The Rivonia trial: The values to cherish from the struggle - CNBC Africa

The Rivonia trial: The values to cherish from the struggle


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Nelson Mandela and fellow activist and friend Denis Goldberg. PHOTO: Ituk forum

Mandela, Sisulu, Mbeki, Motsoaledi, Mlangeni, Mhlaba and Goldberg were found guilty on all four counts and sentenced to life imprisonment. While Kathrada was found guilty on one charge of conspiracy, this was despite the fact that there was a lack of evidence that they were actually involved in the conspiracy.  

Eight of the accused were imprisoned on Robben Island, with the exception of Goldberg, who was sent to Pretoria Central Prison, the only security wing for white political prisoners in South Africa at the time, where he served 22 years.

“I believe in justice and I believe in freedom. I did not want to be part of the oppressive society. People say I could have lived in comfort but I couldn’t, because my conscience wouldn’t let me. I would be living a lie. So if you’re going to die, die with honour,” said Goldberg. 

Twenty-five years prior to the conclusion of the Rivonia trial, FW de Klerk became president and, soon afterwards, announced the release of various political prisoners, one of them being Nelson Mandela, who was released on 11 February 1990. 

Goldberg recalled Mandela’s uncanny ability to think like a president before he had even become one; his ability to think up strategies and tactics and to adapt to change. Most importantly, Goldberg believes that the struggle succeeded because of the unity that was established and upheld.  

“The danger of forgetting is that we say wait until a new Madiba comes to bring you freedom. It is the ability to mobilise masses of people. Oliver Tambo and the ANC in exile made Mandela famous on the basis of the ‘I’m prepared to die’ speech.” 

“In the end, the United Democratic Front had a membership of 1.2 million and hundreds of thousands of young people who weren’t members in the streets. It’s the mobilisation of masses of people who turn a dream, a vision of the future into reality, not one man sitting there on his own. That’s the brilliance, that’s what I want to remember about meeting Mandela,” he said. 

While there is still much to achieve, Goldberg believes that the country is still young and has much to learn but it must not forget the struggle and what that struggle was meant to achieve. 

“What we’ve done is miraculous. The difficulties we’ve overcome, we still have more to overcome. What disappoints me, of course, is greed and personal enrichment because it takes away our freedom. People should be thinking of the goals and the Freedom Charter and the Constitution, those are the values that we aimed for in the struggle,” he added.