Nelson Mandela’s speech from the dock on April 20 1964 at the opening of the defence case in the Rivonia Trial is full of history. I’ll give it in full over the next few posts and add links and explanations. Links to South African History Online work slowly, but work.
His statement (and the rest of the trial?) was recorded on dictabelt and eventually digitised with the help of the British Library. The digital version, I presume complete, is in the custody of the National Archives of South Africa.
YouTube (below) has the last half-hour of three hours. The full recording may be online elsewhere.
There are differences between transcriptions online, coming either from mistranscriptions of the recording or from inaccurate printed versions.
For example, many have, near the beginning: “I must deal immediately and at some length with the question of violence.” The Nelson Mandela Foundation has: “I must deal immediately and at some length with the question of sabotage.” I have quoted the Foundation text, which is based on the digital recording.
South Africa went into isolation as a republic (and Mandela went underground) just as the colonial age was ending in most of Africa. It emerged as soon as the Cold War had ended. To what extent did the Cold War sustain apartheid?
Reading Mandela’s speech reminds one of the clarity of his mind and prompts the depressing thought that, for all the heroism of the South African struggle, and notwithstanding the role of the Dutch Reformed Church, bigotry is overcome comparatively easily where religious feeling isn’t intense.
On this site: