Minister Radebe gives a lecture on the Rivonia Trial in Paris
United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), in collaboration with member states, hosted the 50th Anniversary of the Rivonia Trial in Paris on 16 July 2013, where Minister Jeff Radebe gave a keynote address.
The occasion was attended by the International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim, UNESCO Director-General, Ms Irina Bokana, permanent delegate to UNESCO and Ambassador to France, Ms Dolana Msimang.
Addressing delegates, Minister Radebe described the Rivonia Trial as one of the defining moments that changed the South African history as it happened at the time when the struggle against apartheid had reached a turning point.
The Rivonia Trial was an infamous trial which took place in South Africa between 1963 and 1964, in which ten leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) were tried for 221 acts of sabotage designed to ’ferment violent revolution’.
“Of significance during this historic and protracted trial is the fact that accused number one, Mr Nelson Mandela, was already serving time on Robben Island for incitement and leaving the country without a passport,” explained Minister Radebe.
He further said that the historic trial represented the might of government against an unlucky group of men, who stood steadfast and turned the court to yet another terrain of struggle. “I know because it is the same illegitimate system that sent me to the same Robben Island for my political activities,” said Minister Radebe, adding that the highlight of the trial was Mr Mandela’s speech in the dock, where he justified the accused’s actions and challenged the legitimacy of the court they appeared before.
The trial was named after Rivonia, a suburb in Johannesburg where 19 ANC leaders were arrested at Liliesleaf Farm, privately owned by Mr Arthur Goldreich, on 11 July 1963. The farm was used as a hideout for ANC members. Mr Nelson Mandela and others had occupied the farm in October 1961 and evaded security police while he was masquerading as a gardener and a cook called David Motsamayi.
Minister Radebe expressed his gratitude for the support from the anti-apartheid movements abroad, which had a significant contribution to the liberation of South Africa from the apartheid regime. “The government was under pressure from mass mobilisation, international solidarity, armed struggle and had no choice but to enter into negotiations. This was a genesis to the unbanning of political organisations and the release of the Rivonia trialists,” he mentioned.
According to the minister, this heralded a new dawn as the first democratic
elections were held in 1994 and a new Constitution was adopted. Minister Radebe
further said: “Today, the South African Constitution is regarded as the
best model in the world, as it recognises basic human rights and abolished
many oppressive laws of the past.”
In his conclusion, the minister reflected on the country’s legal system that echoes a platform where constitutionally enshrined rights to fair trial are freely exercised with many legal avenues to explore when one believes there has been any element of injustice.
“We have made significant strides in transforming the judiciary that represents the demographics of our country. We stand tall and tell the world that in South Africa today, justice is not only done but manifestly seen to be done,” he concluded.
By Benson Ntlatleng
26 July 2013