Mandela skips the country and appears in Addis Ababa

Thursday, 11 January 1962

Early in 1962 Nelson Mandela was smuggled across the borders of South Africa as David Motsamayi and on 11 January made a surprise appearance at the Pan-African Freedom Movement Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Mandela's address to the conference took place a few weeks after the first sabotage attacks were committed by uMkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) known as MK,  the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). In his speech he clarified and justified the turn to the armed struggle. During this trip, Mandela received guerrilla training in Algeria before travelling to London where he met leaders of British opposition parties.

He returned to South Africa in July, and on 5 August was arrested near Howick in Natal. Mandela was tried in Pretoria's Old Synagogue and during this trial he decided to conduct his own defence with Bob Hepple acting as his legal representitive. He also applied for the recusal of the magistrate because as a white person he was already an interested party and therefore not impartial. He also pointed out that he was not obligated to obey the laws of a white parliament, which did not represent him, and the rest of Black South Africans.

In November 1962, Mandela was sentenced to five years' imprisonment for incitement and illegally leaving the country. He served this sentence on Robben Island. While Mandela was in prison, police raided the underground headquarters of the African National Congress at Lillies Leaf Farm, Rivonia, arresting, among others, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Ahmed Kathrada, Dennis Goldberg, Lionel Bernstein and Bob Hepple.

Police found documents relating to the manufacture of explosives, Mandela's diary of his African tour and copies of a draft memorandum - 'Operation Mayibuye' - which outlined a possible strategy of a guerrilla struggle.

• Gastrow,S. (1988) 'South Africa Overcoming Apartheid Building Democracy',  [online], Available at [Accessed: 12 November 2010]
• Nelson Mandela, (1962), Address at the Conference of the Pan-African Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa from So Just, Speeches on Social Justice, [online], Available at [Accessed: 12 November 2010]
• Anon, 'Revolutionary Guerrilla Leader' from South African History Online, [online], Available at [Accessed: 12 November 2010]
• Hepple, B. Rivonia: The Story of Accused No 11,‘The Road to Rivonia: July 11 1963’, (1999) pg 8

Last updated : 11-Dec-2013

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

Support South African History Online

Donate and Make African History Matter

South African History Online is a non profit organisation. We depend on public support to build our website into the most comprehensive educational resource and encyclopaedia on African history.

Your support will help us to build and maintain partnerships with educational institutions in order to strengthen teaching, research and free access to our content.