South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid

Treason Trial

Video Interviews

"He went through document after document... 'This is ... undiluted communism' ... "
Video interview segment with Ahmed Kathrada [7:42]
March 24, 2006

Audio Interviews

"The State wanted to actually bottle us up, thinking that the struggle will die out..."
Audio interview segment with Billy Nair [4:36]
July 12, 2002 Durban, South Africa.

Documents

Newsletter: Treason Trial Bulletin No.2
By Treason Trials Defence Fund

Newsletter: Treason Trial Bulletin No.3
By Treason Trials Defence Fund

Newsletter: Treason Trial Bulletin No.4
By Treason Trials Defence Fund

Newsletter: Treason Trial Bulletin No.6
By Treason Trial Defence Fund

Newsletter: Treason Trial Bulletin No.7
By Treason Trials Defence Fund

Newsletter: Treason Trial Bulletin No.9
By Treason Trials Defence Fund

Newsletter: Treason Trial Bulletin No.13
By Treason Trial Defence Fund

Summary

In December 1956, five months after the adoption of the Freedom Charter, the apartheid government charged 156 leaders of the Congress Alliance with high treason for a “conspiracy to use violence to overthrow the present government and replace it with a Communist state.” The accused (105 Africans, 21 Indians, 23 Whites, and 7 Coloureds) included almost the entire executive of the African National Congress (ANC) Congress of Democrats, South African Indian Congress, Coloured People's Congress, and the South African Congress of Trade Unions – the organizations in the Congress Alliance.

The trial lasted more than four years, keeping key anti-apartheid leaders out of circulation and costing considerable money to support many of the defendants who lost their jobs or could not work during the trial. Two months into the trial, the initial indictment was dropped, and immediately a new indictment was issued against 30 people, all ANC members. On March 29, 1961 the judge announced his verdict that all the accused were acquitted, because the evidence did not prove that the liberation movement had used violence to achieve its aims.

Related Multimedia Resources:

Web Images

Photograph: Treason Trial Gallery
From: South African History Online
[Go to source directly and leave this site] external link

Web Documents

Resource: Treason Trial Feature: December 1956-1961
[more info]
[Go to source directly and leave this site] external link
Testimony: Nelson Mandela's Testimony at the Treason Trial 1956-60
By Nelson Mandela [more info]
[Go to source directly and leave this site] external link

AODL African Studies Center MSU Matrix NEH