One of Nelson Mandela's most legendary speeches was during the start of a trial between 1963 and 1964. This event has transformed South Africa with a court case dubbed as "the Rivonia trial" where Rivonia, a suburb of Johannesburg, had 19 African National Congress leaders arrested and charged with treason. The trial led to the life imprisonment of Mandela for 27 years, along with the other eight convicted rivals.
Mandela's speech from the dock left a big impression in African political history and was a significant proclamation of his political philosophy. Click here to learn more about the Rivonia trial.
Here are the best excerpts from Nelson Mandela's three-hour long speech delivered at the dock of the court April 20, 1964, before he was released from prison in 1990:
"Standing in the pier at the Palace of Justice in Pretoria, Mandela declared; "I do not... 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," Mandela confessed that the sabotage planned by him was the result of exploitation by the whites.
"I admit immediately that I was one of the persons who helped to form Umkhonto we Sizwe [armed wing of the African National Congress], and that I played a prominent role in its affairs until I was arrested in August 1962. 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," Mandela said he helped to establish the armed wing of the African National Congress.
"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. But the violence which we chose to adopt was not terrorism. 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," he noted that without violence African people could not have gotten rid of white supremacy.
The BBC's George Alagiah said about the speech: "Probably one of the most famous speeches given in any courtroom anywhere in the world"
"I have always regarded myself, in the first place, as an African patriot. I was born in Mthatha, 46 years ago. As I understand the state case... the suggestion is that Umkhonto was the inspiration of the Communist Party which sought by playing upon imaginary grievances to enrol the African people into an army which ostensibly was to fight for African freedom, but in reality was fighting for a communist state," he said he was an African nationalist and Umkhonto formed in anticipation to fight for African freedom.
"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," acknowledged the global anti-apartheid icon.
Nelson Mandela - Full Speech At Start Rivonia Trial (20 April 1964)
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