Mandela Trials Papers

Scope and Content

Photocopies of papers collected by Joel Joffe, lawyer acting for Nelson Mandela, relating to Mandela's trial in Pretoria (1962) and the Rivonia Trial (1963-1964); including Mandela's application to have the Pretoria trial postponed, Oct 1962; Mandela's address to the court in mitigation of the sentence of five years imprisonment, detailing his political commitment and activities in the African National Congress (ANC), Nov 1962; copy of the indictment in the Rivonia Trial, initial statement made by Mandela to his lawyers, giving details of his early life; notes by Mandela on his life and ANC accociation; copy of Mandela's statement from the dock, signed by Mandela, manuscript notes by Mandela to use if he were sentenced to death, and manuscript notes by Mandela referring to the tribal council called Imbizo.

Administrative / Biographical History

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born at Qunu, near Umtata on 18 July 1918. His father, Henry Mgadla Mandela, was chief councillor to Thembuland's acting paramount chief David Dalindyebo. When his father died, Mandela became the chief's ward to be groomed to assume high office. However, influenced by the cases that came before the Chief's court, he determined to become a lawyer. After receiving a primary education at a local mission school, Mandela matriculated at Healdtown Methodist Boarding School and then started a BA degree at Fort Hare. As a Student Representative Council member he participated in a student strike and was expelled, along with Oliver Tambo, in 1940. He completed his degree by correspondence from Johannesburg, did articles of clerkship and enrolled for an LLB at the University of the Witwatersrand.In 1944 he helped found the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League, whose Programme of Action was adopted by the ANC in 1949.

Mandela was elected national volunteer-in-chief of the 1952 Defiance Campaign. He travelled the country organising resistance to discriminatory legislation. He was given a suspended sentence for his part in the campaign. Shortly afterwards a banning order confined him to Johannesburg for six months. By 1952 Mandela and Tambo had opened the first black legal firm in the country, and Mandela was both Transvaal president of the ANC and deputy national president. A petition by the Transvaal Law Society to strike Mandela off the roll of attorneys was refused by the Supreme Court.In the 1950s after being forced through constant bannings to resign officially from the ANC, Mandela analysed the Bantustan policy as a political swindle. He predicted mass removals, political persecutions and police terror.

When the ANC was banned after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, he was detained until 1961 when he went underground to lead a campaign for a new national convention. Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the military wing of the ANC, was born the same year. Under his leadership it launched a campaign of sabotage against government and economic installations. In 1962 Mandela left the country for military training in Algeria and to arrange training for other MK members. On his return he was arrested for leaving the country illegally and for incitement to strike. He conducted his own defence. He was convicted and jailed for five years in November 1962. While serving his sentence, he was charged, in the Rivonia trial, with sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Shortly after his release on Sunday 11 February 1990, Mandela and his delegation agreed to the suspension of armed struggle. He was inaugurated as the first democratically elected State President of South Africa on 10 May 1994. Nelson Mandela retired from public life in June 1999. He currently resides in his birth place - Qunu, Transkei.

Joel Joffe was born in 1932, and educated at Marist Brothers' College, Johannesburg and Witwatersrand University. He became a solicitor in 1956 and a barrister in 1962. He worked as a human rights lawyer, 1958-1965, and acted as Nelson Mandela's instructing solicitor in the Rivonia Treason Trial, 1963-1964. He was Director and Secretary of Abbey Life Assurance, 1965-1970, and Director, Joint Managing Director and Deputy Chairman of Allied Dunbar Life Assurance, 1971-1991. He was appointed Chairman of Oxfam in 1995, and created a life peer as Baron Joffe in 2000.



Access Information

Open although advance notice should be given. Access to individual items may be restricted under the Data Protection Act or the Freedom of Information Act.

Acquisition Information

The original papers were deposited at the ICS in 1986, and transferred to the Legal Resources Centre, Bram Fischer Memorial Library, Johannesburg, Soutth Africa.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued to item level (see link to repository catalogue).

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Alan Kucia as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project.

Separated Material

ANC archives are held at the University of Fort Hare, Eastern Cape, South Africa, and at the Mayibuye Centre, University of Western Cape, South Africa.

Conditions Governing Use

A photocopying service is available at the discretion of the Library staff. Copies are supplied solely for research and private study. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Information Resources Manager.

Related Material

Several collections at ICS contain material about Mandela, South Africa and the ANC, including African National Congress Papers (ICS 1); Mary Benson Papers (ICS 6); Ruth First Papers (ICS 117); Foreign Correspondents Association of South Africa (ICS 102).

Location of Originals

The original papers were deposited at the ICS in 1986, and transferred to the Legal Resources Centre, Bram Fischer Memorial Library, Elizabeth House, 18 Pritchard Street, Johannesburg 2001, South Africa, in 1995.


Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (Macdonald Purnell, Randburg, South Africa 1995)

The ANC website contains material about Mandela and the Treason Trials Mandela biography

Nelson Mandela's Testimony at the Treason Trial - extracts 1956-60

The Rivonia Trial - extracts