Nelson Mandela's Second Court Statement

views updated

Nelson Mandela's Second Court Statement

Book excerpt

By: Nelson Mandela

Date: 1964

Source: Mandela, Nelson R. Nelson Mandela: The Struggle Is My Life. London: International Defense and Aid Fund for South Africa, 1978.

About the Author: Nelson Mandela achieved global recognition for his struggles against apartheid in South Africa, for his several-decades-long incarceration as a result, and for his election to the presidency in South Africa's first all-race democractic election in 1994. He has been a political activist for nearly all of his adult life and was a central figure in the black South African fight against apartheid. In 1993, along with F. Willem De Klerk, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in recognition of his long-standing efforts to put an end to the oppression of the black South African people by helping to abolish apartheid.


Nelson Mandela became involved with the African National Congress (ANC) as a young man and was instrumental in the development of the ANC's Youth League (ANCYL). With Oliver Tambo, he co-founded the first law office run by black South Africans in 1952. He began resisting apartheid immediately after it was instituted and had long been in support of ending what he called racialism (analogous to racism) in South Africa.

In the early 1950s, Mandela became deeply involved in the Defiance Campaign, dedicated to eradicating legal discrimination against black South Africans. He was arrested and criminally charged for his role in this movement, given a suspended prison sentence, and confined to remain in Johannesburg for six months. Near the end of the 1950s, Mandela was a defendant in the Treason Trials, which came about as a result of the adoption of the Freedom Charter by the African National Congress, the Congress of Democrats, the South African Indian Congress, the South African Congress of Trade Unions, and the Colored People's Congress. These were primarily black South African groups, and the Freedom Charter was concerned with ending apartheid and abolishing racial segregation and separatism. It advocated freedom and equality for all people in South Africa, regardless of racial or cultural origin. The police arrested more than 150 people during the first two weeks of December in 1956, most of whom were black and the majority of whom were executives in the above-named groups.

Those arrested were charged with the capital crime (able to receive the death sentence) of high treason. Of the 156 people arrested, ninety-five were made to stand trial. Ultimately, all charges were dropped. After the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, the African National Congress was banned from South Africa, and Mandela was detained by the legal authorities until 1961 for his participation in the group. After his release, Mandela went underground and adopted a series of different disguises in order to avoid capture as he worked to try to gather support for governmental changes. He left the country illegally to gather international support for his movement and was arrested when he re-entered South Africa. He was convicted in 1962 and sentenced to five years in prison. While he was serving his sentence, he was charged with sabotage in the Rivonia case, along with the other leaders of the African National Congress. During the Rivonia Trial in 1963–1964, seven of the defendants, including Mandela, were found guilty of treason for allegedly plotting to overthrow the apartheid government, and were sentenced to life imprisonment.


[This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions]

[This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions]

[This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions]


Nelson Mandela served twenty-eight years in prison. During that time, he remained a role model for other prisoners and was deeply committed to the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa. He worked to create educational programs, teaching basic skills as well as politics in every prison in which he was placed. Mandela never ceased his political activism, despite his adverse and oppressive circumstances. He remained a very powerful political figure throughout the decades he spent in prison. Several times during the course of his incarceration, he was offered the opportunity to be released in exchange for renunciation of his political beliefs. He never compromised his ethics or his beliefs, and he refused to be released on those grounds. With the ending of apartheid, Nelson Mandela was released from prison on Sunday, February 11, 1990.

In 1991, Nelson Mandela presided at the first sanctioned meeting of the African National Congress held in South Africa since it was banned in 1960. He was elected President of the ANC that year as well. In 1993, Nelson Mandela and F. Willem De Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize, following in the distinguished tradition of fellow South African opponents of apartheid Chief Albert Lutuli (Nobel Prize for Peace, 1967) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Nobel Prize for Peace, 1984). The Nelson Mandela who won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993 was a far different man than the young radical who had studied (and mastered) guerilla warfare, and who had advocated violent uprisings as a means of opposing apartheid and attempting to overthrow the white South African apartheid government. The older Nelson Mandela referred to himself as a person who was accepting the Nobel Laureate as "a representative of the millions of people across the globe, the anti-apartheid movement, the governments and organisations that joined with us, not to fight against South Africa as a country or any of its peoples, but to oppose an inhuman system and sue for a speedy end to the apartheid crime against humanity.

These countless human beings, both inside and outside our country, had the nobility of spirit to stand in the path of tyranny and injustice, without seeking selfish gain. They recognised that an injury to one is an injury to all and therefore acted together in defense of justice and a common human decency."

On May 10, 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected State President of South Africa in the first democratic all-race elections held after the ending of apartheid, and served in that capacity from May of 1994 until June of 1999, when he officially retired. He was the first black President in South African History.



Apartheid Unravels, edited by R. Hunt Davis, Jr. Gainesville, Fla.: University of Florida Press, 1991.

Culverson, Donald R. Contesting Apartheid: U.S. Activism, 1960–1987. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1999.

Eades, Lindsey Michie. The End of Apartheid in South Africa. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999.

Klotz, Audie. Norms in International Relations: The Struggle Against Apartheid. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995.

Mandela, Nelson. Nelson Mandela Speaks: Forging a Democratic, Nonracial South Africa. New York: Little Brown, 1994.

Mandela, Tambo, and the African National Congress: The Struggle Against Apartheid, 1948–1990, edited by Sheridan Johns and R. Hunt Davis, Jr. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Pomeroy, William J. Apartheid, Imperialism, and African Freedom. New York: International Publishers, 1986.

Web sites "Nelson Mandela-Nobel Acceptance and Lecture." 〈〉 (accessed May 6, 2006).