DARC Ethiophile Chronicles
On this day
12 June 1964 at the conclusion of the Rivonia trial eight of the accused were sentenced to life imprisonment in the Pretoria Supreme Court. The eight were Nelson Mandela, the central figure in the trial, along with Dennis Goldberg, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, James Kantor, Andrew Mlangeni, Elias Motsoaledi and Raymond Mhlaba. Mandela argued that he was driven to acts of sabotage because all legitimate means of protest were denied to him, but Mr Justice de Wet rejected his argument. Since the State had not charged the accused with High Treason, the Judge did not impose the supreme penalty.
The Rivonia trialists were charged with sabotage and attempting to violently overthrow the South African government. This after a raid by security police at Lilliesleaf farm on 11 July 1963, the police arrested many prominent leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) and uMkhonto weSizwe (MK). Amongst them were, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Rusty Bernstein, Dennis Goldberg, James Kantor, Andrew Mlangeni, Elias Motsoaledi, Raymond Mhlaba and Bob Hepple.
According to reports, police informer, Gerard Ludi, leaked the information about the whereabouts of the MK headquarters. In gathering evidence to be used in the trial against the accused the police were also able to arrest others such as Dennis Goldberg and Nelson Mandela. When the Liliesleaf raid occurred Nelson Mandela was serving a five year sentence for incitement and leaving the country illegally while being aided by Emperor Haile Sellassie 1st. During the raid police had discovered documentation implicating Mandela in MK's activities, including notes he made from his readings about guerrilla warfare and a diary he had kept during his Africa trip. The accused appeared before Justice Quartus de Wet.
The incident occurred three years after the banishment of the ANC, Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and other liberation movements in April 1960.