On 16 December 1961 acts of sabotage marked the emergence of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear
of the Nation) which was later to become the armed wing of the ANC. Mandela was a founder member and Commander-in-Chief of Umkhonto.
The explosions were accompanied by the distribution of the Umkhonto we Sizwe manifesto.
observes 16 December as Heroes' Day, commemorating those who have lost their lives in the
struggle against apartheid)
UMKHONTO WE SIZWE MANIFESTO, 1961
Leaflet issued by Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) on 16 December
Units of Umkhonto we Sizwe today carried out planned attacks against government
installations, particularly those connected with the policy of apartheid and race
Umkhonto we Sizwe is a new, independent body, formed by Africans. It includes in its
ranks South Africans of all races. It is not connected in any way with a so-called
'Committee for National Liberation' whose existence has been announced in the press.
Umkhonto we Sizwe will carry on the struggle for freedom and democracy by new methods,
which are necessary to complement the actions of the established national liberation
organisations. Umkhonto we Sizwe fully supports the national liberation movement, and our
members' jointly and individually, place themselves under the overall political guidance
of that movement.
It is, however, well known that the main national liberation organisations in this
country have consistently followed a policy of non-violence. They have conducted
themselves peaceably at all times, regardless of government attacks and persecutions upon
them, and despite all government-inspired attempts to provoke them to violence. They have
done so because the people prefer peaceful methods of change to achieve their aspirations
without the suffering and bitterness of civil war. But the people's patience is
The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only
two choices: submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit
and we have no choice but to hit back by all means within our power in defence of our
people, our future and our freedom.
The government has interpreted the
the movement as weakness. The people's non-violent policies have been taken as a
green light for government violence. Refusal to
resort to force has been interpreted by the government
as an invitation to use armed force against the people
without any fear of reprisals. The methods of Umkhonto we Sizwe mark a break with that
We are striking out along a new road for the liberation of the people of this country. The government policy of force, repression and violence will no longer be
met with non-violent resistance only! The choice is not ours; it has been made by
the Nationalist government, which has rejected every peaceable demand by the people for
rights and freedom and answered every such demand with force and yet more force!
Twice in the past eighteen months, virtual martial law has been imposed in order to
beat down peaceful, non-violent strike action of the people in support of their rights. It
is now preparing its force - enlarging and rearming its armed forces and drawing the white
civilian population into commandos and pistol clubs - for full-scale military actions
against the people.
The Nationalist government
has chosen the course
of force and massacre, now, deliberately, as it did at Sharpeville.
Umkhonto we Sizwe will be at the front line of the people's defence.
It will be the fighting arm of the people against the government and its
policies of race oppression. It will be the striking force of the people for liberty'
for rights and for their final liberation! Let the government, its supporters who put it
into power, and those whose passive toleration of reaction keeps it in power, take note of
where the Nationalist government is leading the country!
We of Umkhonto we Sizwe have always sought - as the liberation movement has sought - to
achieve liberation without bloodshed and civil clash.
We do so still. We hope - even at this late
hour - that our first actions will awaken everyone to a realisation of the disastrous
situation to which the Nationalist policy is leading. We hope that we will bring the
government and its supporters to their senses before it is too late, so that both the
government and its policies can be changed before matters reach the desperate stage of
civil war. We believe our actions to be a blow against the Nationalist preparations for
civil war and military rule.
In these actions, we are working in the best interests of all the people of this
country - black, brown and white whose future happiness and well-being cannot be attained
without the overthrow of the Nationalist government, the abolition of white supremacy and
the winning of liberty, democracy and full
national rights and equality for all the people of this country.
We appeal for the support and encouragement of all those South Africans who seek the
happiness and freedom of the people of this country.
On 31 January, the State President of South Africa, P.W.Botha, speaking in Parliament,
offered mandela his freedom on condition that he acknowledged that he 'unconditionally
rejected violence as a political weapon.'... Madela's response... was read out by his
daughter Zinzi to a mass meeting in Jabulani Stadium, Soweto on 10 February 1985:
"I am a member of the African National Congress. I have always been
a member of the African National Congress and I will remain a member of the African
National Congress until the day I die....
I am surprised at the conditions that the government wants to impose on me.
I am not a violent man. My colleagues and I
wrote in 1952 to Malan asking for a round table conference to find a solution to the
problems of our country, but that was ignored. When Strijdom was in power, we made the
same offer. Again it was ignored. When Verwoerd was in power we asked for a national
convention for all the people in South Africa to decide on their future. This, too, was in
It was only then, when all other forms of resistance were no longer open to us, that we
turned to armed struggle. Let Botha show that he is different
Verwoerd. Let him
violence. Let him say that he will dismantle apartheid.
Let him unban the people's organisation, the
African National Congress. Let him free all who have been imprisoned, banished or exiled
for their opposition to apartheid.
Let him guarantee
free political activity so that people may decide who will govern them.
I cherish my own freedom dearly, but I care even more for your freedom.
Too many have died since I went to prison. Too many have
suffered for the love of freedom. I owe it to their widows, to their orphans, to their
mothers and to their fathers who have grieved and wept for them.
Not only I have suffered during these long, lonely, wasted years.
I am not less life-loving than you are. But I cannot sell my birthright, nor am I prepared
to sell the birthright of the people to be free. I am in prison as the representative of
the people and of your organisation, the African National Congress, which was banned.
What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? ...
Only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts. ...I
cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I and you, the people, are not
free. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated. I will return."