Nelson Mandela’s statement made in court at the opening
of his trial on charges of sabotage.
Location: Supreme court of South Africa, Pretoria
April 20 1964.
Part I | Part II
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
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: