imprisonment by breaking specified
laws, which we regarded then, as we still do now, as unjust and repressive. In
the opinion of the Law Society, my activity in connection with that campaign did
not conform to the standards of conduct expected from members of our honourable
profession, but on this occasion the Supreme Court held that I had been within
my rights as an attorney, that there was nothing dishonourable in an attorney
identifying himself with his people in their struggle for political rights,
even if his activities should infringe upon the laws of the country; the
Supreme Court rejected the application of the Law Society.
not be expected that with such a verdict in my favour I should discontinue my
political activities. But Your Worship may well wonder why it is that I should
find it necessary to persist with such conduct, which has not only brought me
the difficulties I have referred to, but which has resulted in my spending some
four years on a charge before the courts of high treason, of which I was
subsequently acquitted, and of many months in jail on no charge at all, merely
on the basis of the government’s dislike of my views and of my activities
during the whole period of the Emergency of 1960.
Worship, I would say that the whole life of any thinking African in this
country drives him continuously to a conflict between his conscience on the one
hand and the law on the other. This is not a conflict peculiar to this country.
The conflict arises for men of conscience, for men who think and who feel
deeply in every country. Recently in Britain, a peer of the realm, Earl
Russell, probably the most respected philosopher of the Western world, was
sentenced, convicted for precisely the type of activities for which I stand
before you today, for following his conscience in defiance of the law, as a
protest against a nuclear weapons policy being followed by his own government.
For him, his duty to the public, his belief in the morality of the essential
rightness of the cause for which he stood, rose superior to this high respect
for the law. He could not do other than to oppose the law and to suffer the
consequences for it. Nor can I. Nor can many Africans in this country. The law
as it is applied, the law as it has been developed over a long period of
history, and especially the law as it is written and designed by the
Nationalist government, is a law which, in our view, is immoral, unjust, and
intolerable. Our consciences dictate that we must protest against it, that we
must oppose it, and that we must attempt to alter it.
have been conscious of our obligations as citizens to avoid breaches of the
law, where such breaches can be avoided, to prevent a clash between the authorities
and our people, where such clash can be prevented, but nevertheless, we have
been driven to speak up for what we believe is right, and to work for it and to
try and bring about changes which will satisfy our human conscience.
its fifty years of existence the African National Congress, for instance, has
done everything possible to bring its demands to the attention of successive
South African governments. It has sought at all times peaceful solutions for
all the country’s ills and problems. The history of the ANC is filled with
instances where deputations were sent to South African governments either on
specific issues or on the general political demands of our people. I do not
wish to burden Your Worship by enunciating the occasions when such deputations
were sent; all that I wish to indicate at this stage is that, in addition to
the efforts made by former presidents of the ANC, when Mr. Strijdom became
Prime Minister of this country, my leader, Chief A J Lutuli, then President of
our organisation, made yet another effort to persuade this government to
consider and to heed our point of view. In his letter to the Prime Minister at
the time, Chief Lutuli exhaustively reviewed the country’s relations and its
dangers, and expressed the view that a meeting between the government and
African leaders had become necessary and urgent.
statesmanlike and correct behaviour on the part of the leader of the majority
of the South African population did not find an appropriate answer from the
leader of the South African government. The standard of behaviour of the South
African government towards my people and its aspirations has not always been
what it should have been, and is not always the standard which is to be
expected in serious high-level dealings between civilised peoples. Chief
Lutuli’s letter was not even favoured with the courtesy of an acknowledgement
from the Prime Minister’s office.
experience was repeated after the Pietermaritzburg conference, when I, as
Secretary of the Action Council, elected at that conference, addressed a letter
to the Prime Minister, Dr Verwoerd, informing him of the resolution which had
been taken, and calling on him to initiate steps for the convening of such a
national convention as we suggested, before the date specified in the
resolution. In a civilised country one would be outraged by the failure of the
head of government even to acknowledge receipt of a letter, or to consider such
a reasonable request put to him by a broadly representative collection of
important personalities and leaders of the most important community of the
country. Once again, government standards in dealing with my people fell below
what the civilised world would expect. No reply, no response whatsoever, was
received to our letter, no indication was even given that it had received any
consideration whatsoever. Here we, the African people, and especially we of the
National Action Council, who had been entrusted with the tremendous
responsibility of safeguarding the interests of the African people, were faced
with this conflict between the law and our conscience. In the face of the
complete failure of the government to heed, to consider, or even to respond to
our seriously proposed objections and our solutions to the forthcoming republic,
what were we to do? Were we to allow the law which states that you shall not
commit an offence by way of protest, to take its course and thus betray our
conscience and our belief? Were we to uphold our conscience and our beliefs to
strive for what we believe is right, not just for us, but for all the people
who live in this country, both the present generation and for generations to
come, and thus transgress against the law? This is the dilemma which faced us,
and in such a dilemma, men of honesty, men of purpose, and men of public
morality and of conscience can only have one answer. They must follow the
dictates of their conscience irrespective of the consequences which might
overtake them for it. We of the Action Council, and I particularly as Secretary,
followed my conscience.
If I had
my time over I would do the same again, so would any man who dares call himself
a man. We went ahead with our campaign as instructed by the conference and in
accordance with its decisions.
that sharply divided white South Africans during the referendum for a republic
did not interest us. It formed no part in our campaign. Continued association
with the British monarchy on the one hand, or the establishment of a Boer
republic on the other – this was the crucial issue in so far as the White
population was concerned and as it was put to them in the referendum. We are
neither monarchists nor admirers of a Voortrekker type of republic. We believe
that we were inspired by aspirations more worthy than either of the groups who
took part in the campaign on these. We were inspired by the idea of bringing
into being a democratic republic where all South Africans will enjoy human
rights without the slightest discrimination; where African and non-African
would be able to live together in peace, sharing a common nationality and a
common loyalty to this country, which is our homeland. For these reasons we
were opposed to the type of republic proposed by the Nationalist Party
government, just as we have been opposed previously to the constitutional basis
of the Union of South Africa as a part of the British Empire. We were not
prepared to accept, at a time when constitutional changes were being made, that
these constitutional changes should not affect the real basis of a South African
constitution, white supremacy and white domination, the very basis which has
brought South Africa and its constitution into contempt and disrepute
throughout the world.
I wish now
to deal with the campaign itself, with the character of the campaign, and with
the course of events which followed our decision. From the beginning our
campaign was a campaign designed to call on people as a last extreme, if all
else failed, if all discussions failed to materialise, if the government showed
no sign of taking any steps to attempt either to treat with us or to meet our
demands peacefully, to strike, that is to stay away from work, and so to bring
economic pressure to bear. There was never any intention that our
demonstrations, at that stage, go further than that. In all our statements,
both those which are before the court, and those which are not before the
court, we made it clear that that strike would be a peaceful protest, in which
people were asked to remain in their homes. It was our intention that the demonstration
should go through peacefully and peaceably, without clash and conflict, as such
demonstrations do in every civilised country.
around that campaign and our preparations for that campaign was created the
atmosphere for civil war and revolution. I would say deliberately created.
Deliberately created not by us, Your Worship, but by the government, which set
out from the beginning of this campaign not to treat with us, not to heed us,
not to talk to us, but rather to present us as wild, dangerous revolutionaries,
intent on disorder and riot, incapable of being dealt with in any way save by
mustering an overwhelming force against us and the implementation of every
possible forcible means, legal and illegal, to suppress us. The government
behaved in a way no civilised government should dare behave when faced with a
peaceful, disciplined, sensible, and democratic expression of the views of its
own population. It ordered the mobilisation of its armed forces to attempt to
cow and terrorise our peaceful protest. It arrested people known to be active
in African politics and in support of African demands for democratic rights,
passed special laws enabling it to hold them without trial for twelve days
instead of the forty eight hours which had been customary before, and hold
them, the majority of them, never to be charged before the courts, but to be
released after the date for the strike had passed. If there was a danger during
this period that violence would result from the situation in the country, then
the possibility was of the government’s making. They set the scene for violence
by relying exclusively on violence with which to answer our people and their
demands. The countermeasures which they took clearly reflected growing
uneasiness on their part, which grew out of the knowledge that their policy did
not enjoy the support of the majority of the people, while ours did. It was
clear that the government was attempting to combat the intensity of our
campaign by a reign of terror. At the time the newspapers suggested the strike
was a failure and it was said that we did not enjoy the support of the people.
I deny that. I deny it and I will continue to deny it as long as this
government is not prepared to put to the test the question of the opinion of
the African people by consulting them in a democratic way. In any event, the
evidence in this case has shown that it was a substantial success. Our campaign
was an intensive campaign and met with tremendous and overwhelming response
from the population. In the end, if a strike did not materialise on the scale
on which it had been hoped it would, it was not because the people were not
willing, but because the overwhelming strength, violence, and force of the
government’s attack against our campaign had for the time being achieved its
aim of forcing us into submission against our wishes and against our
again to return to the question of why people like me, knowing all this,
knowing in advance that this government is incapable of progressive democratic
moves so far as our people are concerned, knowing that this government is
incapable of reacting towards us in any way other than by the use of
overwhelming brute force, why I and people like me nevertheless decide to go
ahead to do what we must do. We have been conditioned to our attitudes by the
history which is not of our making. We have been conditioned by the history of
White governments in this country to accept the fact that Africans, when they
make their demands strongly and powerfully enough to have some chance of
success, will be met by force and terror on the part of the government. This is
not something we have taught the African people, this is something the African
people have learned from their own bitter experience. We learned it from each
successive government. We learned it from the government of General Smuts at
the time of two massacres of our people: the 1921 massacre in Bulhoek when more
than a hundred men, women, and children were killed, and from the 1924 massacre
– the Bondelswart massacre in South-West Africa, in which some two hundred
Africans were killed. We have continued to learn it from every successive
violence can do only one thing, and that is to breed counter violence. We have
warned repeatedly that the government, by resorting continually to violence,
will breed in this country counter-violence amongst the people, till
ultimately, if there is no dawning of sanity on the part of the government –
ultimately, the dispute between the government and my people will finish up by
being settled in violence and by force. Already there are indications in this
country that people, my people, Africans, are turning to deliberate acts of
violence and of force against the government, in order to persuade the
government, in the only language which this government shows by its own
behaviour that it understands.
in the world, a court would say to me, ‘You should have made representations to
the government.’ This court, I am confident, will not say so. Representations
have been made, by people who have gone before me, time and time again.
Representations were made in this case by me; I do not want again to repeat the
experience of those representations. The court cannot expect a respect for the
processes of representation and negotiation to grow amongst the African people,
when the government shows every day, by its conduct, that it despises such
processes and frowns upon them and will not indulge in them. Nor will the
court, I believe, say that, under the circumstances, my people are condemned
forever to say nothing and to do nothing. If this court says that, or believes
it, I think it is mistaken and deceiving itself. Men are not capable of doing
nothing, of saying nothing, of not reacting to injustice, of not protesting
against oppression, of not striving for the good of society and the good life
in the ways they see it. Nor will they do so in this country.
the court will say that despite our human rights to protest, to object, to make
ourselves heard, we should stay within the letter of the law. I would say, Sir,
that it is the government, its administration of the law, which brings the law
into such contempt and disrepute that one is no longer concerned in this
country to stay within the letter of the law. I will illustrate this from my
own experience. The government has used the process of law to handicap me, in
my personal life, in my career, and in my political work, in a way which is
calculated, in my opinion, to bring about a contempt for the law. In December
1952 I was issued with an order by the government, not as a result of a trial
before a court and a conviction, but as a result of prejudice, or perhaps Star
Chamber procedure behind closed doors in the halls of government. In terms of
that order I was confined to the magisterial district of Johannesburg for six
months and, at the same time, I was prohibited from attending gatherings for a
similar period. That order expired in June 1953 and three months thereafter,
again without any hearing, without any attempt to hear my side of the case,
without facing me with charges, or explanations, both bans were renewed for a
further period of two years. To these bans a third was added: I was ordered by
the Minister of Justice to resign altogether from the African National
Congress, and never again to become a member or to participate in its
activities. Towards the end of 1955, I found myself free and able to move
around once again, but not for long. In February 1956 the bans were again
renewed, administratively, again without hearing, this time for five years.
Again, by order of the government, in the name of the law, I found myself
restricted and isolated from my fellow men, from people who think like me and
believe like me. I found myself trailed by officers of the Security Branch of
the Police Force wherever I went. In short, I found myself treated as a
criminal – an unconvicted criminal. I was not allowed to pick my company, to
frequent the company of men, to participate in their political activities, to
join their organisations. I was not free from constant police surveillance. I
was made, by the law, a criminal, not because of what I had done, but because
of what I stood for, because of what I thought, because of my conscience. Can
it be any wonder to anybody that such conditions make a man an outlaw of
society? Can it be wondered that such a man, having been outlawed by the
government, should be prepared to lead the life of an outlaw, as I have led for
some months, according to the evidence before this court?
It has not
been easy for me during the past period to separate myself from my wife and
children, to say goodbye to the good old days when, at the end of a strenuous
day at an office, I could look forward to joining my family at the
dinner-table, and instead to take up the life of a man hunted continuously by
the police, living separated from those who are closest to me, in my own
country, facing continually the hazards of detection and of arrest. This has
been a life infinitely more difficult than serving a prison sentence. No man in
his right senses would voluntarily choose such a life in preference to the one
of normal family social life which exists in every civilised community.
comes a time, as it came in my life, when a man is denied the right to live a
normal life, when he can only live the life of an outlaw because the government
has so decreed to use the law to impose a state of outlawry upon him. I was
driven to this situation, and I do not regret having taken the decisions that I
did take. Other people will be driven in the same way in this country, by this
very same force of police persecution and of administrative action by the
government, to follow my course, of that I am certain. The decision that I
should continue to carry out the decisions of the Pietermaritzburg conference,
despite police persecution all the time, was not my decision alone. It was a
decision reached by me, in consultation with those who were entrusted with the
leadership of the campaign and its fulfilment. It was clear to us then, in the
early periods of the campaign, when the government was busy whipping up an
atmosphere of hysteria as the prelude to violence, that the views of the
African people would not be heard, would not find expression, unless attempts
were made deliberately by those of us entrusted with the task of carrying
through the strike call to keep away from the illegal, unlawful attacks of the
Special Branch, the unlawful detention of people for twelve days without trial,
and unlawful and illegal intervention by the police and the government forces
in legitimate political activity of the population. I was, at the time of the
Pietermaritzburg conference, free from bans for a short time, and a time which
I had no reason to expect would prolong itself for very long. Had I remained in
my normal surroundings, carrying on my normal life, I would have again been
forced by government action to a position of an outlaw. That I was not prepared
to do while the commands of the Pietermaritzburg conference to me remained
unfulfilled. New situations require new tactics. The situation, which was not
of our making, which followed the Pietermaritzburg conference required the
tactics which I adopted, I believe, correctly.
A lot has
been written since the Pietermaritzburg conference, and even more since my
arrest, much of which is flattering to my pride and dear to my heart, but much
of which is mistaken and incorrect. It has been suggested that the advances,
the articulateness of our people, the successes which they are achieving here,
and the recognition which they are winning both here and abroad are in some way
the result of my work. I must place on record my belief that I have been only
one in a large army of people, to all of whom the credit for any success of
achievement is due. Advance and progress is not the result of my work alone,
but of the collective work of my colleagues and I, both here and abroad. I have
been fortunate throughout my political life to work together with colleagues
whose abilities and contributions to the cause of my people’s freedom have been
greater and better than my own, people who have been loved and respected by the
African population generally as a result of the dedicated way in which they
have fought for freedom and for peace and justice in this country. It
distresses me to read reports that my arrest has been instigated by some of my
colleagues for some sinister purposes of their own. Nothing could be further
from the truth. I dismiss these suggestions as the sensational inventions of
unscrupulous journalists. People who stoop to such unscrupulous manoeuvres as
the betrayal of their own comrades have no place ir. the good fight which I
have fought for the freedom of the African people, which my colleagues continue
to fight without me today. Not just I alone, but all of us are willing to pay
the penalties which we may have to pay, which I may have to pay for having
followed my conscience in pursuit of what I believe is right. So are we all.
Many people in this country have paid the price before me, and many will pay
the price after me.
I do not
believe, Your Worship, that this court, in inflicting penalties on me for the
crimes for which I am convicted, should be moved by the belief that penalties
deter men from the course that they believe is right. History shows that
penalties do not deter men when their conscience is aroused, nor will they
deter my people or the colleagues with whom I have worked before.
prepared to pay the penalty even though I know how bitter and desperate is the
situation of an African in the prisons of this country. I have been in these
prisons and I know how gross is the discrimination, even behind the prison
walls, against Africans, how much worse is the treatment meted out to African
prisoners than that accorded to whites. Nevertheless, these considerations do
not sway me from the path that I have taken, nor will they sway others like me.
For to men, freedom in their own land is the pinnacle of their ambitions, from
which nothing can turn men of conviction aside. More powerful than my fear of
the dreadful conditions to which I might be subjected is my hatred for the
dreadful conditions to which my people are subjected outside prison throughout
I hate the
practice of race discrimination, and in my hatred I am sustained by the fact
that the overwhelming majority of mankind hate it equally. I hate the
systematic inculcation of children with colour prejudice and I am sustained in
that hatred by the fact that the overwhelming majority of mankind, here and
abroad, are with me in that. I hate the racial arrogance which decrees that the
good things of life shall be retained as the exclusive right of a minority of
the population, and which reduces the majority of the population to a position
of subservience and inferiority, and maintains them as voteless chattels to
work where they are told and behave as they are told by the ruling minority. I
am sustained in that hatred by the fact that the overwhelming majority of
mankind both in this country and abroad are with me.
that this court can do to me will change in any way that hatred in me, which
can only be removed by the removal of the injustice and the inhumanity which I
have sought to remove from the political and social life of this country.
sentence Your Worship sees fit to impose upon me for the crime for which I have
been convicted before this court, may it rest assured that when my sentence has
been completed I will still be moved, as men are always moved, by their
consciences; I will still be moved by my dislike of the race discrimination
against my people when I come out from serving my sentence, to take up again,
as best I can, the struggle for the removal of those injustices until they are
finally abolished once and for all.
I now wish
to deal with the Second Count.
colleagues and I received the invitation to attend the Conference of the
Pan-African Freedom Movement for East and Central Africa, it was decided that I
should leave the country and join our delegation to Addis Ababa, the capital of
Ethiopia, where the conference would be held. It was part of my mandate to tour
Africa and make direct contact with African leaders on the continent.
I did not
apply for a passport because I knew very well that it would not be granted to
me. After all, the Nationalist Party government, throughout the fourteen years
of its oppressive rule, had refused permission to leave the country to many
African scholars, educationalists, artists, sportsmen, and clerics, and I
wished to waste none of my time by applying for a passport.
of the continent made a forceful impression on me. For the first time in my
life I was a free man; free from white oppression, from the idiocy of apartheid
and racial arrogance, from police molestation, from humiliation and indignity.
Wherever I went I was treated like a human being. I met Rashidi Kawawa, Prime
Minister of Tanganyika, and Julius Nyerere. I was received by Emperor Haile
Selassie, by General Abboud, President of Sudan, by Habib Bourguiba, President
of Tunisia, and by Modibo Keita of the Republic of Mali. I met Leopold Senghor,
President of Senegal, Presidents Sekou Toure and Tubman, of Guinea and Liberia,
I met Ben
Bella, the President of Algeria, and Colonel Boumedienne, the
Commander-in-Chief of the Algerian Army of National Liberation. I saw the cream
and flower of the Algerian youth who had fought French imperialism and whose
valour had brought freedom and happiness to their country.
I was received by Hugh Gaitskell, Leader of the Labour Party, and by Jo
Grimond, Leader of the Liberal Party, and other prominent Englishmen.
Prime Minister Obote of Uganda, distinguished African nationalists like Kenneth
Kaunda, Oginga Odinga, Joshua Nkomo, and many others. In all these countries we
were showered with hospitality, and assured of solid support for our cause.
efforts to keep the African people in a position of perpetual subordination,
South Africa must and will fail. South Africa is out of step with the rest of
the civilised world, as is shown by the resolution adopted last night by the
General Assembly of the United Nations Organisation which decided to impose
diplomatic and economic sanctions. In the African states, I saw black and white
mingling peacefully and happily in hotels, cinemas, trading in the same areas,
using the same public transport, and living in the same residential areas.
I had to
return home to report to my colleagues and to share my impressions and
experiences with them.
done my duty to my people and to South Africa. I have no doubt that posterity
will pronounce that I was innocent and that the criminals that should have been
brought before this court are the members of the Verwoerd government.
end of this trial, on 7 November 1962, Mandela was convicted and sentenced to
three years’ imprisonment on the charge of incitement and two years for leaving
the country without valid travel documents.
close of the trial the crowd ignored a special prohibition on all
demonstrations relating to trials and marched through the streets singing a
freedom song, ‘Tshotsholoza Tshotsholoza Mandela’, a call to Mandela to
continue the struggle.
Tuesday 14 June 2011 12:20