- Rivonia Trial
The Rivonia Trial was a trial that took place in
South Africabetween 1963and 1964, in which ten leaders of the African National Congresswere tried for 221 acts of sabotage designed to "ferment violent revolution" [http://observer.guardian.co.uk/mandela/story/0,8224,436395,00.html] to overthrow the apartheid system.
It was named after Rivonia, the suburb of
Johannesburgwhere 19 ANC leaders were arrested at Liliesleaf Farm, privately owned by Arthur Goldreich, on 11 July 1963. It had been used as a hideout for the African National Congress. Among others, Nelson Mandelahad moved onto the farm in October 1961and evaded security police while masquerading as a gardener and cook called David Motsamayi (meaning "the walker").
Elias Motsoaledi, trade unionand ANC member
Denis Goldberg, a Cape Townengineer and leader of the Congress of Democrats.
* Lionel "Rusty" Bernstein, architect and member of the
Harold Wolpe, prominent attorney and activist
* James "Jimmy" Kantor, brother-in-law of Harold Wolpe
Goldberg, Bernstein, Hepple and Goldreich were white
Jews, Kathrada was Indian, and Sisulu, Mbeki, Motsoaledi and Mhlaba were Xhosa(black).
The trial was essentially a mechanism through which the apartheid government could hurt or mute the ANC. Its leaders, including
Nelson Mandela, who was already serving a five-year sentence on Robben Islandfor leaving the country without a passport, were prosecuted, found guilty, and imprisoned. The apartheid regime's attack on the ANC's leadership and organizers continued with a trial known as Little Rivonia, in which other ANC members were prosecuted for their anti-apartheid activities. Amongst the defendants in this trial was the chief of MK, Wilton Mkwayiwho was sentenced to life imprisonment alongside Mandela and the other ANC leaders on Robben Island.
The government took advantage of 90 days without trial, and the defendants were held incommunicado. Meanwhile, Goldreich and Wolpe bribed a guard and escaped from jail on
11 August. Their escape infuriated the prosecutors and police who considered Goldreich to be "the arch-conspirator."
Lawyers were unable to see the accused until two days before indictment on
9 October. Leading the defence team was Bram Fischer, the distinguished Afrikaner lawyer, assisted by Harry Schwarz, Joel Joffe, Arthur Chaskalson, George Bizosand Harold Hanson. At the end of October, Hepple was able to leave the dock because he had agreed to testify for the prosecution; later he managed to flee the country.
The presiding judge was Dr.
Quartus de Wet, judge-president of the Transvaal.
The chief prosecutor was Dr.
Percy Yutar, deputy attorney-general of the Transvaal.
The trial began on
26 November 1963. After dismissal of the first indictment as inadequate, the trial finally got under way on 3 Decemberwith an expanded indictment. Each of the ten accused pleaded not guilty. The trial ended on 12 June 1964.
List of defendants
Govan Mbeki(father of Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa)
* Lionel "Rusty" Bernstein (acquitted)
* recruiting persons for training in the preparation and use of explosives and in guerrilla warfare for the purpose of violent revolution and committing acts of sabotage
* conspiring to commit the aforementioned acts and to aid foreign military units when they invaded the Republic,
* acting in these ways to further the objects of communism
* soliciting and receiving money for these purposes from sympathizers in
Algeria, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Tunisia, and elsewhere.
"Production requirements" for munitions for a six-month period were sufficient, the prosecutor
Percy Yutarsaid in his opening address, to blow up a city the size of Johannesburg.
Kantor was discharged at the end of the prosecution's case.
The trial was condemned by the
United Nations Security Counciland nations around the world, leading to international sanctionsagainst the South African government in some cases.
Arthur Goldreichand Harold Wolpeescaped from The Fort prison in Johannesburg while on remand after bribing a prison guard. After hiding in various safe houses for two months they escaped through Swazilanddressed as priests with the aid of Manni Brownwho posed as a tour operator as a cover to deliver weapons to the ANC.
* Wolpe's escape saw his brother-in-law
James Kantorarrested and charged with the same crimes as Mandela and his co-accused. Harry Schwarzwho was a friend of his acted as his defence. After being the subject of vicious taunting and many attempts to place him as a vital cog of MK by Percy Yutar, finally Judge Quartus de Wetdischarged him, stating Accused No 8 has no case to answer. Kantor fled the country and died of a massive heart attack in 1975. His health never recovered from the harsh treatment while in prison awaiting trial.
death penaltyhad been requested, but was changed because of world-wide protests and skilled legal maneuvers on the part of the defence team. Eight defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment; Lionel Bernsteinwas acquitted.
: [http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/trials/toward_robben_island.html] "There was no surprise in the fact that Mandela, Sisulu, Mbeki, Motsoaledi, Mlangeni, and Goldberg were found guilty on all four counts. The defense had hoped that Mhlaba, Kathrada, and Bernstein might escape conviction because of the skimpiness of evidence that they were parties to the conspiracy, although undoubtedly they could be prosecuted on other charges. But Mhlaba too was found guilty on all counts, and Kathrada, on one charge of conspiracy. Bernstein, however, was found not guilty. He was rearrested, released on bail, and placed under house arrest. Later he fled the country."
Denis Goldberg went to
Pretoria Central Prisoninstead of Robben Island(at that time the only security wing for white political prisoners in South Africa) where he served 22 years.
Nelson Mandela would spend nearly thirty years in prison as a result of the trial. He was released on
10 February 1990by President F.W. de Klerk.
Little Rivonia Trial
* " [http://www.observer.co.uk/mandela/story/0,8224,436395,00.html The Rivonia Trial] " - article by Sunder Katwala from "
The Observer", dated Sunday, February 11, 2001
* [http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/about/warwickmagazine04/mandela/ Liliesleaf Farm in South Africa]
* [http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/trials/toward_robben_island.html ANC history]
* [http://www.mg.co.za/articlePage.aspx?articleid=275302 On the trail of Mandela's handgun]
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