The Trial of Nelson Mandela (Rivonia Trial): Testimony of Bruno Mtolo
Testimony of Bruno Mtolo, saboteur, for the prosecution

           Direct Examination by Percy Yutar:

           Yutar:  Bruno, are you a sabateur?
           Mtolo:  Yes, I was.
Yutar:  Did you blow up pylons and othe government property in Durban?
           Mtolo:  Yes, I did.

            Yutar: Who ordered you to commit these acts of sabotage?
            Mtolo:  The Regional Command.
            Yutar: And from whom did the Regional Command receive its orders?
Mtolo: From the National High Command.
            Yutar: Where were the headquarters of the National High Command?

On the Rand.
            Yutar: Where on the Rand?
            Mtolo:  At Rivonia.
            Yutar: Were you ever at these headquarters?
            Mtolo: Yes. 
            Yutar: Why did you commit these acts of sabotage?
            Mtolo: Since 1960 I, together with others, had been gradually indoctrinated with Communism. 
            Yutar: How and with what did this gradual indoctrination begin?
            Mtolo: They started telling us about trade unions. 
            Yutar:  [What were you taught?]
Mtolo: When they taught us about trade unions, we were told that this country with all its wealth belongs to us, the Bantu people. We had been robbed of out inheritance by the White man’s cunning, so that we were forced to suffer poverty and wretchedness. 
Yutar: What else were you taught to believe?
            Mtolo: They told us that we had to wipe out the capitalist Government and establish a Government composed of the working classes....
Yutar: And what was to take the place of capitalism?
            Mtolo: Socialism would first be introduced, and afterwards Communism. 
            Yutar: Were you told what attitude to adopt if you were arrested?
            Mtolo: We were not to tell the police anything and to refuse to make any statement.... 
Yutar: Did you believe everything that was said in these books [that you were told to read by Stephan Dhalmini of SACTU]?—
            Mtolo: Not at first; but the more I read the more I began to believe that these things were true.          
            Yutar: Was SACTU ever mentioned at ANC meetings?
            Mtolo: Yes, often. It was stressed that ANC members should join SACTU, and vice versa.
            Yutar: Was SACTU also mentioned at meetings of the Communist Party?
            Mtolo: Yes, we were told to encourage people to join SACTU....
            Yutar: Do you know who this White man [who was said to be organizing a sabotage group in Durban] was?
            Mtolo: I never saw him personally. I heard that his name was Bernsted— Rusty Bernsted or Bernstein— something like that....
Mtolo:  Then we received a letter from the High Command in which we were told to recruit eight persons between the ages of 16 and 30 to be sent abroad for military training. Candidates had to have at least a Standard Eight certificate; afterwards this minimum qualification was reduced to Standard Six....            
            Mandela went on to tell us about his meeting with the chief commander of the Algerian army, who supported Communism. This man had taken him to see a training camp more or less on the border between Algeria and Tunisia. At that time the Algerians were still fighting against the French, and in this camp Algerian guerrillas were being trained. The army commander told Mandela that he was anxious to help the South African freedom fighters. Recruits from South Africa could be sent to this camp to be trained as guerrillas. They would even be supplied with arms....

            Yutar: Did you train [armed members of Umkhonto] in the arts taught to you?
Mtolo:  I did not put myself out to teach them for a particular reason.
            Yutar:  And what was that reason?

            Mtolo: My heart was no longer with Umkhonto We Sizwe.
            Yutar: Why not?
             Mtolo: Since April that year I had been in hiding. I am a married man and I have two children. When I joined Umkhonto, I was told that if I suspected that I was being watched by the police, I was to report this to the Regional Command. We were given to understand that if you were in danger of being arrested, you would be taken to a place of safety and your family cared for. Another thing, I had had to give up my permanent job. I had been promised a monthly salary, but from June, 1962, until the day when I was arrested, R1O was all I ever received. They kept promising that I would be paid, and they were still making promises long after I had given all hope of ever getting anything from them. They didn’t care about me nor about the others, the recruits who were arrested.
            Yutar: Who did not care about them?
            Mtolo: The High Command. When they, the leaders, wanted to leave South Africa they took good care not to get themselves arrested. But they didn’t care about the safety of the recruits.
            Yutar:  How did these so-called leaders of the High Command live?
            Mtolo:  Well it so happened that while I was at the party at Pafeni one of them took me and showed me the house of Walter Sisulu.  The house and its furniture inside, everything was like that of Europeans.  In Joe Modise's house there is a telephone in the house and furniture that I don't possess....

            Yutar: Did they have money?
Mtolo: Mlangeni had a motor car. Walter Sisulu was able to pay R6,000 bail— six thousand rand! And after he had paid the six thousand, he still had his car. When I had to go into hiding, nobody cared if my children went hungry. They did not even pay the rent of my room, which was R3 a month.... 
            Yutar: Did you still carry on with your sabotage work after that?
            Mtolo: No. I had come to hate it. But I was trapped....[On August 3rd, 1963, after his arrest] That night in my cell I thought about my situation. I no longer felt any enthusiasm for the work I had been doing. I made up my mind to make a statement to the police and tell them everything I knew, and that is what I did.

            Cross-examination by Vernon Berrange, Counsel for the defense

          Berrange: You thought matters over?
            Mtolo: Yes          
            Berrange:  And, therefore, at the most within twenty four hours, you had decided to tell the police all you knew?          
Mtolo: Yes.          
Berrange: And the reasons that you have given us were that you weren’t getting the money which you were promised?
Berrange: And that the higher-ups did not seem to care for the security of the recruits?          
That Nelson Mandela and Sisulu seemed to be well off?          
Mtolo: Yes.          
Berrrange:  That the leaders had left the country?          

Berrange: And then you became disillusioned for the reason you have given us?  
             Mtolo: Yes.          
Berrange: Did you become disillusioned because you no longer thought that what the ANC and the liberation movement were struggling for was the right thing?
Mtolo:  I will say this: that I thought all the time that what the ANC was working for was good and I still say so now, that it was good and is good. But what made me feel disillusioned was the action of the leaders.
Berrange: And because you became disillusioned with the leaders you were prepared, within twenty four hours of your arrest, to go and make a statement, to expose the whole of this movement which you believe to be to the benefit of the black man?
Mtolo: If I talk about the African National Congress, it must be known that I talk about the ANC and not this thing about the communists.’
            Berrange: What about the Spear of the Nation?
          Mtolo:  The Spear is connected with the communists.
Berrange: Did you agree with what The Spear was doing?
          Mtolo: I agreed with it when it was doing it for the ANC.
            Berrange: So you say you became disillusioned with The Spear when it was doing it for the communists?
Mtolo: Yes, my Lord, in the way in which they were deceiving the people.
         Berrange: How were they deceiving the people?
Mtolo:  Because the majority of the members of the ANC were not aware of the fact that the leaders were communists.
        Berrange: Now, do you mind telling this court what difference it made to you whether the leaders were communists, or whether they were members of the Liberal Party, or whether they were members of any sort of party, so long as they were doing something which you agreed to and thought was good?
Mtolo:  The deception, the deceiving was the thing.
Berrange: What deceiving?
Mtolo:   Because they are holding the people under the impression that they are, members of the ANC, whereas in fact the leaders are members of the Communists.
            Berrange: You still have not answered my question. What difference did it make to you?
Mtolo:  Because they were not doing it for the ANC, but they were doing it for themselves.
Berrange: Were you a member of the Communist Party?
Mtolo:  Yes.
Berrange: Did you agree with what they were doing?
Mtolo:  Yes.
Berrange: You did. You knew what they were doing?
Mtolo:  Yes.
Berrange: They were doing the very things which you are now objecting to?
Mtolo:  Yes.
Berrange: And you went along with them wholeheartedly?
Mtolo:  Yes.
Berrange: Why?
          Mtolo; As I have already said, I was in agreement with it. I was a member of the Communist Party. But what we were doing at the time was all being done for the ANC.
          Berrange: That is my whole point!
          Mtolo: But then afterwards in recent times, particularly from the beginning of 1963 up to now, it has been quite clear that what is being done is not done for the ANC. It’s being done for the Communist Party.
Berrange: How did that become clear to you?
Mtolo: Because the members of the ANC, it became clear to them afterwards that the leaders were communists. In other words, the genuine ANC people, members—it became clear to them and they realized that the leaders were now the heads of the organization and they were not working for the ANC any more, but were working for the Communist Party.
Berrange: How did that become clear to you?
Mtolo: Because in the beginning of 1963 we were receiving directives that were coming from the Communist Party. According to those directives we were advised that because the ANC members are dissatisfied and don’t agree with The Spear of the Nation, that we were members of the Communist Party must get into the ANC organization and get into the different branches so that we can get hold of the leadership in those branches.
          Mr Justice de Wet: just a minute. Can you explain to me? Is there any difference between the aims and objectives of the Communist Party and the aims and objectives of the ANC?
          Mtolo: Yes, there is a difference, my Lord.
          De Wet: That is what counsel wants you to explain. What is the difference?
          Mtolo: Because the policy of the ANC is not that the wealth of the country and the government should go to the workers, my Lord. The difference between the ideas of the ANC and the Communist Party is that the communist says that the wealth of the country must come to the workers, in other words, the workers will rule this country. It is the worker who will then have to decide how this wealth is shared and distributed. The difference is that the policy of the ANC—the way they looked at things—was that the wealth of the country should be divided and shared by the people of the country, not the workers.
          Berrange: So you draw the distinction between the people and the workers?
Mtolo: Yes.
Berrange: And you were prepared, therefore if your evidence is true, to betray these members of the ANC for whom you had such a soft feeling, because they were being deceived—merely because of the fact that members of the Communist Party had infiltrated into the ranks of the ANC?
          Mtolo: As I am standing here I am satisfied in my own mind that I did not harm the members of the ANC. As a matter of fact I have done them a favour.
          Berrange: Are you serious?
Berrange: Well, who have you betrayed?
Mtolo: I have told to the ANC people that these people who are leading in this way were deceiving them.
Berrange: But what about those members of the ANC who have been arrested and sent to jail, and those who will still be arrested and sent to jail because of the fact that you have exposed them—if your evidence is true. You have exposed, if your evidence is true, the whole of the set up. What about them?
Mtolo: Those who have been already convicted because they were furthering the objects of the movement and the ANC are prepared to go to jail for their cause, and I am still prepared to go for that cause, but not to go to jail through being deceived.
Berrange: Now you gave evidence for many days last year (prior to the adjournment)?
Mtolo: Yes.
Berrange: And you gave us then a reason for your disillusion—a number of reasons which I read out to you this morning.
Mtolo: Yes.
Berrange: You never at that stage mentioned at all any of the reasons you have given me today. You mentioned then the fact that you weren’t getting any money; the recruits were not being cared for the leaders seemed to have a lot of money and the leaders have left the country. And I want to indicate to you in due course that all those reasons are false. When did you think of the reasons that you have given us today?
Mtolo: When I was giving evidence in chief I was not questioned about he ANC as I am questioned by you now.
Berrange: You were questioned.
Mtolo: But those reasons which you have just mentioned now were in regard to Umkhonto we Sizwe.
Berrange: You were questioned as to the reasons for your becoming disillusioned and never gave this as one of your reasons.
Mtolo: I was questioned then, when I gave my evidence in chief in regard to Umkhonto we Sizwe. There are many other things I can say. The more you question me the more I can bring out that I haven’t said before.
Berrange: I am sure. Is this the first time you have ever been in a court?
Mtolo: No.
Berrange: In this court?
Mtolo: I was here last year.
Berrange: Is this the only case you have appeared in?
Mtolo: Do you mean one that is not concerned with politics? 
          Berrange: I am just asking you. Is this the only case that you have appeared in?
Mtolo: I have given evidence in other courts....          
          Berrange: I return now to the question I was asking you before the interval. You say you have given evidence in other cases before?
          Mtolo: Yes. But not political cases.
Berrange: Cases in which you yourself have been involved?
          Yes. One.
Berrange: Well, what sort of cases?
Mtolo: Attempted murder.
Berrange: Who was the accused?
Mtolo: Joseph Nduli.
Berrange: You say that that was not a political case?
Mtolo: No, that was an attempted murder charge.
Berrange: Wasn’t that a case where a bomb was put in the Induna’s room?
Mtolo: Yes.
Berrange: One of the acts of sabotage that you have related here? (And one of the acts charged in the indictment!)
Mtolo: Yes. But the difference is that that person did not attempt to murder this person for the . . . he had no connection with the organization.
          Berrange: It wasn’t a political crime? It was a personal crime?
          Mtolo: Yes.
Berrange: It was a personal grudge?
Mtolo: Yes.
Berrange: You made the bomb though, didn’t you?
Mtolo: Yes.
Berrange: And you gave evidence about it?
Mtolo: In that case, yes.
Berrange: And one of the witnesses gave evidence to the effect that he had received a bomb?  
          Mtolo: When the witnesses gave evidence in court we were not listening.
Berrange: But you must have been questioned by the police?
Mtolo: Well, whether I handled the bomb.
Berrange: No, but you must have been questioned about this incident by the police?
Mtolo: Yes, I was.
Berrange: You actually gave evidence for the State?
Mtolo: Yes.
Berrange: And did you tell the police that you had made this bomb?
Mtolo: No, I did not.
Berrange: You hid that from them?
Mtolo: Yes.
Berrange: Any other cases in which you have been involved?
Mtolo: When you say I hid it from the police, you mean at that time?
Berrange: Yes.
Mtolo: Yes, that is so.
Berrange: And you didn’t give any evidence about it? Although you knew all about it?
Mtolo: I did not give evidence.
Berrange: Tell me, have you ever been to a reformatory?
Mtolo: No.
Berrange: Is that truthful?
Mtolo: Yes.
Berrange: Have you even been in jail?
Mtolo: Many times when I was still a youngster, but not a reformatory.
Berrange: How many sentences have you served?
Mtolo: In 1950 there were several charges that were taken as one. I am sorry, my Lord, all the sentences taken together amounted to four years, four and a half?
Berrange: Four and a half is what you served. Six is what you were sentenced to.
          Mtolo: I served actually four and a half years. Two years of that, I am not certain whether it was consecutive or not.
          Berrange: We are not worrying whether it was for four years and a half or six. What was the offence for which you were sent to jail, for six years?
Mtolo: It was for taking articles, parcels from a goods train, a truck.    
          Berrange: Stealing?
Mtolo: Yes.
Berrange: That was in 1952?
Mtolo: 1950.
Berrange: How many convictions have you got? I am only talking about convictions in regard to dishonesty.
Mtolo: I would say, three.
Berrange: Have you been in jail on every occasion?
Mtolo: Yes.
Berrange: And they were all for dishonesty or theft?
Mtolo: For theft.
Berrange: And yet you broke from the Communist Party and its ideology because you were a respecter of property?
Mtolo: Yes, and the reason for that is serving in jail in 1950 taught me to respect other people’s property.
Berrange: And it taught you so well that you were not prepared to serve in the Communist Party when they said that the property was to go to the workers and not the people?
Mtolo: yes.
Berrange: You were still blowing up other people’s property though, weren’t you?
Mtolo:Yes, I was doing that.
Berrange: And that was because you were completely satisfied that the policy of the African National Congress was the only policy which would enable the African people to achieve what you felt they would be able to achieve?
Mtolo:Yes, and the reason for that is serving in jail in 1950 taught me to respect other people’s property.
Berrange: They can only achieve this by violence?
Mtolo: The word violence is rather…
          Berrange: Yes, by acts of sabotage and that sort of thing.
          Mtolo: I would say yes.
Berrange: One of the reasons that you gave was the fact that you said that the leaders had run away.
Mtolo: Yes.  
          Berrange: Was that true?
Mtolo: Yes.
Berrange: Who had run away? Who had left the country?
Mtolo: Jack Hodgson. Johnnie Makatini.
Berrange: Why do you call him a leader?
Mtolo: He went on military training. He is in Morocco. He was a leader.
Berrange: A leader of what?
Mtolo: Of the ANC.
Berrange: And he is in Morocco now?
Mtolo: Yes.
Berrange: And what happened to him?
Mtolo: He is staying there.
Berrange: Anybody else?
Mtolo: Many of them. Joe Slovo.
Berrange: Give us the leaders who had run away at the time when you decided to give evidence for the State, over that 24-hour period when you got arrested. What leaders had left the country at that stage?
Mtolo: I am not only referring to what happened in June. I am referring what was happening all the time. The people as soon as they were faced with particular difficulties, they fled.
Berrange: You said that the leaders had left the country and that was why, when you were arrested, during that night, you decided that you were going to give evidence for the State. I am asking you what leaders had left the country at the time when you came to that decision?
Mtolo: Joe Slovo, Michael Harmel, Jack Hodgson.
Berrange: They all left the country at that time?
Mtolo: They had left.
Berrange: Really? And Nelson Mandela?
Mtolo: Talking about Nelson Mandela, I want to tell you that he is the only one of the leaders that I have respect for.
Berrange: But you were talking about a lot of leaders leaving the country. You see a lot of men in the dock here, don’t you?
Mtolo: Yes.
Berrange: Tell me, other than going to jail for theft, breaking into railway coaches and that sort of thing, have you ever been banned? Have you ever been put under house arrest?  
          Mtolo: No.
Berrange: Have you ever been prohibited from attending meetings?
Mtolo: No.
Berrange: Have you ever been sent to jail for your political beliefs?
Mtolo: No.
Berrange: Well, that is what happened to most of these men here.
Mtolo: That I admit.
Berrange: But you, Mr Mtolo, prefer to give evidence against these men because you say the leaders had left.
Mtolo: I said one of the reasons. But these people, referring to these people sitting here, there are some of these also that I realized were playing the fool with us. I haven’t suffered the suffering they have suffered, but the deeds they have done are almost the same as the deeds of those who have fled.
Berrange: So in order to ensure the safety of the ANC you decided to make the statement.
Mtolo: In the interests of the ANC. Not the ANC alone, all the people in South Africa.
Berrange: They would all benefit? And you regarded yourself as a benefactor?
Mtolo: Every person on this earth ought to think of other people.
Berrange: Don’t you think that that is just a bit of sheer hypocrisy?
Mtolo: No, I am saying that for it is true, from the bottom of my heart, my Lord....          
          Berrange: Did you go inside the house?
          Mtolo: Yes.
Berrange: Who was there?
Mtolo: There were some children sitting in the door. We went in a and enquired for his wife. She was not there.
Berrange: Why should Seloro want to show you Sisulu’s house?
          Mtolo:He was just going to show me the house of one of the leaders.  He was one of the leaders.
Berrange: But why?
Mtolo: So that I should just know.
Berrange: Know what?
Mtolo: Know my leader’s house.
Berrange: But why?
Mtolo: It was just incidental.
Berrange: What parts of the house did you go into?
Mtolo: We went through the kitchen, we went to the dining room.
Berrange: Yes. Anywhere else?
Mtolo: We sat down in the dining room.
Berrange: In the absence of Sisulu or his wife. What for?
Mtolo: Seloro then asked where Mrs. Sisulu was and the boy said she was not at home. Then Seloro said it was alright, we would see him at the party in any case because he would be there.
Berrange: So that was your only reason for going to his house?
Mtolo: That is all.
Berrange: When was this?
Mtolo: Towards the end of April 1963.
Berrange: But by that time you had already become disillusioned with your leaders?
Mtolo: That does not mean to say that I would not agree to go to their house.
          Berrange: Did you think it a very safe
thing for you to go to Sisulu’s house under the circumstances when you were supposed to be in hiding?...
          Berrange: Do you remember saying to his Lordship that the Rivonia arrests were hard on Billy Nair? Those were the exact words used. You went on to say that you did not care.’
          Mtolor: That is correct.
Berrange: Do you remember saying that?
Mtolo: Yes, I do.
Berrange: Did you discuss those arrests with Billy Nair?
Mtolo: Yes, we did.
          Berrange: The Rivonia arrests. I see, well that’s rather interesting. Because at the time the Rivonia arrests took place, Billy Nair had already been arrested for some time...
          Interpreter: My Lord, the witness is now deep in thought. He is still thinking very hard while counsel was putting that question.
          Berrange: I am sure.
          Interpreter: He was softly whispering ‘Billy Nair, Billy Nair’, he was evidently thinking very hard.
Mtolo: My Lord, I think that I should say that in my evidence I said—I think what I meant to convey was that the arrests at Rivonia were a sore point to people like Billy Nair.
          Berrange: Oh, no! You said that the Rivonia arrests were hard on people like Billy Nair, but you did not care. And you also said only a few moments ago that you actually discussed the Rivonia arrests with Billy Nair.
          Mtolo: No, that I did not say.
          Berrange: Oh, yes, you did.
Mtolo: No. Then it would be a mistake.
Berrange: Oh, no it is not, I am sorry. Now what did you mean when you said that the Rivonia arrests were hard on people like Billy Nair, seeing that he was already arrested?
Mtolo: What I . . . I may have expressed it in those words, but what I meant to convey was that the arrests at Rivonia was something that was a sore point. It hurt people like Billy Nair.
Berrange: Is that what you meant to convey, although he had been arrested before Rivonia?
Mtolo: Yes, he was arrested before Rivonia.
Berrange: Although you did say a few moments ago that you discussed it with Billy Nair?
Mtolo: No, not discussed....
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