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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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

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1962. Sabotage Act General Laws Amendment Act No 76

This "allowed for 90-day detention without trial [but see the GENERAL LA WS AMENDMENT ACT of 1963] and defined sabotage broadly enough to include strike action" (Fine & Davis 1990: 237). Furthermore, sabotage was made a capital crime by Section 21 (Dugard 1978: 125).

Terrorism was defined as "any act that endangered law and order, public safety, health or the free movement of traffic; which jeopardized the supply of fuel, food, water, light and power; or which hindered medical and municipal services. Anyone who trespassed on any land or building or who destroyed private and public property could also be penalized under the act" (Riley 1991: 79).

Nelson Mandela, together with other black leaders, were charged with sabotage and treason during the so-called Rivonia Trial, named after one of Johannesburg's suburbs where some of the accused had been arrested. In October 1963, the accused were charged with treason, but "the defence counsel had applied for the indictment against the accused to be quashed because the prosecution had failed to provide sufficient details of the charges to enable for the preparation of a defence... [Thus they were acquitted, but they] were... immediately rearrested and charged with sabotage on 31 October 1963 and the new trial began on 26 November 1963. Eleven men in all (six Blacks, four Whites and one Indian) went into the dock charged under the GENERAL LAWS AMENDMENT (SABOTAGE) ACT [of 1962] and the SUPPRESSION OF COMMUNISM ACT [of 1950] with some 221 acts of sabotage ... [After one had been released] Eight of the remai-ning men - ANC Deputy President Nelson Mandela, ANC Secretary General Walter Sisulu, Elias Matoaledi, Govan Mbeki, Raymiond Mhlaba, Andrew Mlangeni (Blacks), Denis Goldberg (White) and Ahmed Kathrada (Indian) - were convicted, while another White, Lionel Bernstein, was acquitted but later rearrested on charges of furthering Communist aims." (Riley 1991: 87f). In June 1962, all eight ANC leaders were sentenced to life imprisonments. Nelson Mandela made one of his most famous speeches during this trial- it lasted for five hours!

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.