Glance at Mandela's co-defendants in Rivonia trial

The Associated Press Published:

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Most of the seven men sentenced with Nelson Mandela to life in prison for sabotage and plotting to overthrow the white government were arrested in July 1963 during a police raid on their headquarters, a farm in the Johannesburg suburb of Rivonia.

Mandela was already in prison in a separate case, but became a defendant in the so-called Rivonia treason trial because he helped found Spear of the Nation, the military wing of the African National Congress.

Here are profiles of the other seven sentenced on June 12, 1964:

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Walter Sisulu:

Sisulu ran the day-to-day operations of the ANC as secretary-general from 1949-54, when the government ordered him to resign. He was one of the ANC's most important leaders in the years when it grew from a small organization into a mass movement. He helped organize the national Defiance Campaign against apartheid laws in 1952.

Born May 18, 1912 in the Xhosa homeland of Transkei, he joined the ANC in 1940 and formed the Youth League in 1943 to press for more aggressive tactics. After his acquittal along with 155 other defendants in a 1956-61 treason trial, Sisulu was restricted to his house, arrested six times, and finally convicted of furthering the aims of the newly outlawed ANC. While on bail pending appeal he went underground and was captured three months later at Rivonia.

Sisulu died in 2003.

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Govan Mbeki:

A journalist, teacher and author of two books, Mbeki was the African National Congress national chairman when he was arrested at Rivonia. As a leader in the Xhosa tribal homeland of Transkei, he made the eastern Cape Province the strongest center of ANC support in the early 1950s.

Mbeki was born in 1910 to a prosperous cattle owner and earned university degrees in education and economics. He joined the ANC as a student in the mid-1930s, and the Communist Party in 1950.

He was acquitted on a technicality in 1962 of violating the Explosives Act, and was placed under house arrest, but disappeared underground until the Rivonia raid.

Mbeki was freed unconditionally in November 1987 after serving 23 years of his life term, in what the government said was a test for the possible release of Mandela. He held two news conferences before the government banned him from making public appearances, giving news interviews or leaving the Port Elizabeth area without permission.

Mbeki, whose son Thabo succeeded Mandela as South African president in 1999, died in 2001.

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Denis Goldberg:

Goldberg, the only white man convicted at the Rivonia trial, was the first to be freed, after he agreed to renounce violence in March 1985. He was deported to Israel, but went immediately to London, where he worked full-time in the ANC's mail-order business, selling T-shirts, and lectured in Britain and elsewhere.

Goldberg's parents were members of the Communist Party in Cape Town, where he was born in 1933. He was a successful engineer and, according to evidence at the trial, was responsible for manufacturing devices used in the sabotage campaign. The Rivonia court found he had run a military training camp, which Goldberg said was political education camp.

In 2008, Goldberg visited the Rivonia farm where he was arrested when it was opened as a museum and said he had no regrets: "What we did was right. We just should have done it better and not got caught."

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Ahmed Kathrada:

Kathrada, arrested at the age of 17 for participation in a passive resistance campaign in 1946, was a member of the ANC military wing's high command. He is one of only two Rivonia trial defendants who denied all the charges against him, and was convicted on only one count, sabotage.

Kathrada was born in 1929 in the western Transvaal to a scholarly Muslim family, and became involved in political activism at the age of 11. He joined the Communist Party in the early 1940s and as general-secretary of the Transvaal Indian Congress, was instrumental in linking it to the ANC. He was acquitted in the 1956-61 mass treason trial, but was placed under house arrest in October, 1962. He went underground a few months before his arrest at Rivonia.

In 1994, Kathrada was elected to the first all-race parliament for the ANC.

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Raymond Mhlaba:

Mhlaba denied the charges against him in the Rivonia trial, in particular that he was a member of the high command of the ANC's military wing. In 1952 he was the first ANC leader to be arrested as part of the nationwide Defiance Campaign, when he led a group of blacks through the "whites only" entrance to a train station.

He was born in 1920 in the southern city of Fort Beaufort, the son of a policeman. He dropped out of school and worked in the nearby city of Port Elizabeth, where he became active in trade unions. He joined the Communist Party in 1943 and was dictrict secretary from 1946 until it was banned in 1960.

Mhlaba joined the ANC in 1944 and from 1947-53 was branch chairman in Port Elizabeth, where he worked closely with Govan Mbeki. Although he was banned, he was elected to the ANC's Cape Province executive committee in 1954 and continued his political activities until his arrest at Rivonia.

Mhlaba died in 2005.

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Elias Motsoaledi:

As a founder member of the ANC military wing's Johannesburg regional command, Motsoaledi hid recruits and helped send them abroad for military training and procuring armaments, according to evidence at the Rivonia trial. He said he joined the military wing in 1962.

Born in northern Transvaal in 1924, the son of a migrant laborer, Motsoaledi worked in Johannesburg as a servant, and in boot and furniture factories. He joined the Communist Party in the 1940s, and the ANC in 1948, becoming a member of the provincial executive.

In 1949, he became chairman of the Council of Non-European Trade Unions, organized strikes and was banned in 1952. He was detained in solitary confinement for three months in 1963, before being charged in the Rivonia case.

Motsoaledi died in 1994.

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Andrew Mlangeni:

Mlangeni said at the Rivonia trial he had agreed to carry messages for the ANC's armed wing, but denied he was a member. He was arrested at the farm.

Born in Johannesburg in 1926, he worked as a golf caddy to pay for his schooling, and later as a clerk, bus driver and journalist. He joined the ANC 1951 and was regional secretary for the township of Soweto from 1958-60.