The Trial of Nelson Mandela (Rivonia
Trial): Testimony of Bruno Mtolo
of Bruno Mtolo, saboteur, for the prosecution
Direct Examination by Percy Yutar:
Yutar: Bruno, are you a sabateur?
Mtolo: Yes, I was.
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?
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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?
Mtolo: On the Rand.
Yutar: Where on the Rand?
Yutar: Were you ever at
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?
started telling us about trade
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
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
Yutar: And what was to take
the place of capitalism?
would first be introduced, and afterwards
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?
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]
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
the ages of 16 and 30 to be sent abroad for military training.
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
less on the border between Algeria
At that time the Algerians were still fighting against the French, and
in this camp
guerrillas were being trained. The army commander told Mandela that he
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
supplied with arms....
you train [armed members of Umkhonto] in the arts taught to you?
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?
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
report this to the Regional Command. We were given to understand that
were in danger of being arrested, you would be taken to a place of
your family cared for. Another thing, I had had to give up my permanent
had been promised a monthly salary, but from June, 1962, until the day
was arrested, R1O was all I ever received. They kept promising that I
paid, and they were still making promises long after I had given all
ever getting anything from them. They didn’t care about me nor about
others, the recruits who were arrested.
Yutar: Who did not care
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
the safety of the recruits.
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?
had a motor car. Walter Sisulu was able to pay R6,000 bail— six
And after he had paid the six thousand, he still had his car. When I
had to go
nobody cared if my children went hungry. They did not even pay the rent
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
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.
Counsel for the defense
Berrange: You thought matters
Berrange: And, therefore, at the most
within twenty four hours, you had decided to tell the police all you
Berrange: And the reasons that you
given us were that you weren’t getting the money which you were
Berrange: And that the higher-ups did
seem to care for the security of the recruits?
Berrange: That Nelson Mandela and
seemed to be well off?
Berrrange: That the leaders had left the
Berrange: And then you became
disillusioned for the reason you have given us?
Berrange: Did you become disillusioned
because you no longer thought that what the ANC and the liberation
were struggling for was the right thing?
Mtolo: I will say this: that I
all the time that what the ANC was working for was good and I still say
that it was good and is good. But what made me feel disillusioned was
action of the leaders.
Berrange: And because you became
disillusioned with the leaders you were prepared, within twenty four
your arrest, to go and make a statement, to expose the whole of this
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
Mtolo: The Spear is connected with
Berrange: Did you agree with what The
Spear was doing?
Mtolo: I agreed with it when it
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
Mtolo: Because the majority of the
members of the ANC were not aware of the fact that the leaders were
do you mind telling this
court what difference it made to you whether the leaders were
whether they were members of the Liberal Party, or whether they were
any sort of party, so long as they were doing something which you
agreed to and
thought was good?
Mtolo: The deception, the deceiving
Berrange: What deceiving?
Mtolo: Because they
are holding the
people under the impression that they are, members of the ANC, whereas
the leaders are members of the Communists.
Berrange: You still have not answered
question. What difference did it make to you?
Mtolo: Because they were not doing
for the ANC, but they were doing it for themselves.
Berrange: Were you a member of the
Berrange: Did you agree with what they
Berrange: You did. You knew what they
Berrange: They were doing the very
which you are now objecting to?
Berrange: And you went along with them
Mtolo; As I have already said, I was in agreement with
I was a member of the Communist Party. But what we were doing at the
all being done for the ANC.
Berrange: That is my whole
Mtolo: But then afterwards in
recent times, particularly from the beginning of 1963 up to now, it has
quite clear that what is being done is not done for the ANC. It’s being
for the Communist Party.
Berrange: How did that become clear to
Mtolo: Because the members of the
it became clear to them afterwards that the leaders were communists. In
words, the genuine ANC people, members—it became clear to them and they
that the leaders were now the heads of the organization and they were
working for the ANC any more, but were working for the Communist Party.
Berrange: How did that become clear to
Mtolo: Because in the beginning of
we were receiving directives that were coming from the Communist Party.
According to those directives we were advised that because the ANC
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
the different branches so that we can get hold of the leadership in
Mr Justice de Wet: just a
minute. Can you explain to me? Is there any difference between the aims
objectives of the Communist Party and the aims and objectives of the
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
workers, my Lord. The difference between the ideas of the ANC and the
Party is that the communist says that the wealth of the country must
the workers, in other words, the workers will rule this country. It is
worker who will then have to decide how this wealth is shared and
The difference is that the policy of the ANC—the way they looked at
that the wealth of the country should be divided and shared by the
the country, not the workers.
Berrange: So you draw the
distinction between the people and the workers?
Berrange: And you were prepared,
if your evidence is true, to betray these members of the ANC for whom
such a soft feeling, because they were being deceived—merely because of
fact that members of the Communist Party had infiltrated into the ranks
Mtolo: As I am standing here I
am satisfied in my own mind that I did not harm the members of the ANC.
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
the ANC who have been arrested and sent to jail, and those who will
arrested and sent to jail
because of the fact that you have exposed them—if your evidence is
have exposed, if your evidence is true, the whole of the set up. What
Mtolo: Those who have been already
convicted because they were furthering the objects of the movement and
are prepared to go to jail for their cause, and I am still prepared to
that cause, but not to go to jail through being deceived.
Berrange: Now you gave evidence for
days last year (prior to the adjournment)?
Berrange: And you gave us then a
for your disillusion—a number of reasons which I read out to you this
Berrange: You never at that stage
mentioned at all any of the reasons you have given me today. You
the fact that you weren’t getting any money; the recruits were not
for the leaders seemed to have a lot of money and the leaders have left
country. And I want to indicate to you in due course that all those
false. When did you think of the reasons that you have given us today?
Mtolo: When I was giving evidence
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
just mentioned now were in regard to Umkhonto we Sizwe.
Berrange: You were questioned as to
reasons for your becoming disillusioned and never gave this as one of
Mtolo: I was questioned then, when
gave my evidence in chief in regard to Umkhonto we Sizwe. There are
things I can say. The more you question me the more I can bring out
haven’t said before.
Berrange: I am sure. Is this the first
time you have ever been in a court?
Mtolo: I was here last year.
Berrange: Is this the only case you
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
Berrange: I return now to the
question I was asking you before the interval. You say you have given
in other cases before?
Mtolo: Yes. But not political
Berrange: Cases in which you yourself
Berrange: Well, what sort of cases?
Mtolo: Attempted murder.
was the accused?
Mtolo: Joseph Nduli.
Berrange: You say that that was not a
Mtolo: No, that was an attempted
Berrange: Wasn’t that a case where a
was put in the Induna’s room?
Berrange: One of the acts of sabotage
you have related here? (And one of the acts charged in the indictment!)
Mtolo: Yes. But the difference is
that person did not attempt to murder this person for the . . . he had
connection with the organization.
Berrange: It wasn’t a political
crime? It was a personal crime?
Berrange: It was a personal grudge?
made the bomb though, didn’t
Berrange: And you gave evidence about
that case, yes.
Berrange: And one of the witnesses
evidence to the effect that he had received a bomb?
Mtolo: When the witnesses gave
court we were not listening.
Berrange: But you must have been
questioned by the police?
Mtolo: Well, whether I handled the
Berrange: No, but you must have been
questioned about this incident by the police?
Mtolo: Yes, I was.
Berrange: You actually gave evidence
Berrange: And did you tell the police
you had made this bomb?
Mtolo: No, I did not.
Berrange: You hid that from them?
Berrange: Any other cases in which you
have been involved?
Mtolo: When you say I hid it from
police, you mean at that time?
that is so.
Berrange: And you didn’t give any
about it? Although you knew all about it?
Mtolo: I did
not give evidence.
Berrange: Tell me, have you ever been
Berrange: Is that truthful?
you even been in jail?
Mtolo: Many times when I was still
youngster, but not a reformatory.
Berrange: How many sentences have you
Mtolo: In 1950 there were several
charges that were taken as one. I am sorry, my Lord, all the sentences
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
you were sent to jail, for six years?
Mtolo: It was for taking articles,
parcels from a goods train, a truck.
Berrange: That was in 1952?
Berrange: How many convictions have
got? I am only talking about convictions in regard to dishonesty.
Mtolo: I would say, three.
Berrange: Have you been in jail on
Berrange: And they were all for
Berrange: And yet you broke from the
Communist Party and its ideology because you were a respecter of
Mtolo: Yes, and the reason for that
serving in jail in 1950 taught me to respect other people’s property.
Berrange: And it taught you so well
you were not prepared to serve in the Communist Party when they said
property was to go to the workers and not the people?
Berrange: You were still blowing up
people’s property though, weren’t you?
Mtolo:Yes, I was doing that.
Berrange: And that was because you
completely satisfied that the policy of the African National Congress
only policy which would enable the African people to achieve what you
would be able to achieve?
Mtolo:Yes, and the reason for that
serving in jail in 1950 taught me to respect other people’s property.
Berrange: They can only achieve this
word violence is rather…
Berrange: Yes, by acts of
sabotage and that sort of thing.
Mtolo: I would say yes.
One of the reasons
that you gave was the fact that you said that the leaders had run away.
Berrange: Was that true?
Berrange: Who had run away? Who had
Mtolo: Jack Hodgson. Johnnie
Berrange: Why do you call him a
Mtolo: He went on military
is in Morocco.
He was a leader.
Berrange: A leader of what?
Mtolo: Of the ANC.
Berrange: And he is in Morocco
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
away at the time when you decided to give evidence for the State, over
24-hour period when you got arrested. What leaders had left the country
Mtolo: I am
not only referring to what
happened in June. I am referring what was happening all the time. The
soon as they were faced with particular difficulties, they fled.
Berrange: You said that the leaders
left the country and that was why, when you were arrested, during that
you decided that you were going to give evidence for the State. I am
what leaders had left the country at the time when you came to that
Mtolo: Joe Slovo, Michael Harmel,
Berrange: They all left the country at
Mtolo: They had left.
Berrange: Really? And Nelson Mandela?
Mtolo: Talking about Nelson
want to tell you that he is the only one of the leaders that I have
Berrange: But you were talking about a
of leaders leaving the country. You see a lot of men in the dock here,
Berrange: Tell me, other than going to
jail for theft, breaking into railway coaches and that sort of thing,
ever been banned? Have you ever been put under house arrest?
Berrange: Have you ever been
from attending meetings?
Berrange: Have you ever been sent to
for your political beliefs?
Berrange: Well, that is what happened
most of these men here.
Mtolo: That I
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
also that I realized were playing the fool with us. I haven’t suffered
suffering they have suffered, but the deeds they have done are almost
as the deeds of those who have fled.
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
regarded yourself as a benefactor?
Mtolo: Every person on this earth
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
true, from the bottom of my heart, my Lord....
Berrange: Did you go inside the
Berrange: Who was there?
Mtolo: There were some children
in the door. We went in a and enquired for his wife. She was not there.
should Seloro want
to show you Sisulu’s house?
Mtolo:He was just going to show me
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
Mtolo: We went through the kitchen,
went to the dining room.
Berrange: Yes. Anywhere else?
Mtolo: We sat down in the dining
Berrange: In the absence of Sisulu or
wife. What for?
Mtolo: Seloro then asked where Mrs.
Sisulu was and the boy said she was not at home. Then Seloro said it
we would see him at the party in any case because he would be there.
that was your only reason for
going to his house?
Mtolo: That is all.
Berrange: When was this?
the end of April 1963.
Berrange: But by that time you had
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
Berrange: Do you remember saying to
his Lordship that
the Rivonia arrests were hard on Billy Nair? Those were the exact words
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
with Billy Nair?
Berrange: The Rivonia arrests. I
see, well that’s rather interesting. Because at the time the Rivonia
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
Berrange: I am sure.
Interpreter: He was softly
whispering ‘Billy Nair, Billy Nair’, he was evidently thinking very
Mtolo: My Lord, I think
that I should say that in my evidence I said—I think what I meant to
that the arrests at Rivonia were a sore point to people like Billy
Berrange: Oh, no! You said that
the Rivonia arrests were hard on people like Billy Nair, but you did
And you also said only a few moments ago that you actually discussed
Rivonia arrests with Billy Nair.
Mtolo: No, that I did not say.
Berrange: Oh, yes, you did.
Mtolo: No. Then it would be a
Berrange: Oh, no it is not, I am
Now what did you mean when you said that the Rivonia arrests were hard
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
Rivonia was something that was a sore point. It hurt people like Billy
Berrange: Is that what you meant to
convey, although he had been arrested before Rivonia?
Mtolo: Yes, he was arrested before
Berrange: Although you did say a few
moments ago that you discussed it with Billy Nair?
Mtolo: No, not discussed....