Sentencing Statement of Justice Quartus de Wet in the Trial of Nelson Mandela (Rivonia Trial)

Scene outside the Palace of Justice in Pretoria (awaiting sentencing)

I have heard a great deal during the course of this case about the grievances of the non-White population. The accused have told me, and their counsel have told me, that the accused, who are all leaders of the non-White population, had been motivated entirely by a desire to ameliorate these grievances. I am by no means convinced that the motives of the accused are as altruistic as they wish the Court to believe. People who organise a revolution usually plan to take over the government, and personal ambition cannot be excluded as a motive.

The function of this court, as is the function of a court in any country, is to enforce law and order and to enforce the laws of the state within which it functions. The crime of which the accused have been convicted, that is the main crime, the crime of conspiracy, is in essence one of high treason. The State has decided not to charge the crime in this form. Bearing this in mind, and giving the matter very serious consideration I have decided not to impose the supreme penalty, which in a case like this would usually be the penalty for such a crime. But consistent with my duty, that is the only leniency which I can show. The sentence in the case of all the accused will be one of life imprisonment. In the case of the accused who have been convicted on more than one count, these counts will be taken together for the purpose of sentence.

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