The Presidential Years

Trial between 1963 and 1964 in which ten leading members of the Congress Alliance were charged with sabotage and faced the death penalty. Named after the suburb of Rivonia, Johannesburg, where six members of the MK High Command were arrested at their hideout, Liliesleaf Farm, on 11 July 1963. Incriminating documents, including a proposal for a guerrilla insurgency named Operation Mayibuye, were seized. Mandela, who was already serving a sentence for incitement and leaving South Africa illegally, was implicated, and his notes on guerrilla warfare and his diary from his trip through Africa in 1962 were also seized. Rather than being cross-examined as a witness, Mandela made a statement from the dock on 20 April 1964. This became his famous ‘I am prepared to die’ speech. On 11 June 1964 eight of the accused were convicted by Justice Quartus de Wet at the Palace of Justice in Pretoria, and the next day were sentenced to life imprisonment.