Why did Nelson Mandela go to Prison ?

Nelson Mandela was released from jail in the year 1994.   Though he was known to be a pioneer in non-violent protest, he joined hands with South African Communist Party and co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe(MK) in 1961 and lead a campaign to bomb several  government targets.  In 1962,  Nelson Mandela was sentenced to prison for crimes like conspiracy to overthrow the government and sabotage. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in what is known as the Rivonia trial.

Mr. Mandela  was in the jail for 27 years, first on Robben Island, then in Pollsmoor Prison and finally in Victor Verster Prison.

Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990 thanks the pressure of an international lobby.Once he was free, he became the president of African National Congress,  and involved himself in talks with President F.W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and initiated multi-racial elections in 1994, leading to the victory of ANC.

On 5 August 1962, police captured Mandela along with Cecil Williams near Howick.  On 9th October, Nelson Mandela along with his friends were charged with four incidents of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government.  Percy Yutar, the chief prosecutor sought death-penalty for Nelson Mandela and his comrades and presented 173 witnesses and more than thousands of documents to validate his claim.

Apart from James Cantor, everyone including Nelson Mandela was convicted. Nelson and his comrades admitted that they did sabotage but firmly denied playing an role in overthrowing the government by indulging in guerilla warfare. One of Nelson Mandela’s speeches, inspired by Fidel  Castro’s ‘History Will be Me’ won popular acclaim and other governments, the World Peace Council and United Nations sough Nelson Mandela’s release from prison but the South African government remained adamant and sent the accused to life imprisonment rather than death, on June 12, 1964.


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