About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Rivonia/ Rivonia Trial

After being banned in 1960, the ANC* continued its activities underground and formed a military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe*(MK), headed by Nelson Mandela and others that had not yet been banned or imprisoned. However, MK came to grief in July 1963 when the police raided its headquarters at a homestead at Lilliesleaf Farm in Rivonia near Johannesburg. Ringleaders in the house were promptly arrested and the police found documentary evidence that appeared to indicate that MK was planning a large-scale military operation with the code-name Mayibuye (to restore or give back). ANC as well as communist activists were implicated, although it was not clear whether the plan had in fact been approved by the MK executive. In the trial that followed, ANC communist affiliates (many of them whites and Indians, who as non-Africans were not yet able to become ANC members) were heavily implicated. The government made much of what they called the 'communist threat' to South Africa. Despite strong communist links the ANC was, however, still committed to black self-determination and a multi-national democracy. Charged with high treason, eight of the accused including Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada and Dennis Goldberg, were found guilty of sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment. A. Goldreich and H. Wolpe managed to escape and flee to Swaziland. Its structures in South Africa severely crippled, the ANC was obliged to turn its attention to establishing bases outside the country.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.