"I Am Prepared To Die"
Nelson Mandela during his 1964 trial
Nelson Mandela's statement at the opening of
the defense case in the Rivonia Trial
(Pretoria Supreme Court, April 20, 1964)
I am the First Accused.
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.
At the 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 have
In my 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
Having 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
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.
In the 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.
I deny 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.
I have 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.
But the 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.
The 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:
"who 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".
Even after 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
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.
During the 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
In 1960 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.
In 1960 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.
The 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.
Some of 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.
I must 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 terrorism.
It must 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
At the 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.
This 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 Umkhonto published on 16 December 1961, which is Exhibit AD, we
"The time comes in the life of any nation when there
remain only two choices - submit or fight. That time has now come to
South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back
by all means in our power in defence of our people, our future, and our
This was 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 follows:
- It was a mass political organization with a political
function to fulfil. Its members had joined on the express policy of
- 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
- 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 ANC.
I say '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
As a 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?
The 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
Four forms 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.
In the 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
"We 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
The 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.
Attacks on 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.
In addition, 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.
This then 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'.
The 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.
Umkhonto 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 organizations.
The 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.
In 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?
Already 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.
How many 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.
Experience 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 favourable 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 warfare.
All whites 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.
At this 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 Exhibits.
I started 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.
I also 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.
I returned 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 ANC
Another of 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.
I came 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 Palestine.
- 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.
Another of 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.
The 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 fulfilment for the African people in their own land. The
most important political document ever adopted by the ANC is the
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
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.
The ANC, 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
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 interests.
The 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.
Another 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
I believe 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 the 1930s.
This 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
I joined 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.
It is 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 Act.
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.
I have 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
It is 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 Marxists.
Indeed, 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
From my 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 system.
The Magna Carta, the Petition of Rights, and the Bill of
Rights are documents which are held in veneration by democrats
throughout the world.
I have 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.
The American Congress, that country's doctrine of separation
of powers, as well as the independence of its judiciary, arouses in me
I have 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 . . .
There are certain Exhibits which suggest that we received
financial support from abroad, and I wish to deal with this question.
Our 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
But when 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
On my 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.
I have 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.
As I 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 us.
Our fight 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.
South 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
The 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.
Poverty 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.
The 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.
The 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.
There is 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.
The 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 1953:
"When 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 his knowledge."
The other 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.
The 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.
The lack 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?
Pass laws, 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
Poverty 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.
Africans 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 to travel 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
Above all, 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 democracy.
But this 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.
This then 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.
During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle
of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I
have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a
democratic and free society in which all persons live together in
harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to
live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am
prepared to die.