Testimony of Govan Mbeki during the Rivonia Trial

Testimony of Govan Mbeki during the Rivonia Trial

Bram Fischer [attorney for the defense]: Had you good reason for this [carrying on the ANC illegally after it was banned]?

Govan Mbeki: Yes…. Thousands of people looked up to the ANC to lead them in the struggle against the laws which were threatening practically every right that the African had enjoyed before…. I just could not accept the fact that the government should destroy the ANC. I therefore continued to be a member of the ANC under conditions of illegality….

Fischer: Has the [white supremacist] policy [of the South African government] itself changed…

Mbeki: No. Apart from that, the leopard has not changed its colours at all. The position was very clearly expressed by the late Prime Minister, Mr. JG Strydom, when he said ‘die wit man moet altyd baas wees’ (the white man must always remain the boss).

Fischer: Has any one of the last three Prime Ministers including the present Prime Minister ever met any leading member of the African National Congress?

Mbeki: Not one of them.

Fischer: Talking about methods of protest. Since this government has been in power what has happened to the right of Africans to hold meetings or demonstrations or processions?

Mbeki: In the reserves (i.e. African occupied rural areas), since the early 50s meetings have been banned except those that have the approval of the Native Commissioners…. In the urban areas it is virtually impossible to find a place to hold political meetings of Africans.


#3 Oral History of the Soweto Uprising

Sonny Venkatrathnam: All political movements were banned. Everything was quiet, ostensibly. In terms of the struggle, we were in the doldrums.

Ahmed Kathrada: They had virtually crushed the movement in South Africa. It was a bad period for us.

Murphy Morobi: A number of people were being killed in detention. People were very scared to get involved.

Nthato Motlana: And yet, under the surface, it continued to bubble.

Bongi Mkhabela: They had locked up Mandela in jail. But they hadn’t looked around to see where are their children and what are they doing?

Nthato Motlana: The student movement, under the leadership of people like Steve Biko, there arose a group imbued with the spirit of black consciousness….

Thandi Modise: There was an emergence amongst black townships of self-definition. Do you take what your father has taken or do you stand up for what you think is right?

Strini Moodley: The reaction of the older generation to us was, “Are you guys mad? Those guys are gonna come blow you away. They’re gonna kill you.” And we said, “No, first thing is you stand up and speak your mind as any normal human being has the right to do.

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