This statement was made from the dock at the opening of Nelson Mandela’s trial on charges of sabotage, Supreme court of South Africa, Pretoria, April 20 1964.

An ideal for which I am prepared to die – part 1

This statement was made from the dock at the opening of Mandela’s
trial on charges of sabotage, Supreme court of South Africa, Pretoria,
April 20 1964.

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 Oliver Tambo. 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.

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 Bambata, Hintsa and Makana,
Squngthi and Dalasile, Moshoeshoe and Sekhukhuni, were praised as 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.

Having said this, I must deal immediately and at some length with the
question of violence. Some of the things so far told to the court are
true and some are untrue. I do not, however, deny that I planned
sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I
have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and
sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many
years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people by the

I admit immediately that I was one of the persons who helped to form
Umkhonto we Sizwe, 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 Umkhonto, 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 became involved in the activities of these

I deny that Umkhonto was responsible for a number of acts which
clearly fell outside the policy of the organisation, and which have
been charged in the indictment against us. I do not know what
justification there was for these acts, but to demonstrate that they
could not have been authorised by Umkhonto, I want to refer briefly to
the roots and policy of the organisation.

I have already mentioned that I was one of the persons who helped to
form Umkhonto. I, and the others who started the organisation, did so
for two reasons. Firstly, we believed that as a result of Government
policy, violence by the African people had become inevitable, and that
unless responsible leadership was given to canalise and control the
feelings of our people, there would be outbreaks of terrorism which
would produce an intensity of bitterness and hostility between the
various races of this country which is not produced even by war.
Secondly, we felt that without violence there would be no way open to
the African people to succeed in their struggle against the principle
of white supremacy. All lawful modes of expressing opposition to this
principle had been closed by legislation, and we were placed in a
position in which we had either to accept a permanent state of
inferiority, or to defy the government. We chose to defy the law. We
first broke the law in a way which avoided any recourse to violence;
when this form was legislated against, and then the government
resorted to a show of force to crush opposition to its policies, only
then did we decide to answer violence with violence.

But the violence which we chose to adopt was not terrorism. We who
formed Umkhonto were all members of the African National Congress, and
had behind us the ANC tradition of non-violence and negotiation as a
means of solving political disputes. We believe that South Africa
belongs to all the people who live in it, and not to one group, be it
black or white. We did not want an interracial war, and tried to avoid
it to the last minute. If the court is in doubt about this, it will be
seen that the whole history of our organisation bears out what I have
said, and what I will subsequently say, when I describe the tactics
which Umkhonto decided to adopt. I want, therefore, to say something
about the African National Congress.

The African National Congress was formed in 1912 to defend the rights
of the African people which had been seriously curtailed by the South
Africa Act, and which were then being threatened by the Native Land
Act. For thirty-seven years – that is until 1949 – it adhered strictly
to a constitutional struggle. It put forward demands and resolutions;
it sent delegations to the Government in the belief that African
grievances could be settled through peaceful discussion and that
Africans could advance gradually to full political rights. But white
governments remained unmoved, and the rights of Africans became less
instead of becoming greater. In the words of my leader, Chief Lutuli,
who became President of the ANC in 1952, and who was later awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize:

“Who will deny that thirty years of my life have been spent knocking
in vain, patiently, moderately, and modestly at a closed and barred
door? What have been the fruits of moderation? The past thirty years
have seen the greatest number of laws restricting our rights and
progress, until today we have reached a stage where we have almost no
rights at all.”

Even after 1949, the ANC remained determined to avoid violence. At
this time, however, there was a change from the strictly
constitutional means of protest which had been employed in the past.
The change was embodied in a decision which was taken to protest
against apartheid legislation by peaceful, but unlawful,
demonstrations against certain laws. Pursuant to this policy the ANC
launched the Defiance Campaign, in which I was placed in charge of
volunteers. This campaign was based on the principles of passive
resistance. More than 8,500 people defied apartheid laws and went to
jail. Yet there was not a single instance of violence in the course of
this campaign on the part of any defier. I and nineteen colleagues
were convicted for the role which we played in organising the
campaign, but our sentences were suspended mainly because the judge
found that discipline and non-violence had been stressed throughout.
This was the time when the volunteer section of the ANC was
established, and when the word ‘Amadelakufa’ was first used: this was
the time when the volunteers were asked to take a pledge to uphold
certain principles. Evidence dealing with volunteers and their pledges
has been introduced into this case, but completely out of context. The
volunteers were not, and are not, the soldiers of a black army pledged
to fight a civil war against the whites. They were, and are, dedicated
workers who are prepared to lead campaigns initiated by the ANC to
distribute leaflets, to organise strikes, or do whatever the
particular campaign required. They are called volunteers because they
volunteer to face the penalties of imprisonment and whipping which are
now prescribed by the legislature for such acts.

During the defiance campaign, the Public Safety Act and the Criminal
Law Amendment Act were passed. These statutes provided harsher
penalties for offences committed by way of protests against laws.
Despite this, the protests continued and the ANC adhered to its policy
of non-violence. In 1956, 156 leading members of the Congress
alliance, including myself, were arrested on a charge of high treason
and charges under the Suppression of Communism Act. The non-violent
policy of the ANC was put in issue by the state, but when the court
gave judgement some five years later, it found that the ANC did not
have a policy of violence. We were acquitted on all counts, which
included a count that the ANC sought to set up a communist state in
place of the existing regime. The government has always sought to
label all its opponents as communists. This allegation has been
repeated in the present case, but as I will show, the ANC is not, and
never has been, a communist organisation.

In 1960 there was the shooting at Sharpeville, which resulted in the
proclamation of a state of emergency and the declaration of the ANC as
an unlawful organisation. My colleagues and I, after careful
consideration, decided that we would not obey this decree. The African
people were not part of the government and did not make the laws by
which they were governed. We believed in the words of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, that ‘the will of the people shall be the
basis of authority of the government,’ and for us to accept the
banning was equivalent to accepting the silencing of the Africans for
all time. The ANC refused to dissolve, but instead went underground.
We believed it was our duty to preserve this organisation which had
been built up with almost fifty years of unremitting toil. I have no
doubt that no self-respecting white political organisation would
disband itself if declared illegal by a government in which it had no

In 1960 the government held a referendum which led to the
establishment of the republic. Africans, who constituted approximately
70 per cent of the population of South Africa, were not entitled to
vote, and were not even consulted about the proposed constitutional
change. All of us were apprehensive of our future under the proposed
white republic, and a resolution was taken to hold an all-in African
conference to call for a national convention, and to organise mass
demonstrations on the eve of the unwanted republic, if the government
failed to call the convention. The conference was attended by Africans
of various political persuasions. I was the secretary of the
conference and undertook to be responsible for organising the national
stay-at-home which was subsequently called to coincide with the
declaration of the republic. As all strikes by Africans are illegal,
the person organising such a strike must avoid arrest. I was chosen to
be this person, and consequently I had to leave my home and family and
my practice and go into hiding to avoid arrest.

The stay-at-home, in accordance with ANC policy, was to be a peaceful
demonstration. Careful instructions were given to organisers and
members to avoid any recourse to violence. The government’s answer was
to introduce new and harsher laws, to mobilise its armed forces, and
to send saracens, armed vehicles, and soldiers into the townships in a
massive show of force designed to intimidate the people. This was an
indication that the government had decided to rule by force alone, and
this decision was a milestone on the road to Umkhonto.

Some of this may appear irrelevant to this trial. In fact, I believe
none of it is irrelevant because it will, I hope, enable the court to
appreciate the attitude eventually adopted by the various persons and
bodies concerned in the National Liberation Movement. When I went to
jail in 1962, the dominant idea was that loss of life should be
avoided. I now know that this was still so in 1963.

I must return to June 1961. What were we, the leaders of our people,
to do? Were we to give in to the show of force and the implied threat
against future action, or were we to fight it and, if so, how?

We had no doubt that we had to continue the fight. Anything else would
have been abject surrender. Our problem was not whether to fight, but
was how to continue the fight. We of the ANC had always stood for a
non-racial democracy, and we shrank from any action which might drive
the races further apart than they already were. But the hard facts
were that fifty years of non-violence had brought the African people
nothing but more and more repressive legislation, and fewer and fewer
rights. It may not be easy for this court to understand, but it is a
fact that for a long time the people had been talking of violence – of
the day when they would fight the white man and win back their country
– and we, the leaders of the ANC, had nevertheless always prevailed
upon them to avoid violence and to pursue peaceful methods. When some
of us discussed this in May and June of 1961, it could not be denied
that our policy to achieve a non-racial state by non-violence had
achieved nothing, and that our followers were beginning to lose
confidence in this policy and were developing disturbing ideas of

It must not be forgotten that by this time violence had, in fact,
become a feature of the South African political scene. There had been
violence in 1957 when the women of Zeerust were ordered to carry
passes; there was violence in 1958 with the enforcement of cattle
culling in Sekhukhuniland; there was violence in 1959 when the people
of Cato Manor protested against pass raids; there was violence in 1960
when the government attempted to impose Bantu authorities in
Pondoland. Thirty-nine Africans died in these disturbances. In 1961
there had been riots in Warmbaths, and all this time the Transkei had
been a seething mass of unrest. Each disturbance pointed clearly to
the inevitable growth among Africans of the belief that violence was
the only way out – it showed that a government which uses force to
maintain its rule teaches the oppressed to use force to oppose it.
Already small groups had arisen in the urban areas and were
spontaneously making plans for violent forms of political struggle.
There now arose a danger that these groups would adopt terrorism
against Africans, as well as whites, if not properly directed.
Particularly disturbing was the type of violence engendered in places
such as Zeerust, Sekhukhuniland, and Pondoland amongst Africans. It
was increasingly taking the form, not of struggle against the
government – though this is what prompted it – but of civil strife
amongst themselves, conducted in such a way that it could not hope to
achieve anything other than a loss of life and bitterness.

At the beginning of June 1961, after a long and anxious assessment of
the South African situation, I, and some colleagues, came to the
conclusion that as violence in this country was inevitable, it would
be unrealistic and wrong for African leaders to continue preaching
peace and non-violence at a time when the government met our peaceful
demands with force.

This conclusion was not easily arrived at. It was only when all else
had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to
us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political
struggle, and to form Umkhonto we Sizwe. We did so not because we
desired such a course, but solely because the government had left us
with no other choice. In the Manifesto of Umkhonto published on 16
December 1961, which is exhibit AD, we said:

“The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two
choices – submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We
shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means in
our power in defence of our people, our future, and our freedom.”

This was our feeling in June of 1961 when we decided to press for a
change in the policy of the National Liberation Movement. I can only
say that I felt morally obliged to do what I did.

We who had taken this decision started to consult leaders of various
organisations, including the ANC. I will not say whom we spoke to, or
what they said, but I wish to deal with the role of the African
National Congress in this phase of the struggle, and with the policy
and objectives of Umkhonto we Sizwe.

As far as the ANC was concerned, it formed a clear view which can be
summarised as follows:

It was a mass political organisation with a political function to
fulfil. Its members had joined on the express policy of non-violence.

· Because of all this, it could not and would not undertake violence.
This must be stressed. One cannot turn such a body into the small,
closely knit organisation required for sabotage. Nor would this be
politically correct, because it would result in members ceasing to
carry out this essential activity: political propaganda and
organisation. Nor was it permissible to change the whole nature of the

· On the other hand, in view of this situation I have described, the
ANC was prepared to depart from its fifty-year-old policy of
non-violence to this extent that it would no longer disapprove of
properly controlled violence. Hence members who undertook such
activity would not be subject to disciplinary action by the ANC.

I say ‘properly controlled violence’ because I made it clear that if I
formed the organisation I would at all times subject it to the
political guidance of the ANC and would not undertake any different
form of activity from that contemplated without the consent of the
ANC. And I shall now tell the court how that form of violence came to
be determined.

As a result of this decision, Umkhonto was formed in November 1961.
When we took this decision, and subsequently formulated our plans, the
ANC heritage of non-violence and racial harmony was very much with us.
We felt that the country was drifting towards a civil war in which
blacks and whites would fight each other. We viewed the situation with
alarm. Civil war could mean the destruction of what the ANC stood for;
with civil war, racial peace would be more difficult than ever to
achieve. We already have examples in South African history of the
results of war. It has taken more than fifty years for the scars of
the South African War to disappear. How much longer would it take to
eradicate the scars of inter-racial civil war, which could not be
fought without a great loss of life on both sides?

The avoidance of civil war had dominated our thinking for many years,
but when we decided to adopt violence as part of our policy, we
realised that we might one day have to face the prospect of such a
war. This had to be taken into account in formulating our plans. We
required a plan which was flexible and which permitted us to act in
accordance with the needs of the times; above all, the plan had to be
one which recognised civil war as the last resort, and left the
decision on this question to the future. We did not want to be
committed to civil war, but we wanted to be ready if it became

Four forms of violence were possible. There is sabotage, there is
guerrilla warfare, there is terrorism, and there is open revolution.
We chose to adopt the first method and to exhaust it before taking any
other decision.

In the light of our political background the choice was a logical one.
Sabotage did not involve loss of life, and it offered the best hope
for future race relations. Bitterness would be kept to a minimum and,
if the policy bore fruit, democratic government could become a
reality. This is what we felt at the time, and this is what we said in
our manifesto (exhibit AD):

“We of Umkhonto we Sizwe have always sought to achieve liberation
without bloodshed and civil clash. We hope, even at this late hour,
that our first actions will awaken everyone to a realisation of the
disastrous situation to which the nationalist policy is leading. We
hope that we will bring the government and its supporters to their
senses before it is too late, so that both the government and its
policies can be changed before matters reach the desperate state of
civil war.”

The initial plan was based on a careful analysis of the political and
economic situation of our country. We believed that South Africa
depended to a large extent on foreign capital and foreign trade. We
felt that planned destruction of power plants, and interference with
rail and telephone communications, would tend to scare away capital
from the country, make it more difficult for goods from the industrial
areas to reach the seaports on schedule, and would in the long run be
a heavy drain on the economic life of the country, thus compelling the
voters of the country to reconsider their position.

Attacks on the economic life-lines of the country were to be linked
with sabotage on government buildings and other symbols of apartheid.
These attacks would serve as a source of inspiration to our people. In
addition, they would provide an outlet for those people who were
urging the adoption of violent methods and would enable us to give
concrete proof to our followers that we had adopted a stronger line
and were fighting back against government violence.

In addition, if mass action were successfully organised, and mass
reprisals taken, we felt that sympathy for our cause would be roused
in other countries, and that greater pressure would be brought to bear
on the South African government.

This then was the plan. Umkhonto was to perform sabotage, and strict
instructions were given to its members right from the start, that on
no account were they to injure or kill people in planning or carrying
out operations. These instructions have been referred to in the
evidence of ‘Mr X’ and ‘Mr Z.’

The affairs of the Umkhonto were controlled and directed by a national
high command, which had powers of co-option and which could, and did,
appoint regional commands. The high command was the body which
determined tactics and targets and was in charge of training and
finance. Under the high command there were regional commands which
were responsible for the direction of the local sabotage groups.
Within the framework of the policy laid down by the national high
command, the regional commands had authority to select the targets to
be attacked. They had no authority to go beyond the prescribed
framework and thus had no authority to embark upon acts which
endangered life, or which did not fit into the overall plan of
sabotage. For instance, Umkhonto members were forbidden ever to go
armed into operation. Incidentally, the terms high command and
regional command were an importation from the Jewish national
underground organisation Irgun Zvai Leumi, which operated in Israel
between 1944 and 1948.

Umkhonto had its first operation on 16 December 1961, when Government
buildings in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban were attacked.
The selection of targets is proof of the policy to which I have
referred. Had we intended to attack life we would have selected
targets where people congregated and not empty buildings and power
stations. The sabotage which was committed before 16 December 1961 was
the work of isolated groups and had no connection whatever with
Umkhonto. In fact, some of these and a number of later acts were
claimed by other organisations.

The Manifesto of Umkhonto was issued on the day that operations
commenced. The response to our actions and manifesto among the white
population was characteristically violent. The government threatened
to take strong action, and called upon its supporters to stand firm
and to ignore the demands of the Africans. The whites failed to
respond by suggesting change; they responded to our call by suggesting
the laager.

In contrast, the response of the Africans was one of encouragement.
Suddenly there was hope again. Things were happening. People in the
townships became eager for political news. A great deal of enthusiasm
was generated by the initial successes, and people began to speculate
on how soon freedom would be obtained. But we in Umkhonto weighed up
the white response with anxiety. The lines were being drawn. The
whites and blacks were moving into separate camps, and the prospects
of avoiding a civil war were made less. The white newspapers carried
reports that sabotage would be punished by death. If this was so, how
could we continue to keep Africans away from terrorism?

Already scores of Africans had died as a result of racial friction. In
1920 when the famous leader, Masabala, was held in Port Elizabeth
jail, twenty-four of a group of Africans who had gathered to demand
his release were killed by the police and white civilians. In 1921
more than one hundred Africans died in the Bulhoek affair. In 1924
over two hundred Africans were killed when the Administrator of
South-West Africa led a force against a group which had rebelled
against the imposition of dog tax. On 1 May 1950, eighteen Africans
died as a result of police shootings during the strike. On 21 March
1960, sixty-nine unarmed Africans died at Sharpeville.

How many more Sharpevilles would there be in the history of our
country? And how many more Sharpevilles could the country stand
without violence and terror becoming the order of the day? And what
would happen to our people when that stage was reached? In the long
run we felt certain we must succeed, but at what cost to ourselves and
the rest of the country? And if this happened, how could black and
white ever live together again in peace and harmony? These were the
problems that faced us, and these were our decisions.

Experience convinced us that rebellion would offer the government
limitless opportunities for the indiscriminate slaughter of our
people. But it was precisely because the soil of South Africa is
already drenched with the blood of innocent Africans that we felt it
our duty to make preparations as a long-term undertaking to use force
in order to defend ourselves against force. If war were inevitable, we
wanted the fight to be conducted on terms most favourable to our
people. The fight which held out prospects best for us and the least
risk of life to both sides was guerrilla warfare. We decided,
therefore, in our preparations for the future, to make provision for
the possibility of guerrilla warfare.

All whites undergo compulsory military training, but no such training
was given to Africans. It was in our view essential to build up a
nucleus of trained men who would be able to provide the leadership
which would be required if guerrilla warfare started. We had to
prepare for such a situation before it became too late to make proper
preparations. It was also necessary to build up a nucleus of men
trained in civil administration and other professions, so that
Africans would be equipped to participate in the government of this
country as soon as they were allowed to do so.

At this stage it was decided that I should attend the conference of
the Pan-African Freedom Movement for central, east, and southern
Africa, which was to be held early in 1962 in Addis Ababa, and,
because of our need for preparation, it was also decided that, after
the conference, I would undertake a tour of the African states with a
view to obtaining facilities for the training of soldiers, and that I
would also solicit scholarships for the higher education of
matriculated Africans. Training in both fields would be necessary,
even if changes came about by peaceful means. Administrators would be
necessary who would be willing and able to administer a non-racial
state and so would men be necessary to control the army and police
force of such a state.

It was on this note that I left South Africa to proceed to Addis Ababa
as a delegate of the ANC. My tour was a success. Wherever I went I met
sympathy for our cause and promises of help. All Africa was united
against the stand of white South Africa, and even in London I was
received with great sympathy by political leaders, such as Mr
Gaitskell and Mr Grimond. In Africa I was promised support by such men
as Julius Nyerere, now President of Tanganyika; Mr Kawawa, then Prime
Minister of Tanganyika; Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia; General
Abboud, President of the Sudan; Habib Bourguiba, President of Tunisia;
Ben Bella, now President of Algeria; Modibo Keita, President of Mali;
Leopold Senghor, President of Senegal; Sekou Toure, President of
Guinea; President Tubman of Liberia; and Milton Obote, Prime Minister
of Uganda. It was Ben Bella who invited me to visit Oujda, the
Headquarters of the Algerian Army of National Liberation, the visit
which is described in my diary, one of the exhibits.

I started to make a study of the art of war and revolution and, whilst
abroad, underwent a course in military training. If there was to be
guerrilla warfare, I wanted to be able to stand and fight with my
people and to share the hazards of war with them. Notes of lectures
which I received in Algeria are contained in exhibit 16, produced in
evidence. Summaries of books on guerrilla warfare and military
strategy have also been produced. I have already admitted that these
documents are in my writing, and I acknowledge that I made these
studies to equip myself for the role which I might have to play if the
struggle drifted into guerrilla warfare. I approached this question as
every African nationalist should do. I was completely objective. The
court will see that I attempted to examine all types of authority on
the subject – from the east and from the west, going back to the
classic work of Clausewitz, and covering such a variety as Mao Tse
Tung and Che Guevara on the one hand, and the writings on the
Anglo-Boer War on the other. Of course, these notes are merely
summaries of the books I read and do not contain my personal views.

I also made arrangements for our recruits to undergo military
training. But here it was impossible to organise any scheme without
the cooperation of the ANC offices in Africa. I consequently obtained
the permission of the ANC in South Africa to do this. To this extent
then there was a departure from the original decision of the ANC, but
it applied outside South Africa only. The first batch of recruits
actually arrived in Tanganyika when I was passing through that country
on my way back to South Africa.

I returned to South Africa and reported to my colleagues on the
results of my trip. On my return I found that there had been little
alteration in the political scene save that the threat of a death
penalty for sabotage had now become a fact. The attitude of my
colleagues in Umkhonto was much the same as it had been before I left.
They were feeling their way cautiously and felt that it would be a
long time before the possibilities of sabotage were exhausted. In
fact, the view was expressed by some that the training of recruits was
premature. This is recorded by me in the document which is exhibit
R.14. After a full discussion, however, it was decided to go ahead
with the plans for military training because of the fact that it would
take many years to build up a sufficient nucleus of trained soldiers
to start a guerrilla campaign, and whatever happened, the training
would be of value.

I wish to turn now to certain general allegations made in this case by
the state. But before doing so, I wish to revert to certain
occurrences said by witnesses to have happened in Port Elizabeth and
East London. I am referring to the bombing of private houses of
pro-government persons during September, October and November 1962. I
do not know what justification there was for these acts, nor what
provocation had been given. But if what I have said already is
accepted, then it is clear that these acts had nothing to do with the
carrying out of the policy of Umkhonto.

One of the chief allegations in the indictment is that the ANC was a
party to a general conspiracy to commit sabotage. I have already
explained why this is incorrect but how, externally, there was a
departure from the original principle laid down by the ANC. There has,
of course, been overlapping of functions internally as well, because
there is a difference between a resolution adopted in the atmosphere
of a committee room and the concrete difficulties that arise in the
field of practical activity. At a later stage the position was further
affected by bannings and house arrests, and by persons leaving the
country to take up political work abroad. This led to individuals
having to do work in different capacities. But though this may have
blurred the distinction between Umkhonto and the ANC, it by no means
abolished that distinction. Great care was taken to keep the
activities of the two organisations in South Africa distinct. The ANC
remained a mass political body of Africans only carrying on the type
of political work they had conducted prior to 1961. Umkhonto remained
a small organisation recruiting its members from different races and
organisations and trying to achieve its own particular object. The
fact that members of Umkhonto were recruited from the ANC, and the
fact that persons served both organisations, like Solomon Mbanjwa, did
not, in our view, change the nature of the ANC or give it a policy of
violence. This overlapping of officers, however, was more the
exception than the rule. This is why persons such as ‘Mr X’ and ‘Mr
Z,’ who were on the regional command of their respective areas, did
not participate in any of the ANC committees or activities, and why
people such as Mr Bennett Mashiyana and Mr Reginald Ndubi did not hear
of sabotage at their ANC meetings.

Another of the allegations in the indictment is that Rivonia was the
headquarters of Umkhonto. This is not true of the time when I was
there. I was told, of course, and knew that certain of the activities
of the Communist party were carried on there. But this is no reason
(as I shall presently explain) why I should not use the place.

I came there in the following manner:

· As already indicated, early in April 1961 I went underground to
organise the May general strike. My work entailed travelling
throughout the country, living now in African townships, then in
country villages and again in cities. During the second half of the
year I started visiting the Parktown home of Arthur Goldreich, where I
used to meet my family privately. Although I had no direct political
association with him, I had known Arthur Goldreich socially since
1958. .

In October, Arthur Goldreich informed me that he was moving out of
town and offered me a hiding place there. A few days thereafter, he
arranged for Michael Harmel to take me to Rivonia. I naturally found
Rivonia an ideal place for the man who lived the life of an outlaw. Up
to that time I had been compelled to live indoors during the daytime
and could only venture out under cover of darkness. But at Liliesleaf
[farm, Rivonia,] I could live differently and work far more

· For obvious reasons, I had to disguise myself and I assumed the
fictitious name of David. In December, Arthur Goldreich and his family
moved in. I stayed there until I went abroad on 11 January 1962. As
already indicated, I returned in July 1962 and was arrested in Natal
on 5 August.

· Up to the time of my arrest, Liliesleaf farm was the headquarters of
neither the African National Congress nor Umkhonto. With the exception
of myself, none of the officials or members of these bodies lived
there, no meetings of the governing bodies were ever held there, and
no activities connected with them were either organised or directed
from there. On numerous occasions during my stay at Liliesleaf farm I
met both the executive committee of the ANC, as well as the NHC, but
such meetings were held elsewhere and not on the farm.

· Whilst staying at Liliesleaf farm, I frequently visited Arthur
Goldreich in the main house and he also paid me visits in my room. We
had numerous political discussions covering a variety of subjects. We
discussed ideological and practical questions, the congress alliance,
Umkhonto and its activities generally, and his experiences as a
soldier in the Palmach, the military wing of the Haganah. Haganah was
the political authority of the Jewish National Movement in Palestine.

· Because of what I had got to know of Goldreich, I recommended on my
return to South Africa that he should be recruited to Umkhonto. I do
not know of my personal knowledge whether this was done.

Another of the allegations made by the state is that the aims and
objects of the ANC and the Communist party are the same. I wish to
deal with this and with my own political position, because I must
assume that the state may try to argue from certain exhibits that I
tried to introduce Marxism into the ANC. The allegation as to the ANC
is false. This is an old allegation which was disproved at the treason
trial and which has again reared its head. But since the allegation
has been made again, I shall deal with it as well as with the
relationship between the ANC and the Communist party and Umkhonto and
that party.

The ideological creed of the ANC is, and always has been, the creed of
African nationalism. It is not the concept of African nationalism
expressed in the cry, ‘drive the white man into the sea.’ The African
nationalism for which the ANC stands is the concept of freedom and
fulfilment for the African people in their own land. The most
important political document ever adopted by the ANC is the ‘freedom
charter.’ It is by no means a blueprint for a socialist state. It
calls for redistribution, but not nationalisation, of land; it
provides for nationalisation of mines, banks, and monopoly industry,
because big monopolies are owned by one race only, and without such
nationalisation racial domination would be perpetuated despite the
spread of political power. It would be a hollow gesture to repeal the
gold law prohibitions against Africans when all gold mines are owned
by European companies. In this respect the ANC’s policy corresponds
with the old policy of the present Nationalist party which, for many
years, had as part of its programme the nationalisation of the gold
mines which, at that time, were controlled by foreign capital. Under
the freedom charter, nationalisation would take place in an economy
based on private enterprise. The realisation of the freedom charter
would open up fresh fields for a prosperous African population of all
classes, including the middle class. The ANC has never at any period
of its history advocated a revolutionary change in the economic
structure of the country, nor has it, to the best of my recollection,
ever condemned capitalist society.

As far as the Communist party is concerned, and if I understand its
policy correctly, it stands for the establishment of a state based on
the principles of Marxism. Although it is prepared to work for the
freedom charter, as a short term solution to the problems created by
white supremacy, it regards the Freedom Charter as the beginning, and
not the end, of its program.

The ANC, unlike the Communist party, admitted Africans only as
members. Its chief goal was, and is, for the African people to win
unity and full political rights. The Communist party’s main aim, on
the other hand, was to remove the capitalists and to replace them with
a working-class government. The Communist party sought to emphasise
class distinctions whilst the ANC seeks to harmonise them. This is a
vital distinction.

It is true that there has often been close cooperation between the ANC
and the Communist party. But cooperation is merely proof of a common
goal – in this case the removal of white supremacy – and is not proof
of a complete community of interests.

The history of the world is full of similar examples. Perhaps the most
striking illustration is to be found in the cooperation between Great
Britain, the United States of America, and the Soviet Union in the
fight against Hitler. Nobody but Hitler would have dared to suggest
that such cooperation turned Churchill or Roosevelt into communists or
communist tools, or that Britain and America were working to bring
about a communist world.

Another instance of such cooperation is to be found precisely in
Umkhonto. Shortly after Umkhonto was constituted, I was informed by
some of its members that the Communist party would support Umkhonto,
and this then occurred. At a later stage the support was made openly.

I believe that communists have always played an active role in the
fight by colonial countries for their freedom, because the short-term
objects of communism would always correspond with the long-term
objects of freedom movements. Thus communists have played an important
role in the freedom struggles fought in countries such as Malaya,
Algeria, and Indonesia, yet none of these states today are communist
countries. Similarly in the underground resistance movements which
sprung up in Europe during the last World War, communists played an
important role. Even General Chiang Kai-Shek, today one of the
bitterest enemies of communism, fought together with the communists
against the ruling class in the struggle which led to his assumption
of power in China in the 1930s.

This pattern of cooperation between communists and non-communists has
been repeated in the National Liberation Movement of South Africa.
Prior to the banning of the Communist party, joint campaigns involving
the Communist party and the congress movements were accepted practice.
African communists could, and did, become members of the ANC, and some
served on the National, Provincial, and local committees. Amongst
those who served on the National Executive are Albert Nzula, a former
Secretary of the Communist party, Moses Kotane, another former
Secretary, and J. B. Marks, a former member of the central committee.

I joined the ANC in 1944, and in my younger days I held the view that
the policy of admitting communists to the ANC, and the close
cooperation which existed at times on specific issues between the ANC
and the Communist party, would lead to a watering down of the concept
of African nationalism. At that stage I was a member of the African
National Congress youth league, and was one of a group which moved for
the expulsion of communists from the ANC. This proposal was heavily
defeated. Amongst those who voted against the proposal were some of
the most conservative sections of African political opinion. They
defended the policy on the ground that from its inception the ANC was
formed and built up, not as a political party with one school of
political thought, but as a parliament of the African people,
accommodating people of various political convictions, all united by
the common goal of national liberation. I was eventually won over to
this point of view and I have upheld it ever since.

It is perhaps difficult for white South Africans, with an ingrained
prejudice against communism, to understand why experienced African
politicians so readily accept communists as their friends. But to us
the reason is obvious. Theoretical differences amongst those fighting
against oppression is a luxury we cannot afford at this stage. What is
more, for many decades communists were the only political group in
South Africa who were prepared to treat Africans as human beings and
their equals; who were prepared to eat with us; talk with us, live
with us, and work with us. They were the only political group which
was prepared to work with the Africans for the attainment of political
rights and a stake in society. Because of this, there are many
Africans who, today, tend to equate freedom with communism. They are
supported in this belief by a legislature which brands all exponents
of democratic government and African freedom as communists and bans
many of them (who are not communists) under the Suppression of
Communism Act. Although I have never been a member of the Communist
party, I myself have been named under that pernicious act because of
the role I played in the defiance campaign. I have also been banned
and imprisoned under that act.

It is not only in internal politics that we count communists as
amongst those who support our cause. In the international field,
communist countries have always come to our aid. In the United Nations
and other councils of the world the communist bloc has supported the
Afro-Asian struggle against colonialism and often seems to be more
sympathetic to our plight than some of the western powers. Although
there is a universal condemnation of apartheid, the communist bloc
speaks out against it with a louder voice than most of the white
world. In these circumstances, it would take a brash young politician,
such as I was in 1949, to proclaim that the communists are our

I turn now to my own position. I have denied that I am a communist,
and I think that in the circumstances I am obliged to state exactly
what my political beliefs are.

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
Tembuland, and I am related both to the present paramount chief of
Tembuland, Sabata Dalindyebo, and to Kaizer Matanzima, the Chief
Minister of 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 Gandhi,
Nehru, Nkrumah, 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, for my own part, I believe that 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. In so far as that party
furthers this task, I welcome its assistance. I realise that it is one
of the means by which people of all races can be drawn into our

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, and the Bill of Rights are
documents which are held in veneration by democrats throughout the

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 …

There are certain exhibits which suggest that we received financial
support from abroad, and I wish to deal with this question.

Our political struggle has 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 –
for example, the 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 the 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-communists, and even anti-communists, had received similar

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,
but I am not prepared to name any countries to which it went, nor am I
at liberty to disclose the names of the organisations and countries
which gave us support or promised to do so.

As I understand the state case, and in particular the evidence of ‘Mr
X,’ the suggestion is that Umkhonto was the inspiration of the
Communist party which sought by playing upon imaginary grievances to
enroll 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 in their own land. 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, 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 30 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 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 25 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 46 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, tuberculosis kills forty people a day
(almost all Africans), and in 1961 there were 58,491 new cases
reported. These diseases 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 African labourers.

The complaint of Africans, however, is not only that they are poor and
the 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.

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 40 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 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

The other main obstacle to the economic advancement of the African is
the industrial colour-bar under which all the better jobs of industry
are reserved for whites only. Moreover, Africans who do obtain
employment 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 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 the 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 the 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 they have emotions – that they fall in love like white
people do; that they want to be with their wives and children like
white people want to be with theirs; that they want to earn enough
money to support their 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 in to 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.

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. Africans want to be allowed to live
where they obtain work, and not be endorsed out of an area because
they were not born there. Africans want to be allowed to own land in
places where they work, and not to be obliged to live in rented houses
which they can never call their own. Africans want to be part of the
general population, and not confined to living in their own 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. African women want to be with their menfolk and not be
left permanently widowed in the Reserves. Africans want to be allowed
out after eleven o’clock at night and not to be confined to their
rooms like little children. Africans want to be allowed to travel in
their own country and to seek work where they want to and not where
the labour bureau tells them to. Africans want a just share in the
whole of South Africa; they want security and a stake in society.

Above all, 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 it will not change that policy.

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

During my lifetime I have dedicated myself 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 which I hope to
live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I
am prepared to die