Rivonia 7: I am prepared to die

December 18 2013

Rivonia 1.

“My Lord, I wish to turn now to my own position. I have denied that I am a communist, and I think in the circumstances I am obliged to state exactly what my political beliefs are in order to explain what my position in Umkhonto was, and what my attitude towards the use of force is.

“I have always regarded myself, in the first place, as an African patriot. After all, I was born in Umtata, forty-six years ago. My guardian was my cousin, who was the acting paramount chief of Thembuland, and I am related both to Sabata Dalindyebo, the present paramount chief, and to Kaizer Matanzima, the Chief Minister for the Transkei.

“Today I am attracted by the idea of a classless society, an attraction which springs in part from Marxist reading and, in part, from my admiration of the structure and organisation of early African societies in this country. The land, then the main means of production, belonged to the tribe. There were no rich or poor and there was no exploitation.

“It is true, as I have already stated, that I have been influenced by Marxist thought. But this is also true of many of the leaders of the new independent States. Such widely different persons as GandhiNehruNkrumah, and Nasser all acknowledge this fact. We all accept the need for some form of socialism to enable our people to catch up with the advanced countries of this world and to overcome their legacy of extreme poverty. But this does not mean we are Marxists.

“Indeed, My Lord, for my own part, I believe it is open to debate whether the Communist Party has any specific role to play at this particular stage of our political struggle. The basic task at the present moment is the removal of race discrimination and the attainment of democratic rights on the basis of the Freedom Charter, and a struggle which can best be led by a strong ANC. In so far, My Lord, as that Party furthers this task, I welcome its assistance. I realise that it is one of the main means by which people of all races can be drawn into our struggle.

“But from my reading of Marxist literature and from conversations with Marxists, I have gained the impression that communists regard the parliamentary system of the West as undemocratic and reactionary. But, on the contrary, I am an admirer of such a system.

“The Magna Carta, the Petition of Rights, the Bill of Rights are documents which are held in veneration by democrats throughout the world.

“I have great respect for British political institutions, and for the country’s system of justice. I regard the British Parliament as the most democratic institution in the world, and the independence and impartiality of its judiciary never fails to arouse my admiration.

“The American Congress, that country’s doctrine of separation of powers, as well as the independence of its judiciary, arouses in me similar sentiments.

“I have been influenced in my thinking by both West and East. All this has led me to feel that in my search for a political formula, I should be absolutely impartial and objective. I should tie myself to no particular system of society other than of socialism. I must leave myself free to borrow the best from the West and from the East.

[He talks about some exhibits which allegedly showed his interest in communism. Passage is in a comment below.]

“My Lord, there are certain exhibits which suggest that we received financial support from abroad, and I wish now to deal with this question.

“Our political struggle [had] always been financed from internal sources – from funds raised by our own people and by our own supporters. Whenever we had a special campaign or an important political case [Treason Trial] we received financial assistance from sympathetic individuals and organisations in the Western countries. We [had] never felt it necessary to go beyond these sources.

“But when in 1961 the Umkhonto was formed, and a new phase of struggle introduced, we realised that these events would make a heavy call on our slender resources, and that the scale of our activities would be hampered by lack of funds. One of my instructions, as I went abroad in January 1962, was to raise funds from the African states.

“I must add that, whilst abroad, I had discussions with leaders of political movements in Africa and discovered that almost every single one of them, in areas which had still not attained independence, had received all forms of assistance from the socialist countries, as well as from the West, including that of financial support. I also discovered that some well-known African states, all of them non-communist, and even anti-communist, had received similar assistance.

“On my return to the Republic, I made a strong recommendation to the ANC that we should not confine ourselves to Africa and the Western countries, but that we should also send a mission to the socialist countries to raise the funds which we so urgently needed.

“I have been told that after I was convicted such a mission was sent.

“As I understand the State case, and in particular the evidence of ‘X’, Umkhonto was the inspiration of the Communist Party which sought by playing upon imaginary grievances to enrol the African people into an army which ostensibly was to fight for African freedom, but in reality was fighting for a communist state. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact the suggestion is preposterous. Umkhonto was formed by Africans to further their struggle for freedom. Communists and others supported the movement, and we only wish that more sections of the community would join us.

“Our fight is against real, and not imaginary, hardships or, to use the language of the State Prosecutor, ‘so-called hardships’. Basically, My Lord, we fight against two features which are the hallmarks of African life in South Africa and which are entrenched by legislation which we seek to have repealed. These features are poverty and lack of human dignity, and we do not need communists or so-called ‘agitators’ to teach us about these things.

“South Africa is the richest country in Africa, and could be one of the richest countries in the world. But it is a land of extremes and remarkable contrasts. The whites enjoy what may well be the highest standard of living in the world, whilst Africans live in poverty and misery. Forty per cent of the Africans live in hopelessly overcrowded and, in some cases, drought-stricken reserves, where soil erosion and the overworking of the soil makes it impossible for them to live properly off the land. Thirty per cent are labourers, labour tenants, and squatters on white farms and work and live under conditions similar to those of the serfs of the Middle Ages. The other thirty per cent live in towns where they have developed economic and social habits which bring them closer in many respects to white standards. Yet most Africans, even in this group, are impoverished by low incomes and the high cost of living.

“The highest-paid and the most prosperous section of urban African life is in Johannesburg. Yet their actual position is desperate. The latest figures were given on the 25th of March 1964 by Mr. Carr, Manager of the Johannesburg Non-European Affairs Department. The poverty datum line for the average African family in Johannesburg (according to Mr. Carr’s department) is R42.84 per month. He showed that the average monthly wage is R32.24 and that forty-six per cent of all African families in Johannesburg do not earn enough to keep them going.

“Poverty goes hand in hand with malnutrition and disease. The incidence of malnutrition and deficiency diseases is very high amongst Africans. Tuberculosis, pellagra, kwashiorkor, gastro-enteritis, and scurvy bring death and destruction of health. The incidence of infant mortality is one of the highest in the world. According to the Medical Officer of Health for Pretoria, it is estimated that tuberculosis kills forty people a day, almost all Africans, and in 1961 there were 58,491 new cases reported. These diseases, My Lord, not only destroy the vital organs of the body, but they result in retarded mental conditions and lack of initiative, and reduce powers of concentration. The secondary results of such conditions affect the whole community and the standard of work performed by Africans.

“The complaint of Africans, however, is not only that they are poor and whites are rich, but that the laws which are made by the whites are designed to preserve this situation.

“There are two ways to break out of poverty. The first is by formal education, and the second is by the worker acquiring a greater skill at his work and thus higher wages. As far as Africans are concerned, both these avenues of advancement are deliberately curtailed by legislation.

“I ask the Court to remember that the present Government has always sought to hamper Africans in their search for education. One of their early acts, after coming into power, was to stop subsidies for African school feeding. Many African children who attended schools depended on this supplement to their diet. This was a cruel act.

“There is compulsory education for all white children at virtually no cost to their parents, be they rich or poor. Similar facilities are not provided for the African children, though there are some who receive such assistance. African children, however, generally have to pay more for their schooling than whites. According to figures quoted by the South African Institute of Race Relations in its 1963 journal, approximately forty per cent of African children in the age group between seven to fourteen do not attend school. For those who do attend school, the standards are vastly different from those afforded to white children. In 1960-61 the per capita Government spending on African students at State-aided schools was estimated at R12.46. In the same years, the per capita spending on white children in the Cape Province (which are the only figures available to me) was R144.57. Although there are no figures available to me, it can be stated, without doubt, that the white children on whom R144.57 per head was being spent all came from wealthier homes than African children on whom R12.46 per head was being spent.

“The quality of education is also different. According to the Bantu Educational Journal, only 5,660 African children in the whole of South Africa passed their Junior Certificate in 1962, and in that year only 362 passed matric. This is presumably consistent with the policy of Bantu education about which the present Prime Minister said, during the debate on the Bantu Education Bill in 1953 when he was Minister of Native Affairs, I quote:

“‘When I have control of Native education I will reform it so that Natives will be taught from childhood to realise that equality with Europeans is not for them. People who believe in equality are not desirable teachers for Natives. When my Department controls Native education it will know for what class of higher education a Native is fitted, and whether he will have a chance in life to use his knowledge.’ Unquote.

“The other main obstacle to the economic advancement of the African is the industrial colour-bar under which all the better paid, better jobs of industry are reserved for whites only. Moreover, Africans in the unskilled and semi-skilled occupations which are open to them are not allowed to form trade unions which have recognition under the Industrial Conciliation Act. This means that strikes of African workers are illegal, and that they are denied the right of collective bargaining which is permitted to the better-paid white workers. The discrimination in the policy of successive South African governments towards African workers is demonstrated by the so-called ‘civilised labour policy’ under which sheltered, unskilled Government jobs are found for those white workers who cannot make the grade in industry, at wages far, which far exceed the earnings of the average African employee in industry.

“The Government often answers its critics by saying that Africans in South Africa are economically better off than the inhabitants of the other countries in Africa. I do not know whether this statement is true and doubt whether any comparison can be made without having regard to the cost-of-living index in such countries. But even if it is true, as far as African people are concerned it is irrelevant. Our complaint is not that we are poor by comparison with people in other countries, but that we are poor by comparison with white people in our own country, and that we are prevented by legislation from altering this imbalance.

“The lack of human dignity experienced by Africans is the direct result of the policy of white supremacy. White supremacy implies black inferiority. Legislation designed to preserve white supremacy entrenches this notion. Menial tasks in South Africa are invariably performed by Africans. When anything has to be carried or cleaned, the white man will look around for an African to do it for him, whether the African is employed by him or not. Because of this sort of attitude, whites tend to regard Africans as a separate breed. They do not look upon them as people with families of their own; they do not realise that we have emotions – that we fall in love like white people do; that we want to be with [our] wives and children like white people want to be with theirs; that we want to earn money, enough money to support our families properly, to feed and clothe them and send them to school. And what ‘house-boy’ or ‘garden-boy’ or labourer can ever hope to do this?

Pass laws, which to the Africans are among the most hated bits of legislation in South Africa, render any African liable to police surveillance at any time. I doubt whether there is a single African male in South Africa who has not at some stage had a brush with the police over his pass. Hundreds and thousands of Africans are thrown into jail each year under pass laws. Even worse than this is the fact that pass laws keep husband and wife apart and lead to the breakdown of family life.

“Poverty and the breakdown of family life have secondary effects. Children wander about the streets of the townships because they have no schools to go to, or no money to enable them to go to school, or no parents at home to see that they go to school, because both parents, if there be two, have to work to keep the family alive. This leads to a breakdown in moral standards, to an alarming rise in illegitimacy, and to growing violence which erupts not only politically, but everywhere. Life in the townships is dangerous. There is not a day that goes by without somebody being stabbed or assaulted. And violence is carried out of the townships into the white living areas. People are afraid to walk alone in the streets after dark. Housebreakings and robberies are increasing, despite the fact that the death sentence can now be imposed for such offences. Death sentences cannot cure the festering sore.

“The only cure is to alter the conditions under which Africans are forced to live and to meet their legitimate grievances. Africans want to be paid a living wage. Africans want to perform work which they are capable of doing, and not work which the Government declares them to be capable of. We want to be allowed to live where we obtain work, and not be endorsed out of an area because we were not born there. We want to be allowed [to own land in places where we work] and not to be obliged to live in rented houses which we can never call our own. We want to be part of the general population, and not confined to living in our ghettoes. African men want to have their wives and children to live with them where they work, and not be forced into an unnatural existence in men’s hostels. Our women want to be with their menfolk and not be left permanently widowed in the reserves. We want to be allowed out after eleven o’clock at night and not to be confined to our rooms like little children. We want to be allowed to travel in our own country and to seek work where we want to, where we want to and not where the Labour Bureau tells us to. We want a just share in the whole of South Africa; we want security and a stake in society.

“Above all, My Lord, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy.

“But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division based on colour is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one colour group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs as it certainly must, it will not change that policy.

“This then is what the ANC is fighting. Our struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by our own suffering and our own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live.

“During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But if needs be, My Lord, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Mandela timeline (post here).

One Response to “Rivonia 7: I am prepared to die”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    Omitted passage:

    “I wish now to deal with some of the exhibits. Many of the exhibits are in my handwriting. It has always been my custom to reduce to writing the material which I have been studying.

    “Exhibits R20, 21 and 22 are lectures drafted in my own hand but they are not my original work. They came to be written in the following circumstances:

    “For several years an old friend [with] whom I worked very closely on ANC matters and who occupied senior positions both in the ANC and the Communist Party had been trying to get me to join the Communist Party. I had had many debates with him on the role the Communist Party can play at this stage of our struggle. And I advanced to him the same views in regard to my political beliefs which I have described earlier in my statement. In order to convince me that I should join the Communist Party, she [sic, he must be confusing the gender deliberately] from time to time gave me Marxist literature to read, thought I did not have – always find time to do this. Each of us always stuck to our guns in our arguments as to whether I should join the Communist Party. She maintained that on achieving freedom we would be unable to solve our problems of poverty and inequality without establishing a communist state and we would require trained Marxists to do this. I maintained my attitude that no ideological differences should be introduced until freedom had been achieved.

    “I saw him [sic] on several occasions at Liliesleaf farm, and on one of the last of these occasions he was busy writing with books around him. When I asked him what he was doing he told me that he was busy writing lectures for use in the Communist Party, and suggested that I should read them. There were several lectures in draft form. After I had done so I told him that they seemed far too complicated for the ordinary reader in that the language was obtuse and they were full of usual communistic clichés and jargon. If the court will look at some of the standard works of Marxism, my point will be demonstrated. He said it was impossible to simplify the language without losing the effect of what the author was trying to stress. I disagreed with him and then he asked me to see whether I could redraft the lectures in the simplified form suggested by me. I agreed to help him and set to work in an endeavour to do this but I never finished the task as I later became occupied with other practical work which was more important. I never again saw the unfinished manuscript until it was produced at this trial.

    “I wish to state that it is not my handwriting which appears on Exhibit R23 which was obviously drafted by the person who prepared the lectures.”


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