South African’s National Liberation Movement

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Rivonia trial

The Rivonia trial was named after Rivonia, the suburb of Johannesburg where 19 ANC leaders were arrested at Liliesleaf Farm, privately owned by Arthur Goldreich, on 11 July 1963. It had been used as a hideout for the African National Congress.

The Rivonia Trial began on 26 November 1963 and ended on 12 June 1964. Ten leaders of the African National Congress were tried for 221 acts of sabotage designed to overthrow the apartheid system.

After dismissal of the first indictment as inadequate, the trial finally got under way on 3 December with an expanded indictment. Each of the ten accused pleaded not guilty.

The charges were:

  • recruiting persons for training in the preparation and use of explosives and in guerrilla warfare for the purpose of violent revolution and committing acts of sabotage
  • conspiring to commit the aforementioned acts and to aid foreign military units when they invaded the Republic
  • acting in these ways to further the objects of communism
  • soliciting and receiving money for these purposes from sympathizers in Algeria, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Tunisia, and elsewhere.

During the trial Arthur Goldreich and Harold Wolpe escaped from The Fort prison in Johannesburg and escaped to Swaziland.

Wolpe`s escape led his brother-in-law James Kantor being arrested and charged with the same crimes as the other defendants. Kantor was subsequently discharged by judge Quartus de Wet.

Of the remaining defendants eight were sentenced to life imprisonment while Lionel Bernstein was acquitted.