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I am the
I hold a
Bachelor’s Degree in Arts and practised as an attorney in Johannesburg for a
number of years in partnership with Oliver Tambo. I am a convicted prisoner
serving five years for leaving the country without a permit and for inciting
people to go on strike at the end of May 1961.
outset, I want to say that the suggestion made by the State in its opening that
the struggle in South Africa is under the influence of foreigners or communists
is wholly incorrect. I have done whatever I did, both as an individual and as a
leader of my people, because of my experience in South Africa and my own
proudly felt African background, and not because of what any outsider might
youth in the Transkei I listened to the elders of my tribe telling stories of
the old days. Amongst the tales they related to me were those of wars fought by
our ancestors in defence of the fatherland. The names of Dingane and Bambata,
Hintsa and Makana, Squngthi and Dalasile, Moshoeshoe and Sekhukhuni, were
praised as the glory of the entire African nation. I hoped then that life might
offer me the opportunity to serve my people and make my own humble contribution
to their freedom struggle. This is what has motivated me in all that I have
done in relation to the charges made against me in this case.
said this, I must deal immediately and at some length with the question of
violence. Some of the things so far told to the Court are true and some are
untrue. I do not, however, deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a
spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it
as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had
arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people
by the Whites.
immediately that I was one of the persons who helped to form Umkhonto we Sizwe,
and that I played a prominent role in its affairs until I was arrested in
statement which I am about to make I shall correct certain false impressions
which have been created by State witnesses. Amongst other things, I will
demonstrate that certain of the acts referred to in the evidence were not and
could not have been committed by Umkhonto. I will also deal with the
relationship between the African National Congress and Umkhonto, and with the
part which I personally have played in the affairs of both organizations. I
shall deal also with the part played by the Communist Party. In order to
explain these matters properly, I will have to explain what Umkhonto set out to
achieve; what methods it prescribed for the achievement of these objects, and
why these methods were chosen. I will also have to explain how I became
involved in the activities of these organizations.
that Umkhonto was responsible for a number of acts which clearly fell outside
the policy of the organisation, and which have been charged in the indictment
against us. I do not know what justification there was for these acts, but to
demonstrate that they could not have been authorized by Umkhonto, I want to
refer briefly to the roots and policy of the organization.
Tuesday 14 June 2011 12:12
I admit immediately that I was one of the persons who helped to form Umkhonto we Sizwe, and that I played a prominent role in its affairs until I was arrested in August 1962
already mentioned that I was one of the persons who helped to form Umkhonto. I,
and the others who started the organization, did so for two reasons. Firstly,
we believed that as a result of Government policy, violence by the African
people had become inevitable, and that unless responsible leadership was given
to canalize and control the feelings of our people, there would be outbreaks of
terrorism which would produce an intensity of bitterness and hostility between
the various races of this country which is not produced even by war. Secondly,
we felt that without violence there would be no way open to the African people
to succeed in their struggle against the principle of white supremacy. All
lawful modes of expressing opposition to this principle had been closed by
legislation, and we were placed in a position in which we had either to accept
a permanent state of inferiority, or to defy the Government. We chose to defy
the law. We first broke the law in a way which avoided any recourse to
violence; when this form was legislated against, and then the Government
resorted to a show of force to crush opposition to its policies, only then did
we decide to answer violence with violence.
violence which we chose to adopt was not terrorism. We who formed Umkhonto were
all members of the African National Congress, and had behind us the ANC
tradition of non-violence and negotiation as a means of solving political
disputes. We believe that South Africa belongs to all the people who live in
it, and not to one group, be it black or white. We did not want an interracial
war, and tried to avoid it to the last minute. If the Court is in doubt about
this, it will be seen that the whole history of our organization bears out what
I have said, and what I will subsequently say, when I describe the tactics
which Umkhonto decided to adopt. I want, therefore, to say something about the
African National Congress.
African National Congress was formed in 1912 to defend the rights of the
African people which had been seriously curtailed by the South Africa Act, and
which were then being threatened by the Native Land Act. For thirty-seven years
– that is until 1949 – it adhered strictly to a constitutional struggle. It put
forward demands and resolutions; it sent delegations to the Government in the
belief that African grievances could be settled through peaceful discussion and
that Africans could advance gradually to full political rights. But White
Governments remained unmoved, and the rights of Africans became less instead of
becoming greater. In the words of my leader, Chief Lutuli, who became President
of the ANC in 1952, and who was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize:
will deny that thirty years of my life have been spent knocking in vain,
patiently, moderately, and modestly at a closed and barred door? What have been
the fruits of moderation? The past thirty years have seen the greatest number
of laws restricting our rights and progress, until today we have reached a
stage where we have almost no rights at all”.
1949, the ANC remained determined to avoid violence. At this time, however,
there was a change from the strictly constitutional means of protest which had
been employed in the past. The change was embodied in a decision which was
taken to protest against apartheid legislation by peaceful, but unlawful,
demonstrations against certain laws. Pursuant to this policy the ANC launched
the Defiance Campaign, in which I was placed in charge of volunteers. This
campaign was based on the principles of passive resistance. More than 8,500
people defied apartheid laws and went to jail. Yet there was not a single
instance of violence in the course of this campaign on the part of any defier.
I and nineteen colleagues were convicted for the role which we played in
organizing the campaign, but our sentences were suspended mainly because the
Judge found that discipline and non-violence had been stressed throughout. This
was the time when the volunteer section of the ANC was established, and when
the word ‘Amadelakufa‘ was first used: this was the time
when the volunteers were asked to take a pledge to uphold certain principles.
Evidence dealing with volunteers and their pledges has been introduced into
this case, but completely out of context. The volunteers were not, and are not,
the soldiers of a black army pledged to fight a civil war against the whites.
They were, and are. dedicated workers who are prepared to lead campaigns
initiated by the ANC to distribute leaflets, to organize strikes, or do
whatever the particular campaign required. They are called volunteers because
they volunteer to face the penalties of imprisonment and whipping which are now
prescribed by the legislature for such acts.
Defiance Campaign, the Public Safety Act and the Criminal Law Amendment Act
were passed. These Statutes provided harsher penalties for offences committed
by way of protests against laws. Despite this, the protests continued and the
ANC adhered to its policy of non-violence. In 1956, 156 leading members of the
Congress Alliance, including myself, were arrested on a charge of high treason
and charges under the Suppression of Communism Act. The non-violent policy of
the ANC was put in issue by the State, but when the Court gave judgement some
five years later, it found that the ANC did not have a policy of violence. We
were acquitted on all counts, which included a count that the ANC sought to set
up a communist state in place of the existing regime. The Government has always
sought to label all its opponents as communists. This allegation has been
repeated in the present case, but as I will show, the ANC is not, and never has
been, a communist organization.
there was the shooting at Sharpeville, which resulted in the proclamation of a
state of emergency and the declaration of the ANC as an unlawful organization.
My colleagues and I, after careful consideration, decided that we would not
obey this decree. The African people were not part of the Government and did
not make the laws by which they were governed. We believed in the words of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that ‘the will of the people shall be
the basis of authority of the Government’, and for us to accept the banning was
equivalent to accepting the silencing of the Africans for all time. The ANC
refused to dissolve, but instead went underground. We believed it was our duty
to preserve this organization which had been built up with almost fifty years
of unremitting toil. I have no doubt that no self-respecting White political
organization would disband itself if declared illegal by a government in which
it had no say.
the Government held a referendum which led to the establishment of the
Republic. Africans, who constituted approximately 70 per cent of the population
of South Africa, were not entitled to vote, and were not even consulted about
the proposed constitutional change. All of us were apprehensive of our future
under the proposed White Republic, and a resolution was taken to hold an All-In
African Conference to call for a National Convention, and to organize mass
demonstrations on the eve of the unwanted Republic, if the Government failed to
call the Convention. The conference was attended by Africans of various
political persuasions. I was the Secretary of the conference and undertook to
be responsible for organizing the national stay-at-home which was subsequently
called to coincide with the declaration of the Republic. As all strikes by
Africans are illegal, the person organizing such a strike must avoid arrest. I
was chosen to be this person, and consequently I had to leave my home and
family and my practice and go into hiding to avoid arrest.
stay-at-home, in accordance with ANC policy, was to be a peaceful
demonstration. Careful instructions were given to organizers and members to
avoid any recourse to violence. The Government’s answer was to introduce new
and harsher laws, to mobilize its armed forces, and to send Saracens,
armed vehicles, and soldiers into the townships in a massive show of force
designed to intimidate the people. This was an indication that the Government
had decided to rule by force alone, and this decision was a milestone on the
road to Umkhonto.
this may appear irrelevant to this trial. In fact, I believe none of it is
irrelevant because it will, I hope, enable the Court to appreciate the attitude
eventually adopted by the various persons and bodies concerned in the National
Liberation Movement. When I went to jail in 1962, the dominant idea was that
loss of life should be avoided. I now know that this was still so in 1963.
return to June 1961. What were we, the leaders of our people, to do? Were we to
give in to the show of force and the implied threat against future action, or
were we to fight it and, if so, how?
We had no
doubt that we had to continue the fight. Anything else would have been abject
surrender. Our problem was not whether to fight, but was how to continue the
fight. We of the ANC had always stood for a non-racial democracy, and we shrank
from any action which might drive the races further apart than they already
were. But the hard facts were that fifty years of non-violence had brought the
African people nothing but more and more repressive legislation, and fewer and
fewer rights. It may not be easy for this Court to understand, but it is a fact
that for a long time the people had been talking of violence – of the day when
they would fight the White man and win back their country – and we, the leaders
of the ANC, had nevertheless always prevailed upon them to avoid violence and
to pursue peaceful methods. When some of us discussed this in May and June of
1961, it could not be denied that our policy to achieve a nonracial State by
non-violence had achieved nothing, and that our followers were beginning to
lose confidence in this policy and were developing disturbing ideas of
not be forgotten that by this time violence had, in fact, become a feature of
the South African political scene. There had been violence in 1957 when the
women of Zeerust were ordered to carry passes; there was violence in 1958 with
the enforcement of cattle culling in Sekhukhuniland; there was violence in 1959
when the people of Cato Manor protested against pass raids; there was violence
in 1960 when the Government attempted to impose Bantu Authorities in Pondoland.
Thirty-nine Africans died in these disturbances. In 1961 there had been riots
in Warmbaths, and all this time the Transkei had been a seething mass of
unrest. Each disturbance pointed clearly to the inevitable growth among
Africans of the belief that violence was the only way out – it showed that a
Government which uses force to maintain its rule teaches the oppressed to use
force to oppose it. Already small groups had arisen in the urban areas and were
spontaneously making plans for violent forms of political struggle. There now
arose a danger that these groups would adopt terrorism against Africans, as
well as Whites, if not properly directed. Particularly disturbing was the type
of violence engendered in places such as Zeerust, Sekhukhuniland, and Pondoland
amongst Africans. It was increasingly taking the form, not of struggle against
the Government – though this is what prompted it – but of civil strife amongst
themselves, conducted in such a way that it could not hope to achieve anything
other than a loss of life and bitterness.
beginning of June 1961, after a long and anxious assessment of the South
African situation, I, and some colleagues, came to the conclusion that as
violence in this country was inevitable, it would be unrealistic and wrong for
African leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the
Government met our peaceful demands with force.
conclusion was not easily arrived at. It was only when all else had failed,
when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision
was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle, and to form Umkhonto
we Sizwe. We did so not because we desired such a course, but solely because
the Government had left us with no other choice. In the Manifesto of
on 16 December 1961, which is Exhibit AD, we said:
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”.
our feeling in June of 1961 when we decided to press for a change in the policy
of the National Liberation Movement. I can only say that I felt morally obliged
to do what I did.
We who had
taken this decision started to consult leaders of various organizations,
including the ANC. I will not say whom we spoke to, or what they said, but I
wish to deal with the role of the African National Congress in this phase of
the struggle, and with the policy and objectives of Umkhonto we Sizwe.
As far as
the ANC was concerned, it formed a clear view which can be summarized as
It was a mass political
organization with a political function to fulfill. Its members had joined
on the express policy of non-violence. Because of all this, it could
not and would not undertake violence. This must be stressed. One cannot
turn such a body into the small, closely knit organization required for
sabotage. Nor would this be politically correct, because it would result
in members ceasing to carry out this essential activity: political
propaganda and organization. Nor was it permissible to change the whole
nature of the organization. On the other hand, in view of
this situation I have described, the ANC was prepared to depart from its
fifty-year-old policy of non-violence to this extent that it would no
longer disapprove of properly controlled violence. Hence members who
undertook such activity would not be subject to disciplinary action by the
‘properly controlled violence’ because I made it clear that if I formed the
organization I would at all times subject it to the political guidance of the
ANC and would not undertake any different form of activity from that
contemplated without the consent of the ANC. And I shall now tell the Court how
that form of violence came to be determined.
result of this decision, Umkhonto was formed in November 1961. When we took
this decision, and subsequently formulated our plans, the ANC heritage of
non-violence and racial harmony was very much with us. We felt that the country
was drifting towards a civil war in which Blacks and Whites would fight each
other. We viewed the situation with alarm. Civil war could mean the destruction
of what the ANC stood for; with civil war, racial peace would be more difficult
than ever to achieve. We already have examples in South African history of the
results of war. It has taken more than fifty years for the scars of the South
African War to disappear. How much longer would it take to eradicate the scars
of inter-racial civil war, which could not be fought without a great loss of
life on both sides?
avoidance of civil war had dominated our thinking for many years, but when we
decided to adopt violence as part of our policy, we realized that we might one
day have to face the prospect of such a war. This had to be taken into account
in formulating our plans. We required a plan which was flexible and which
permitted us to act in accordance with the needs of the times; above all, the
plan had to be one which recognized civil war as the last resort, and left the
decision on this question to the future. We did not want to be committed to
civil war, but we wanted to be ready if it became inevitable.
of violence were possible. There is sabotage, there is guerrilla warfare, there
is terrorism, and there is open revolution. We chose to adopt the first method
and to exhaust it before taking any other decision.
light of our political background the choice was a logical one. Sabotage did
not involve loss of life, and it offered the best hope for future race
relations. Bitterness would be kept to a minimum and, if the policy bore fruit,
democratic government could become a reality. This is what we felt at the time,
and this is what we said in our Manifesto (Exhibit AD):
of Umkhonto we Sizwe have always sought to achieve liberation without bloodshed
and civil clash. We hope, even at this late hour, that our first actions will
awaken everyone to a realization of the disastrous situation to which the
Nationalist policy is leading. We hope that we will bring the Government and
its supporters to their senses before it is too late, so that both the
Government and its policies can be changed before matters reach the desperate
state of civil war.”
initial plan was based on a careful analysis of the political and economic
situation of our country. We believed that South Africa depended to a large
extent on foreign capital and foreign trade. We felt that planned destruction
of power plants, and interference with rail and telephone communications, would
tend to scare away capital from the country, make it more difficult for goods
from the industrial areas to reach the seaports on schedule, and would in the
long run be a heavy drain on the economic life of the country, thus compelling
the voters of the country to reconsider their position.
the economic life lines of the country were to be linked with sabotage on
Government buildings and other symbols of apartheid. These attacks would serve
as a source of inspiration to our people. In addition, they would provide an
outlet for those people who were urging the adoption of violent methods and
would enable us to give concrete proof to our followers that we had adopted a
stronger line and were fighting back against Government violence.
if mass action were successfully organized, and mass reprisals taken, we felt
that sympathy for our cause would be roused in other countries, and that
greater pressure would be brought to bear on the South African Government.
was the plan. Umkhonto was to perform sabotage, and strict instructions were
given to its members right from the start, that on no account were they to
injure or kill people in planning or carrying out operations. These
instructions have been referred to in the evidence of ‘Mr. X’ and ‘Mr. Z’.
affairs of the Umkhonto were controlled and directed by a National High
Command, which had powers of co-option and which could, and did, appoint
Regional Commands. The High Command was the body which determined tactics and
targets and was in charge of training and finance. Under the High Command there
were Regional Commands which were responsible for the direction of the local
sabotage groups. Within the framework of the policy laid down by the National
High Command, the Regional Commands had authority to select the targets to be
attacked. They had no authority to go beyond the prescribed framework and thus
had no authority to embark upon acts which endangered life, or which did not
fit into the overall plan of sabotage. For instance, Umkhonto members were
forbidden ever to go armed into operation. Incidentally, the terms High Command
and Regional Command were an importation from the Jewish national underground
organization Irgun Zvai Leumi, which operated in Israel between 1944 and 1948.
had its first operation on 16 December 1961, when Government buildings in
Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban were attacked. The selection of targets
is proof of the policy to which I have referred. Had we intended to attack life
we would have selected targets where people congregated and not empty buildings
and power stations. The sabotage which was committed before 16 December 1961
was the work of isolated groups and had no connection whatever with Umkhonto.
In fact, some of these and a number of later acts were claimed by other
Manifesto of Umkhonto was issued on the day that operations commenced. The
response to our actions and Manifesto among the white population was
characteristically violent. The Government threatened to take strong action,
and called upon its supporters to stand firm and to ignore the demands of the
Africans. The Whites failed to respond by suggesting change; they responded to
our call by suggesting the laager.
contrast, the response of the Africans was one of encouragement. Suddenly there
was hope again. Things were happening. People in the townships became eager for
political news. A great deal of enthusiasm was generated by the initial
successes, and people began to speculate on how soon freedom would be obtained.
But we in
Umkhonto weighed up the white response with anxiety. The lines were being
drawn. The whites and blacks were moving into separate camps, and the prospects
of avoiding a civil war were made less. The white newspapers carried reports
that sabotage would be punished by death. If this was so, how could we continue
to keep Africans away from terrorism?
scores of Africans had died as a result of racial friction. In 1920 when the
famous leader, Masabala, was held in Port Elizabeth jail, twenty-four of a
group of Africans who had gathered to demand his release were killed by the
police and white civilians. In 1921, more than one hundred Africans died in the
Bulhoek affair. In 1924 over two hundred Africans were killed when the
Administrator of South-West Africa led a force against a group which had
rebelled against the imposition of dog tax. On 1 May 1950, eighteen Africans died
as a result of police shootings during the strike. On 21 March 1960, sixty-nine
unarmed Africans died at Sharpeville.
more Sharpevilles would there be in the history of our country? And how many
more Sharpevilles could the country stand without violence and terror becoming
the order of the day? And what would happen to our people when that stage was
reached? In the long run we felt certain we must succeed, but at what cost to
ourselves and the rest of the country? And if this happened, how could black
and white ever live together again in peace and harmony? These were the
problems that faced us, and these were our decisions.
convinced us that rebellion would offer the Government limitless opportunities
for the indiscriminate slaughter of our people. But it was precisely because
the soil of South Africa is already drenched with the blood of innocent
Africans that we felt it our duty to make preparations as a long-term
undertaking to use force in order to defend ourselves against force. If war
were inevitable, we wanted the fight to be conducted on terms most favorable to
our people. The fight which held out prospects best for us and the least risk
of life to both sides was guerrilla warfare. We decided, therefore, in our
preparations for the future, to make provision for the possibility of guerrilla
undergo compulsory military training, but no such training was given to
Africans. It was in our view essential to build up a nucleus of trained men who
would be able to provide the leadership which would be required if guerrilla
warfare started. We had to prepare for such a situation before it became too
late to make proper preparations. It was also necessary to build up a nucleus
of men trained in civil administration and other professions, so that Africans
would be equipped to participate in the government of this country as soon as
they were allowed to do so.
stage it was decided that I should attend the Conference of the Pan-African
Freedom Movement for Central, East, and Southern Africa, which was to be held
early in 1962 in Addis Ababa, and, because of our need for preparation, it was
also decided that, after the conference, I would undertake a tour of the
African States with a view to obtaining facilities for the training of
soldiers, and that I would also solicit scholarships for the higher education
of matriculated Africans. Training in both fields would be necessary, even if
changes came about by peaceful means. Administrators would be necessary who
would be willing and able to administer a non-racial State and so would men be
necessary to control the army and police force of such a State.
It was on
this note that I left South Africa to proceed to Addis Ababa as a delegate of
the ANC. My tour was a success. Wherever I went I met sympathy for our cause
and promises of help. All Africa was united against the stand of White South
Africa, and even in London I was received with great sympathy by political
leaders, such as Mr. Gaitskell and Mr. Grimond. In Africa I was promised
support by such men as Julius Nyerere, now President of Tanganyika; Mr. Kawawa,
then Prime Minister of Tanganyika; Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia; General
Abboud, President of the Sudan; Habib Bourguiba, President of Tunisia; Ben
Bella, now President of Algeria; Modibo Keita, President of Mali; Leopold
Senghor, President of Senegal; Sekou Toure, President of Guinea; President
Tubman of Liberia; and Milton Obote, Prime Minister of Uganda. It was Ben Bella
who invited me to visit Oujda, the Headquarters of the Algerian Army of
National Liberation, the visit which is described in my diary, one of the
to make a study of the art of war and revolution and, whilst abroad, underwent
a course in military training. If there was to be guerrilla warfare, I wanted
to be able to stand and fight with my people and to share the hazards of war
with them. Notes of lectures which I received in Algeria are contained in
Exhibit 16, produced in evidence. Summaries of books on guerrilla warfare and military
strategy have also been produced. I have already admitted that these documents
are in my writing, and I acknowledge that I made these studies to equip myself
for the role which I might have to play if the struggle drifted into guerrilla
warfare. I approached this question as every African Nationalist should do. I
was completely objective. The Court will see that I attempted to examine all
types of authority on the subject – from the East and from the West, going back
to the classic work of Clausewitz, and covering such a variety as Mao Tse Tung
and Che Guevara on the one hand, and the writings on the Anglo-Boer War on the
other. Of course, these notes are merely summaries of the books I read and do
not contain my personal views.
made arrangements for our recruits to undergo military training. But here it
was impossible to organize any scheme without the co-operation of the ANC
offices in Africa. I consequently obtained the permission of the ANC in South
Africa to do this. To this extent then there was a departure from the original
decision of the ANC, but it applied outside South Africa only. The first batch
of recruits actually arrived in Tanganyika when I was passing through that
country on my way back to South Africa.
to South Africa and reported to my colleagues on the results of my trip. On my
return I found that there had been little alteration in the political scene
save that the threat of a death penalty for sabotage had now become a fact. The
attitude of my colleagues in Umkhonto was much the same as it had been before I
left. They were feeling their way cautiously and felt that it would be a long
time before the possibilities of sabotage were exhausted. In fact, the view was
expressed by some that the training of recruits was premature. This is recorded
by me in the document which is Exhibit R.14. After a full discussion, however,
it was decided to go ahead with the plans for military training because of the
fact that it would take many years to build up a sufficient nucleus of trained
soldiers to start a guerrilla campaign, and whatever happened the training
would be of value.
I wish to
turn now to certain general allegations made in this case by the State. But
before doing so, I wish to revert to certain occurrences said by witnesses to
have happened in Port Elizabeth and East London. I am referring to the bombing
of private houses of pro-Government persons during September, October and
November 1962. I do not know what justification there was for these acts, nor
what provocation had been given. But if what I have said already is accepted,
then it is clear that these acts had nothing to do with the carrying out of the
policy of Umkhonto.
One of the
chief allegations in the indictment is that the ANC was a party to a general
conspiracy to commit sabotage. I have already explained why this is incorrect
but how, externally, there was a departure from the original principle laid
down by the ANC. There has, of course, been overlapping of functions internally
as well, because there is a difference between a resolution adopted in the
atmosphere of a committee room and the concrete difficulties that arise in the
field of practical activity. At a later stage the position was further affected
by bannings and house arrests, and by persons leaving the country to take up
political work abroad. This led to individuals having to do work in different
capacities. But though this may have blurred the distinction between Umkhonto
and the ANC, it by no means abolished that distinction. Great care was taken to
keep the activities of the two organizations in South Africa distinct. The ANC
remained a mass political body of Africans only carrying on the type of
political work they had conducted prior to 1961. Umkhonto remained a small
organization recruiting its members from different races and organizations and
trying to achieve its own particular object. The fact that members of Umkhonto
were recruited from the ANC, and the fact that persons served both
organizations, like Solomon Mbanjwa, did not, in our view, change the nature of
the ANC or give it a policy of violence. This overlapping of officers, however,
was more the exception than the rule. This is why persons such as ‘Mr. X’ and
‘Mr. Z’, who were on the Regional Command of their respective areas, did not
participate in any of the ANC committees or activities, and why people such as
Mr. Bennett Mashiyana and Mr. Reginald Ndubi did not hear of sabotage at their
the allegations in the indictment is that Rivonia was the headquarters of
Umkhonto. This is not true of the time when I was there. I was told, of course,
and knew that certain of the activities of the Communist Party were carried on
there. But this is no reason (as I shall presently explain) why I should not
use the place.
there in the following manner:
As already indicated, early in
April 1961 I went underground to organize the May general strike. My work
entailed travelling throughout the country, living now in African
townships, then in country villages and again in cities.
During the second half of the year I started visiting the
Parktown home of Arthur Goldreich, where I used to meet my family privately.
Although I had no direct political association with him, I had known Arthur
Goldreich socially since 1958.
In October, Arthur Goldreich
informed me that he was moving out of town and offered me a hiding place
there. A few days thereafter, he arranged for Michael Harmel to take me to
Rivonia. I naturally found Rivonia an ideal place for the man who lived
the life of an outlaw. Up to that time I had been compelled to live
indoors during the daytime and could only venture out under cover of
darkness. But at Liliesleaf
[farm, Rivonia,] I could live differently and work far more efficiently. For obvious reasons, I had to
disguise myself and I assumed the fictitious name of David. In December,
Arthur Goldreich and his family moved in. I stayed there until I went
abroad on 11 January 1962. As already indicated, I returned in July 1962
and was arrested in Natal on 5 August. Up to the time of my arrest,
Liliesleaf farm was the headquarters of neither the African National
Congress nor Umkhonto. With the exception of myself, none of the officials
or members of these bodies lived there, no meetings of the governing
bodies were ever held there, and no activities connected with them were
either organized or directed from there. On numerous occasions during my
stay at Liliesleaf farm I met both the Executive Committee of the ANC, as
well as the NHC, but such meetings were held elsewhere and not on the
farm. Whilst staying at Liliesleaf
farm, I frequently visited Arthur Goldreich in the main house and he also
paid me visits in my room. We had numerous political discussions covering
a variety of subjects. We discussed ideological and practical questions,
the Congress Alliance, Umkhonto and its activities generally, and his
experiences as a soldier in the Palmach, the military wing of the Haganah.
Haganah was the political authority of the Jewish National Movement in
Because of what I had got to
know of Goldreich, I recommended on my return to South Africa that he
should be recruited to Umkhonto. I do not know of my personal knowledge
whether this was done.
the allegations made by the State is that the aims and objects of the ANC and
the Communist Party are the same. I wish to deal with this and with my own
political position, because I must assume that the State may try to argue from
certain Exhibits that I tried to introduce Marxism into the ANC. The allegation
as to the ANC is false. This is an old allegation which was disproved at the
Treason Trial and which has again reared its head. But since the allegation has
been made again, I shall deal with it as well as with the relationship between
the ANC and the Communist Party and Umkhonto and that party.
ideological creed of the ANC is, and always has been, the creed of African
Nationalism. It is not the concept of African Nationalism expressed in the cry,
‘Drive the White man into the sea’. The African Nationalism for which the ANC
stands is the concept of freedom and fulfillment for the African people in
their own land. The most important political document ever adopted by the ANC
is the ‘Freedom
Charter‘. It is by
no means a blueprint for a socialist state. It calls for redistribution, but
not nationalization, of land; it provides for nationalization of mines, banks,
and monopoly industry, because big monopolies are owned by one race only, and
without such nationalization racial domination would be perpetuated despite the
spread of political power. It would be a hollow gesture to repeal the Gold Law
prohibitions against Africans when all gold mines are owned by European
companies. In this respect the ANC’s policy corresponds with the old policy of
the present Nationalist Party which, for many years, had as part of its
programme the nationalization of the gold mines which, at that time, were
controlled by foreign capital. Under the Freedom Charter, nationalization would
take place in an economy based on private enterprise. The realization of the
Freedom Charter would open up fresh fields for a prosperous African population
of all classes, including the middle class. The ANC has never at any period of
its history advocated a revolutionary change in the economic structure of the
country, nor has it, to the best of my recollection, ever condemned capitalist
As far as
the Communist Party is concerned, and if I understand its policy correctly, it
stands for the establishment of a State based on the principles of Marxism.
Although it is prepared to work for the Freedom Charter, as a short term
solution to the problems created by white supremacy, it regards the Freedom
Charter as the beginning, and not the end, of its programme.
unlike the Communist Party, admitted Africans only as members. Its chief goal
was, and is, for the African people to win unity and full political rights. The
Communist Party’s main aim, on the other hand, was to remove the capitalists
and to replace them with a working-class government. The Communist Party sought
to emphasize class distinctions whilst the ANC seeks to harmonize them. This is
a vital distinction.
It is true
that there has often been close co-operation between the ANC and the Communist
Party. But co-operation is merely proof of a common goal – in this case the
removal of white supremacy – and is not proof of a complete community of
history of the world is full of similar examples. Perhaps the most striking
illustration is to be found in the co-operation between Great Britain, the
United States of America, and the Soviet Union in the fight against Hitler.
Nobody but Hitler would have dared to suggest that such co-operation turned
Churchill or Roosevelt into communists or communist tools, or that Britain and
America were working to bring about a communist world.
instance of such co-operation is to be found precisely in Umkhonto. Shortly
after Umkhonto was constituted, I was informed by some of its members that the
Communist Party would support Umkhonto, and this then occurred. At a later
stage the support was made openly.
that communists have always played an active role in the fight by colonial
countries for their freedom, because the short-term objects of communism would
always correspond with the long-term objects of freedom movements. Thus
communists have played an important role in the freedom struggles fought in
countries such as Malaya, Algeria, and Indonesia, yet none of these States
today are communist countries. Similarly in the underground resistance
movements which sprung up in Europe during the last World War, communists
played an important role. Even General Chiang Kai-Shek, today one of the
bitterest enemies of communism, fought together with the communists against the
ruling class in the struggle which led to his assumption of power in China in
pattern of co-operation between communists and non-communists has been repeated
in the National Liberation Movement of South Africa. Prior to the banning of
the Communist Party, joint campaigns involving the Communist Party and the
Congress movements were accepted practice. African communists could, and did,
become members of the ANC, and some served on the National, Provincial, and
local committees. Amongst those who served on the National Executive are Albert
Nzula, a former Secretary of the Communist Party, Moses Kotane, another former
Secretary, and J. B. Marks, a former member of the Central Committee.
the ANC in 1944, and in my younger days I held the view that the policy of
admitting communists to the ANC, and the close co-operation which existed at
times on specific issues between the ANC and the Communist Party, would lead to
a watering down of the concept of African Nationalism. At that stage I was a
member of the African National Congress Youth League, and was one of a group
which moved for the expulsion of communists from the ANC. This proposal was
heavily defeated. Amongst those who voted against the proposal were some of the
most conservative sections of African political opinion. They defended the
policy on the ground that from its inception the ANC was formed and built up,
not as a political party with one school of political thought, but as a
Parliament of the African people, accommodating people of various political
convictions, all united by the common goal of national liberation. I was
eventually won over to this point of view and I have upheld it ever since.
perhaps difficult for white South Africans, with an ingrained prejudice against
communism, to understand why experienced African politicians so readily accept
communists as their friends. But to us the reason is obvious. Theoretical
differences amongst those fighting against oppression is a luxury we cannot
afford at this stage. What is more, for many decades communists were the only
political group in South Africa who were prepared to treat Africans as human
beings and their equals; who were prepared to eat with us; talk with us, live
with us, and work with us. They were the only political group which was
prepared to work with the Africans for the attainment of political rights and a
stake in society. Because of this, there are many Africans who, today, tend to equate
freedom with communism. They are supported in this belief by a legislature
which brands all exponents of democratic government and African freedom as
communists and bans many of them (who are not communists) under the Suppression
of Communism Act. Although I have never been a member of the Communist Party, I
myself have been named under that pernicious Act because of the role I played
in the Defiance Campaign. I have also been banned and imprisoned under that
It is not
only in internal politics that we count communists as amongst those who support
our cause. In the international field, communist countries have always come to
our aid. In the United Nations and other Councils of the world the communist
bloc has supported the Afro-Asian struggle against colonialism and often seems
to be more sympathetic to our plight than some of the Western powers. Although
there is a universal condemnation of apartheid, the communist bloc speaks out
against it with a louder voice than most of the white world. In these
circumstances, it would take a brash young politician, such as I was in 1949,
to proclaim that the Communists are our enemies.
I turn now
to my own position. I have denied that I am a communist, and I think that in
the circumstances I am obliged to state exactly what my political beliefs are.
always regarded myself, in the first place, as an African patriot. After all, I
was born in Umtata, forty-six years ago. My guardian was my cousin, who was the
acting paramount chief of Tembuland, and I am related both to the present
paramount chief of Tembuland, Sabata Dalindyebo, and to Kaizer Matanzima, the
Chief Minister of the Transkei.
Today I am
attracted by the idea of a classless society, an attraction which springs in
part from Marxist reading and, in part, from my admiration of the structure and
organization of early African societies in this country. The land, then the
main means of production, belonged to the tribe. There were no rich or poor and
there was no exploitation.
true, as I have already stated, that I have been influenced by Marxist thought.
But this is also true of many of the leaders of the new independent States.
Such widely different persons as Gandhi, Nehru, Nkrumah, and Nasser all
acknowledge this fact. We all accept the need for some form of socialism to
enable our people to catch up with the advanced countries of this world and to
overcome their legacy of extreme poverty. But this does not mean we are
for my own part, I believe that it is open to debate whether the Communist
Party has any specific role to play at this particular stage of our political
struggle. The basic task at the present moment is the removal of race
discrimination and the attainment of democratic rights on the basis of the
Freedom Charter. In so far as that Party furthers this task, I welcome its
assistance. I realize that it is one of the means by which people of all races
can be drawn into our struggle.
reading of Marxist literature and from conversations with Marxists, I have gained
the impression that communists regard the parliamentary system of the West as
undemocratic and reactionary. But, on the contrary, I am an admirer of such a
Carta, the Petition of Rights, and the Bill of Rights are documents which are held
in veneration by democrats throughout the world.
great respect for British political institutions, and for the country’s system
of justice. I regard the British Parliament as the most democratic institution
in the world, and the independence and impartiality of its judiciary never fail
to arouse my admiration.
American Congress, that country’s doctrine of separation of powers, as well as
the independence of its judiciary, arouses in me similar sentiments.
been influenced in my thinking by both West and East. All this has led me to
feel that in my search for a political formula, I should be absolutely
impartial and objective. I should tie myself to no particular system of society
other than of socialism. I must leave myself free to borrow the best from the
West and from the East . . .
certain Exhibits which suggest that we received financial support from abroad,
and I wish to deal with this question.
political struggle has always been financed from internal sources – from funds
raised by our own people and by our own supporters. Whenever we had a special
campaign or an important political case – for example, the Treason Trial – we
received financial assistance from sympathetic individuals and organizations in
the Western countries. We had never felt it necessary to go beyond these
in 1961 the Umkhonto was formed, and a new phase of struggle introduced, we
realized that these events would make a heavy call on our slender resources,
and that the scale of our activities would be hampered by the lack of funds.
One of my instructions, as I went abroad in January 1962, was to raise funds
from the African states.
I must add
that, whilst abroad, I had discussions with leaders of political movements in
Africa and discovered that almost every single one of them, in areas which had
still not attained independence, had received all forms of assistance from the
socialist countries, as well as from the West, including that of financial
support. I also discovered that some well-known African states, all of them
non-communists, and even anti-communists, had received similar assistance.
return to the Republic, I made a strong recommendation to the ANC that we
should not confine ourselves to Africa and the Western countries, but that we
should also send a mission to the socialist countries to raise the funds which
we so urgently needed.
been told that after I was convicted such a mission was sent, but I am not
prepared to name any countries to which it went, nor am I at liberty to
disclose the names of the organizations and countries which gave us support or
promised to do so.
understand the State case, and in particular the evidence of ‘Mr. X’, the
suggestion is that Umkhonto was the inspiration of the Communist Party which
sought by playing upon imaginary grievances to enrol the African people into an
army which ostensibly was to fight for African freedom, but in reality was
fighting for a communist state. Nothing could be further from the truth. In
fact the suggestion is preposterous. Umkhonto was formed by Africans to further
their struggle for freedom in their own land. Communists and others supported
the movement, and we only wish that more sections of the community would join
is against real, and not imaginary, hardships or, to use the language of the
State Prosecutor, ‘so-called hardships’. Basically, we fight against two
features which are the hallmarks of African life in South Africa and which are
entrenched by legislation which we seek to have repealed. These features are
poverty and lack of human dignity, and we do not need communists or so-called
‘agitators’ to teach us about these things.
Africa is the richest country in Africa, and could be one of the richest
countries in the world. But it is a land of extremes and remarkable contrasts.
The whites enjoy what may well be the highest standard of living in the world,
whilst Africans live in poverty and misery. Forty per cent of the Africans live
in hopelessly overcrowded and, in some cases, drought-stricken Reserves, where
soil erosion and the overworking of the soil makes it impossible for them to
live properly off the land. Thirty per cent are labourers, labour tenants, and
squatters on white farms and work and live under conditions similar to those of
the serfs of the Middle Ages. The other 30 per cent live in towns where they
have developed economic and social habits which bring them closer in many
respects to white standards. Yet most Africans, even in this group, are
impoverished by low incomes and high cost of living.
highest-paid and the most prosperous section of urban African life is in
Johannesburg. Yet their actual position is desperate. The latest figures were
given on 25 March 1964 by Mr. Carr, Manager of the Johannesburg Non-European
Affairs Department. The poverty datum line for the average African family in
Johannesburg (according to Mr. Carr’s department) is R42.84 per month. He
showed that the average monthly wage is R32.24 and that 46 per cent of all
African families in Johannesburg do not earn enough to keep them going.
goes hand in hand with malnutrition and disease. The incidence of malnutrition
and deficiency diseases is very high amongst Africans. Tuberculosis, pellagra,
kwashiorkor, gastro-enteritis, and scurvy bring death and destruction of
health. The incidence of infant mortality is one of the highest in the world.
According to the Medical Officer of Health for Pretoria, tuberculosis kills
forty people a day (almost all Africans), and in 1961 there were 58,491 new
cases reported. These diseases not only destroy the vital organs of the body,
but they result in retarded mental conditions and lack of initiative, and
reduce powers of concentration. The secondary results of such conditions affect
the whole community and the standard of work performed by African labourers.
complaint of Africans, however, is not only that they are poor and the whites
are rich, but that the laws which are made by the whites are designed to
preserve this situation. There are two ways to break out of poverty. The first
is by formal education, and the second is by the worker acquiring a greater
skill at his work and thus higher wages. As far as Africans are concerned, both
these avenues of advancement are deliberately curtailed by legislation.
present Government has always sought to hamper Africans in their search for
education. One of their early acts, after coming into power, was to stop
subsidies for African school feeding. Many African children who attended
schools depended on this supplement to their diet. This was a cruel act.
compulsory education for all white children at virtually no cost to their
parents, be they rich or poor. Similar facilities are not provided for the
African children, though there are some who receive such assistance. African
children, however, generally have to pay more for their schooling than whites.
According to figures quoted by the South African Institute of Race Relations in
its 1963 journal, approximately 40 per cent of African children in the age
group between seven to fourteen do not attend school. For those who do attend
school, the standards are vastly different from those afforded to white
children. In 1960-61 the per capita Government spending on African students at
State-aided schools was estimated at R12.46. In the same years, the per capita
spending on white children in the Cape Province (which are the only figures
available to me) was R144.57. Although there are no figures available to me, it
can be stated, without doubt, that the white children on whom R144.57 per head
was being spent all came from wealthier homes than African children on whom
R12.46 per head was being spent.
quality of education is also different. According to the Bantu Educational
Journal, only 5,660 African children in the whole of South Africa passed their
Junior Certificate in 1962, and in that year only 362 passed matric. This is
presumably consistent with the policy of Bantu education about which the
present Prime Minister said, during the debate on the Bantu Education Bill in
I have control of Native education I will reform it so that Natives will be
taught from childhood to realize that equality with Europeans is not for them .
. . People who believe in equality are not desirable teachers for Natives. When
my Department controls Native education it will know for what class of higher
education a Native is fitted, and whether he will have a chance in life to use
main obstacle to the economic advancement of the African is the industrial
colour-bar under which all the better jobs of industry are reserved for Whites
only. Moreover, Africans who do obtain employment in the unskilled and
semi-skilled occupations which are open to them are not allowed to form trade
unions which have recognition under the Industrial Conciliation Act. This means
that strikes of African workers are illegal, and that they are denied the right
of collective bargaining which is permitted to the better-paid White workers.
The discrimination in the policy of successive South African Governments
towards African workers is demonstrated by the so-called ‘civilized labour
policy’ under which sheltered, unskilled Government jobs are found for those
white workers who cannot make the grade in industry, at wages which far exceed
the earnings of the average African employee in industry.
Government often answers its critics by saying that Africans in South Africa
are economically better off than the inhabitants of the other countries in
Africa. I do not know whether this statement is true and doubt whether any
comparison can be made without having regard to the cost-of-living index in
such countries. But even if it is true, as far as the African people are
concerned it is irrelevant. Our complaint is not that we are poor by comparison
with people in other countries, but that we are poor by comparison with the
white people in our own country, and that we are prevented by legislation from
altering this imbalance.
of human dignity experienced by Africans is the direct result of the policy of
white supremacy. White supremacy implies black inferiority. Legislation
designed to preserve white supremacy entrenches this notion. Menial tasks in
South Africa are invariably performed by Africans. When anything has to be
carried or cleaned the white man will look around for an African to do it for
him, whether the African is employed by him or not. Because of this sort of
attitude, whites tend to regard Africans as a separate breed. They do not look
upon them as people with families of their own; they do not realize that they
have emotions – that they fall in love like white people do; that they want to
be with their wives and children like white people want to be with theirs; that
they want to earn enough money to support their families properly, to feed and
clothe them and send them to school. And what ‘house-boy’ or ‘garden-boy’ or
labourer can ever hope to do this?
which to the Africans are among the most hated bits of legislation in South
Africa, render any African liable to police surveillance at any time. I doubt
whether there is a single African male in South Africa who has not at some
stage had a brush with the police over his pass. Hundreds and thousands of
Africans are thrown into jail each year under pass laws. Even worse than this
is the fact that pass laws keep husband and wife apart and lead to the
breakdown of family life.
and the breakdown of family life have secondary effects. Children wander about
the streets of the townships because they have no schools to go to, or no money
to enable them to go to school, or no parents at home to see that they go to
school, because both parents (if there be two) have to work to keep the family
alive. This leads to a breakdown in moral standards, to an alarming rise in
illegitimacy, and to growing violence which erupts not only politically, but
everywhere. Life in the townships is dangerous. There is not a day that goes by
without somebody being stabbed or assaulted. And violence is carried out of the
townships in the white living areas. People are afraid to walk alone in the
streets after dark. Housebreakings and robberies are increasing, despite the
fact that the death sentence can now be imposed for such offences. Death
sentences cannot cure the festering sore.
want to be paid a living wage. Africans want to perform work which they are
capable of doing, and not work which the Government declares them to be capable
o Africans want to be allowed to live where they obtain work, and not be
endorsed out of an area because they were not born there. Africans want to be
allowed to own land in places where they work, and not to be obliged to live in
rented houses which they can never call their own. Africans want to be part of
the general population, and not confined to living in their own ghettoes.
African men want to have their wives and children to live with them where they
work, and not be forced into an unnatural existence in men’s hostels. African
women want to be with their menfolk and not be left permanently widowed in the
Reserves. Africans want to be allowed out after eleven o’clock at night and not
to be confined to their rooms like little children. Africans want to be allowed
in their own country and to seek work where they want to and not where the
Labour Bureau tells them to. Africans want a just share in the whole of South
Africa; they want security and a stake in society.
we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be
permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country,
because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear
fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will
guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the
enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division,
based on colour, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the
domination of one colour group by another. The ANC has spent half a century
fighting against racialism. When it triumphs it will not change that policy.
is what the ANC is fighting. Their struggle is a truly national one. It is a
struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and their own
experience. It is a struggle for the right to live.
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.
June 1964, at the conclusion of the trial, Mandela and seven others – Walter
Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed
Kathrada and Denis Goldberg – were convicted. Mandela was found guilty on four
charges of sabotage and like the others was sentenced ro life imprisonment.
those who are prepared to make sacrifices.
armoured vehicles: British-made military troop carriers.
witnesses in the trial whose names were withheld for their protection.
was among those arrested in connection with the Rivonia case. Later he and
three others in custody escaped from jail by bribing a guard, and fled the
the name of the farm in the district of Rivonia on the northern outskirts of
Johannesburg where the arrests took place. At the time it was let to Arthur
The Junior Certificate examination was generally taken by white children
at the age of 15 and they could not normally leave school before this. Matriculation was taken two years later and
qualified students for higher education. The educational system, however,
ensured that very few Africans reached Junior Certificate level, so that what
represented a basic standard for whites was one of achievement for Africans.
Even fewer attained matriculation level.