Rivonia 2: African antecedents

December 15 2013

Pretoria, April 20 1964:

“My Lord, 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 Mr. Oliver Tambo, a co-conspirator in this case. [Tambo had lived in London since 1960 and did not return to South Africa until 1990.] 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 [sentence under the pre-Rivonia charges].

“I admit immediately that I was one of the persons who helped [in 1961] to form Umkhonto we Sizwe [Spear of the Nation, the armed wing of the ANC], 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 with the part which I personally have played in the affairs of both organisations. 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 came, I became involved in the activities of these organisations.

“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 said.

“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 BambathaHintsa and Makana, Squngathi and DalasileMoshoeshoe and Sekhukhune, were praised as the pride and 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 this case.”

Mandela timeline (post here).

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