‘I cher­ish the ideal of a free so­ci­ety’

At his trial Nel­son Man­dela de­clared ab­hor­rence of poverty and lack of hu­man dig­nity, the ‘hall­marks of African life’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NELSON MANDELA 1918-2013 -

NEL­SON Man­dela was found guilty on June 11, 1964 of four charges of sab­o­tage and was sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment.

The fol­low­ing are ex­cerpts from a state­ment given by him in his de­fence at the start of the trial in Pre­to­ria on April 20, 1964.

“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. Among 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 whites.

“All law­ful modes of ex­press­ing op­po­si­tion... 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.

“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.

“At­tacks on the eco­nomic life­lines 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.

“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.

“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... 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.

“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… free­dom and ful­fil­ment for the African peo­ple in their own land... 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.

“I have al­ways re­garded my­self, in the first place, as an African pa­triot. To­day I am at­tracted by the idea of a class­less so­ci­ety, an at­trac­tion which springs in part from Marx­ist read­ings 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… no ex­ploita­tion.

“Our fight is against real, and not imag­i­nary, hard­ships or, to use the lan­guage of the State Prose­cu­tor, ‘so­called hard­ships’. Ba­si­cally, we fight against two fea­tures which are the hall­marks of African life in South Africa and which are en­trenched by leg­is­la­tion… 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.

“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. 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.

“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 will live to­gether in har­mony and with equal op­por­tu­ni­ties. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to see re­alised. But, my lord, if needs be it is an ideal for which I am pre­pared to die.” – Reuters

CASE FOR THE DE­FENCE: Nel­son Man­dela ar­rives at court for an ap­pear­ance in the Rivo­nia Trial which ended in his in­car­cer­a­tion for 27 years. Be­hind him, at left, Win­nie Man­dela can be seen.

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