The Trial of Nelson Mandela (Rivonia
Trial): Testimony of Govan Mbeki
of Govan Mbeki, defendant
Direct Examination by Bram Fischer:
Nelson Mandela Trial Homepage
Fischer: Had you good reason for
this [carrying on the ANC illegally after it was banned]?
Mbeki: Yes. The ANC after a
number of years, a number of decades, has been the vanguard of the
people for national liberation And it
was something that I just couldn’t accept. At the
time thousands of
people looked up to the ANC to lead them in the struggle against the
were threatening practically every right that the African had enjoyed
As I say, I just could not accept the fact that the government should
the ANC. I therefore continued to be a member of the ANC under
Has the [white supremacist] policy [of the South African government]
changed, apart from the name?
Mbeki: No. Apart from that, the
leopard has not changed its colours at all. The position was very
expressed by the late Prime Minister, Mr. JG Strydom, when he said ‘die
moet altyd baas wees’ (the white man must always remain the boss).
Fischer: Has any one of the last three
Prime Ministers including the present Prime Minister ever met any
member of the African National Congress?
Mbeki: Not one of them.
about methods of
protest. Since this government has been in power what has happened to
of Africans to hold meetings or demonstrations or processions?
Mbeki: In the reserves (i.e.
occupied rural areas), since the early 5Os
meetings have been banned except those that have the approval of the
Commissioners. In an area like the Transkei, Proclamation 400,
was passed about four years ago to meet the specific situation, has
permanent feature of the administration. In the
urban areas it is
virtually impossible to find a place to hold political meetings of
chiefs or headmen who do not approve of government policies have either
deposed or banished. I think that since the Nationalist Party came into
in 1948, no less than 133 chiefs have been banished to different areas
their language is not spoken, or where they couldn’t make a living....
Fischer: I think you worked
eight years in Port Elizabeth?
Mbeki: Yes, I worked for eight
years in Port Elizabeth
and during that time I was never able to live with my family.
Mbeki: I was not allowed to rent a
house because I had not qualified to be permanently resident in Port Elizabeth
had not worked for one employer continuously for a period of ten years.
you were never able to bring
your family to live with you?
eight years I was there I was never able to do so.
Fischer: Your case is not unique?
Mbeki: No, it is not unique. Not at
all, because lots of other men who live in single men’s barracks lived
without their families.
Cross-examination by Percy Yutar:Yutar: I think you will also
agree that, despite the evil influences of the South African
have not got ritual murders in this country.
Mbeki: What would that explain
in any case?
you know that the South
African Medical Research officials, apart from helping the Bantu in
country, have sent some of their serums to help the non-Europeans in
countries? Do you know about that?
have heard about that.
Yutar: Do you
know that if you present
a balance sheet, you should present a true and fair account? Have you,
fulminated against the South African government and its people,
other side—the benefits which the Bantu have in this country?
benefits? What benefits
have they been given? I am not aware of any benefits the Africans are
from the South African government.
aware at all? And yet
millions try to remain here in this country?
does not explain it.
have given your evidence
here in a calm quiet voice. To make certain I was listening to the same
I had your tape played back (the tape of a speech by Mbeki broadcast
illegal Radio Liberation). You don’t always speak that way do you? You
raise your voice?
Mbeki: If I
must raise it, yes.
you speak a little faster
than you have spoken here?
Mbeki: If I
must speak a little faster,
not so sanctimoniously as
you have tried to speak here?
is your opinion.
from an issue of
the newspaper Spark:]
‘Beneath his quiet charm and gentle smile, a
ruthless determination to reach
his goal—the emancipation of his people.’ Is that a fair description of
ruthless determination. And in
some of your speeches you could be ruthless, not so? And in fact you
speeches which you addressed when you attended meetings throughout the
Do you deny that?
spoke the truth and exposed
what was the hardship of the Africans. If you call that
truth—then I was ruthless.
Yutar: No. I
am just trying to convey,
not the subject matter, but the way in which you put it across. You
were not the
gentle, quiet, sanctimonious human being that you are now showing in
that would have to be the
opinion of whoever was listening to me.
Yutar: Which group [within South Africa's
Communist Party] were you a member?
Mbeki: The Communist Party
know. Which group? I am asking
you which group?
Communist Party group, I
how many groups were there
in Port Elizabeth?
don’t know. I was only
concerned with my group. That is the group I want.
Yutar: What was its name?
Communist Party group has no
name. It is not like a football club.
who were the members of your
Mbeki: That I
am not prepared to say.
are not prepared to tell us?
should I do so? I am not
prepared to incriminate anybody....
Mbeki, I will put it to
you in very brief form. Four charges against you and you have replied
to all of
them. You have replied ‘yes’ to all of them. Can you tell his Lordship
have pleaded not guilty to the four counts?
Mbeki: Yes. I
did not plead guilty to
the four counts for the simple reason, firstly, that I should come and
from here under oath some of the reasons that led me to join Umkhonto
And secondly, for the simple reason that to plead guilty would to my
indicate a sense of moral guilt to it. I do not accept that there is
guilt attached to my actions.
let us forget about
moral guilt. Having now admitted, after making some political speeches,
you were on the National High Command, have committed sabotage, that
acts of sabotage had been conspired to be committed, and you furthered
of communism, that you and your colleagues solicited money both here
in order to advance these campaigns, do you now plead guilty?
Mbeki: I am not pleading guilty!
you don’t. You don’t even
admit you are legally guilty?
Mbeki: I have explained my position....