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July 12: The ANC on Trial

Lawrence Bush
July 12, 2010

090611ct693_goldbergDenis Goldberg was among the African National Congress leaders sentenced to life imprisonment on this date in 1964 in the Rivonia Trial, which sent Nelson Mandela to Robben Island for nearly thirty years. Five Jews were among the twelve anti-apartheid activists and saboteurs arrested the year before (July 11) on a farm in Rivonia (Johannsburg) owned by Arthur Goldreich. He and Harold Wolpe used bribery to escape from jail while awaiting trial and to flee the country; Wolpe’s brother-in-law, James Kantor, who was serving as as Mandela’s trial lawyer, was then arrested, but charges against him were eventually dismissed. Denis Goldberg spent 22 years in prison in Pretoria (Israeli intervention helped gain his release in 1985, but Goldberg then refused to live in Israel and condemned it as an ally of the apartheid regime). Lionel “Rusty” Bernstein was the only defendant acquitted, and spent thirty years in exile until apartheid was overthrown. Bob Hepple was released as a potential state’s witness and then escaped to Kenya without testifying against anyone. A total of nine ANC members, including all the Black and Indian defendants were found guilty of capital treason. International protest preserved them from the death penalty and soon set in motion sanctions against the South African government.
Amandla Ngawethu: Maatla ke a rona: Jana Shakti! Power to the people!” —Denis Goldberg, 1987
During Israeli Apartheid Week in May 2012 Denis Goldberg spoke about what lessons Israelis and Palestinians could learn from the South African apartheid struggle:

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.