South African’s National Liberation Movement

Close this search box.

Rivonia trial

Related Documents

Document found by the police at Rivonia

11 July 1963


The white state has thrown overboard every pretence of rule by democratic process. Armed to the teeth it has presented the people with only one choice and that is its overthrow by force and violence. It can now truly be said that very little, if any, scope exists for the smashing of white supremacy other than by means of mass revolutionary action, the main content of which is armed resistance leading to victory by military means.

The political events which have occurred in the last few years have convinced the overwhelming majority of the people that no mass struggle which is not backed up by armed resistance and military offensive operations, can hope to make a real impact. This can be seen from the general mood of the people and their readiness to undertake even desperate and suicidal violent campaigns of the Leballo type. It can also be gauged by their reluctance to participate in orthodox political struggles in which they expose themselves to massive retaliation without a prospect of hitting back. We are confident that the masses will respond in overwhelming numbers to a lead which holds out a real possibility of successful armed struggle .

Thus two important ingredients of a revolutionary situation are present: –

  1. A disillusionment with constitutional or semi-constitutional forms of struggle and a conviction that the road to victory is through force;
  2. A militancy and a readiness to respond to a lead which holds out a real possibility of successful struggle.

In the light of the existence of these ingredients the prosecution of military struggle depends for its success on two further factors: –

  1. The strength of the enemy. This must not be looked at statically but in the light of objective factors, which in a period of military struggle may well expose its brittleness and
  2. The existence of a clear leadership with material resources at its disposal to spark off and sustain military operations.

The objective military conditions in which the movement finds itself makes the possibility of a general uprising leading to direct military struggle an unlikely one. Rather, as in Cuba, the general uprising must be sparked off by organised and well prepared guerrilla operations during the course of which the masses of the people will be drawn in and armed.

We have no illusions about the difficulties which face us in launching and successfully prosecuting guerrilla operations leading to military victory. Nor do we assume that such a struggle will be over swiftly. We have taken into account and carefully weighed numerous factors and we mention some of them:

  1. We are faced with a powerfully armed modern state with tremendous industrial resources, which can, at least in the initial period, count on the support of three million whites. At the same time the State is isolated practically from the rest of the world, and if effective work is done, will have to rely in the main on its own resources. The very concentration of industry and power and the interdependence of the various localities operates as both an advantage and a disadvantage for the enemy. It operates as a disadvantage because effective guerrilla operations can within a relatively short period create far greater economic havoc and confusion than in a backward, decentralised country.
  2. The people are unarmed and lack personnel who have been trained in all aspects of military operations. A proper organisation of the almost unlimited assistance which we can obtain from friendly Governments will counter-balance its disadvantage. In the long run a guerrilla struggle relies on the enemy for its source of supply. But in order to make this possible an initial effective arming of the first group of guerrilla bands is essential. It is also vital to place in the field persons trained in the art of war who will act as a nucleus of organisers and commanders of guerrilla operations.
  3. The absence of friendly borders and long scale impregnable natural bases from which to operate are both disadvantages. But more important than these factors is the support of the people who in certain situations are better protection than mountains and forests. In the rural areas which become the main theatre of guerrilla operations in the initial phase, the overwhelming majority of the people will protect and safeguard the guerrillas and this fact will to some measure negative the disadvantages. In any event we must not underestimate the fact that there is terrain in many parts of South Africa, which although not classically impregnable is suitable for guerrilla type operations. Boer guerrillas with the support of their people operated in the plains of the Transvaal. Although conditions have changed there is still a lesson to be learnt from this.

Although we must prepare for a protracted war we must not lose sight of the fact that the political isolation of South Africa from the world community of nations and particularly the active hostility towards it from almost the whole of the African Continent and the Socialist world may result in such massive assistance in various forms, that the state structure will collapse far sooner than we can at the moment envisage. Direct military intervention in South West Africa, an effective economic and military boycott, even armed international action at some more advanced stage of the struggle are real possibilities which will play an important role. In no other territory where guerrilla operations have been undertaken has the international situation been such a vital factor operating against the enemy. We are not unaware that there are powerful external monopoly interests who will attempt to bolster up the white state. With effective work they can be isolated and neutralised. The events of the last few years have shown that the issue of racial discrimination cuts across world ideological conflict albeit that the West proceeds from opportunistic premises.

The following plan envisages a process which will place in the field, at a date fixed now, simultaneously in pre-selected areas armed and trained guerrilla bands who will find ready to join the local guerrilla bands with arms and equipment at their disposal. It will further coincide with a massive propaganda campaign both inside and outside South Africa and a general call for unprecedented mass struggle throughout the land, both violent and non-violent. In the initial period when for a short while the military adv. [sic] will be ours the plan envisages a massive onslaught on pre-selected targets which will create maximum havoc and confusion in the enemy camp and which will inject into the masses of the people and other friendly forces a feeling of confidence that here at least is an army of liberation equipped and capable of leading them to victory. In this period the cornerstone of guerrilla operations is “shamelessly attack the weak and shamelessly flee from the strong”.

We are convinced that this plan is capable of fulfillment. But only if the whole apparatus of the movement both here and abroad is mobilised for its implementation and if every member now prepares to make unlimited sacrifice for the achievement of our goal. The time for small thinking is over because history leaves us no choice.

PART 11.


  1. Port Elizabeth – Mzimkulu.
  2. Port Shepstone – Swaziland.
  3. North Western Transvaal, bordering respectively Bechuanaland & Limpopo.
  4. North Western Cape – South West.

PART 111.


  1. Simultaneous landing of 4 groups of 30 based on our present resources whether by ship or air – armed and properly equipped in such a way as to be self sufficient in every respect for at least a month.
  2. At the initial stages it is proposed that the 30 are split up into platoons of 10 each to operate more or less within a contiguous area and linking their activities with pre-arranged local groups.
  3. Simultaneously with the landing of the groups of 30 and thereafter, there should be a supply of arms and other war material to arm the local populations which become integrated with the guerrilla units.
  4. On landing, a detailed plan of attack on pre-selected targets with a view to taking the enemy by surprise, creating the maximum impact on the populace, creating as much chaos and confusion for the enemy as possible.
  5. Choice of suitable areas will be based on the nature of the terrain, with a view to establishing base areas from which our units can attack and to which they can retreat.
  6. Before these operations take place political authority will have been set up in secrecy in a friendly territory with a view to supervising the struggle both in its internal and external aspects. It is visualised that this authority will in due course of time develop into a Provisional Revolutionary Government . 7. This Political Authority should trim its machinery so that simultaneously with the commencement of operations it will throw out massive propaganda to win world support for our struggle, more particularly: –
    1. A complete enforcement of boycott,
    2. Enlisting the support of the international trade union movement to refuse handling war materials and other goods intended for the South African Government,
    3. Raising a storm at the United Nations which should be urged to intervene militarily in South West Africa.
    4. Raising of large scale credits for the prosecution of the struggle
    5. Arranging for radio facilities for daily transmission to the world and to the people of South Africa.
    6. If possible the Political Authority should arrange for the initial onslaught to bombard the country or certain areas with a flood of leaflets by plane announcing the commencement of our armed struggle as well as our aims, and calling upon the population to rise against the Government.
    7. Stepping up transport plans, e.g. a weekly or bi weekly airlift of trainees outside the country in order to maintain a regular, if small flow of trained personnel.
    8. In order to facilitate the implementation of the military aspect of the plan it is proposed the National High Command appoint personnel to be quartered at Dar under the auspices of the office there.



In preparation for the commencement of operations when our external team lands, intensive as well as extensive work will have been done. For instance, guerrilla units will have been set up in the main areas mapped out in Part I above as well as in the other areas away from the immediate scene of operation.

Progressively sabotage activity throughout the country will be stepped up before these operations. Political pressure too, in the meanwhile will be stepped up in conjunction with the sabotage activity.

In furtherance of the general ideas set out above the plan for internal organisation is along the following pattern: –

  1. Our target is that on arrival the external force should find at least 7,000 men in the four main areas ready to join the guerrilla army in the initial onslaught. Those will be allocated as follows: –
    1. Eastern Cape – Transkei 2,000
    2. Natal – Zululand 2,000
    3. North Western Transvaal 2,000
    4. North-Western Cape 1,000
  2. To realise our target in each of the main areas it is proposed that each of the four areas should have an overall command whose task it will be to divide its area into regions, which in turn will be allocated a figure in proportion to their relative importance.
  3. The preparation for equipping the initial force envisaged in I above will take place in three stages, thus:
    1. By importation of Military supply at two levels:
      1. Build up of firearms, ammunition and explosives by maintaining a regular flow over a period of time.
      2. By landing additional [supplies] simultaneously with the arrival of our external force.
    2. Acquisition and accumulation internally of firearms, ammunition and explosives at all levels of our organisation.
    3. Collection and accumulation of other military such as food, medicines, communication equipment etc.
  4. It is proposed that auxiliary guerrilla/sabotage units in the four main areas be set up before and after the commencement of operations. They may engage in activities that may serve to disperse the enemy forces, assist to maintain the fighting ability of the guerrillas as well as draw in the masses in support of the guerrillas.
  5. It is proposed that in areas falling outside the four main guerrilla areas MK units should be set up to act in support of the activities in the guerrilla areas, and to harass the enemy.
  6. In order to draw in the masses of the population the political wing should arouse the people to participate in the struggles that are designed to create an upheaval throughout the country.



In order to implement the plans set out above in Parts I to 111 we establish Departments which are to be charged with duties to study and submit detailed reports and plans in respect of each of their Departments with the following terms of reference: –

1. Intelligence Department

This Committee will be required to study and report on the following: –

  1. The exact extent of each area
  2. The portions of the country that are naturally suited for our operations and their location within each area.
  3. Points along the coast which would be suitable for landing of men and supplies and how these are going to be transferred from the point of landing to the area of operations.
  4. The situation of enemy forces in each area, thus: –
    1. the military and the police as well as their strength
    2. military and police camps, and towns, and the distances between them,
    3. system of all forms of communication in the area,
    4. the location of trading stations and chiefs and headmen`s kraals.
    5. air fields and air strips in the areas.
  5. Selection of targets to be tackled in initial phase of guerrilla operations with a view to causing maximum damage to the enemy as well as preventing the quick deployment of reinforcements.
    In its study the Committee should bear in mind the following main targets: –
    1. strategic road, railways and other communications
    2. power stations
    3. police, stations, camps and military forces
    4. irredeemable Government stooges.
  6. A study of climatic conditions in relation to seasons, as well as diseases common to the area.
  7. The population distribution in the areas as well as the main crops.
  8. Rivers and dams.
  9. And generally all other relevant matters

2. External Planning Committee which shall be charged with the following tasks: –

  1. Obtaining of arms, ammunition and explosives and other equipment
  2. In co-operation with our internal machinery, making arrangements for the despatch of items in I above into the country
  3. Obtaining of transport by land, sea and air for the landing of our task force and for the continued supply of military equipment.

3. Political Authority

We make a strong recommendation that the joint sponsoring organisations should immediately set about creating a political machinery for the direction of the revolutionary struggle as set out in Nos. 6, 7 and 8 of Part 11 and to set up a special committee to direct guerrilla political education.

4. Transport Committee.

This Committee is assigned the following duties: –

  1. The organisation of transport facilities for our trainees
  2. To organise transport for the re entry of our trainees
  3. To undertake any transport duties assigned to them from time to time .

5. Logistics Department – Technical and Supply Committee

Its Functions are: –

  1. To manufacture and build up a stock of arms, ammunition from internal sources.
  2. To organise reception, distribution and storage of supplies from external sources.
  3. To organise the training of personnel in the use of equipment referred to in (a) and (b) above.
  4. Obtaining of all other relevant supplies necessary to prosecute an armed struggle, to wit, inter alia, medical supplies, clothing, food, etc., and the storage of these at strategic points.
  5. Acquiring equipment to facilitate communications.
  6. To undertake all duties and functions that fall under the Department of Logistics.



1. Immediate Duties of the National High Command in Relation to the Guerilla Areas:

  1. To map out regions in each area with a view to organising Regional and District Commands and NK [sic] units.
  2. To achieve this we strongly recommend the employment of 10 full time organisers in each area.
  3. The organisers shall be directly responsible to the National High Command .
  4. The NHC is directed to recruit and arrange for the external training of at least 300 men in the next two months.

2. Personal

  1. Intelligence Alex Secundus Otto
  2. External Planning Committee Johnson, Thabo and Joseph together with a senior ANC rep. as well as co-opted personnel, seconded to us by friendly Govts.
  3. Transport Committee Percy secundus Nbata.
  4. Logistics Dept. Bri-bri secundus Frank

3. Special Directives to Heads of Departments.

The Heads of Departments are required to submit not later than the 30th May, 1963, plans detailing: –

  1. The structural organisation of their Department
  2. The type and number of personnel they require to be allocated to them and their duties and functions.
  3. The funds required for their work both for immediate and long term purposes.
  4. Schedule of time required to enable them to fulfill given targets and what these are.
  5. Other matters relating to the efficient execution of the Departments Plans.

4. Organisation of Areas. Organisers and Setting up of proper Machinery Rethau and James for this task.