Nelson Mandela "Amadelakufa!" (Death Defiance!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statement during the Rivonia Trial

 

Our fight is against real, and not imaginary, hardships, or to use the language of the State Prosecutor, "so-called hardships." Basically, we fight against two features which are the hallmarks of African life in South Africa and which are entrenched by legislation which we seek to have repealed. These features are poverty and lack of human dignity, and we do not need Communists or so-called "agitators" to teach us about these things. South Africa is the richest country in Africa, and could be one of the richest countries in the world. But it is a land of extremes and remarkable contrasts. The Whites enjoy what may well be the highest standard of living in the world, whilst Africans live in poverty and misery. Forty percent of the Africans live in hopelessly overcrowded and, in some cases, drought-stricken reserves, where soil erosion and the overworking of the soil, make it impossible for them to live properly off the land. Thirty percent are laborers, labor tenants and squatters on White farms and work and live under conditions similar to those of the serfs of the Middle Ages. The other thirty percent live in towns where they have developed economic and social habits which bring them closer in many respects to White standards.

Yet most Africans, even in this group, are impoverished by low incomes and high cost of living. The highest paid and the most prosperous section of urban African life is in Johannesburg. Yet their actual position is desperate. The latest figures were given on the 25th March, 1964, by Mr. Carr, Manager of the Johannesburg Non-European Affairs Department. The poverty datum line for the average African family in Johannesburg (according to Mr. Carr's department) is R42.84 per month. He showed that the average monthly wage if R33.24 and that 46% of all African families in Johannesburg do not earn enough to keep them going. Poverty goes hand in hand with malnutrition and disease. The incidence of malnutrition and deficiency diseases is very high amongst Africans. Tuberculosis, pellagra, kwashiorkor, gastroenteritis and scurvy bring death and destruction of health. The incidence of infant mortality is one of the highest in the world. According to the Medical Officer of Health for Pretoria, tuberculosis kills forty people a day (almost all Africans), and in 1961 there were 58,491 new cases reported. These diseases not only destroy the vital organs of the body, but they result in retarded mental conditions and lack of initiative, and reduce powers of concentration.

The secondary results of such conditions affect the whole community and the standard of work performed by African laborers. The complaint of Africans, however, is not only that they are poor and the Whites are rich, but that the laws which are made by the Whites are designed to preserve this situation. There are two ways to break out of poverty. The first is by formal education, and the second is by the worker acquiring a greater skill at his work and thus higher wages. As far as Africans are concerned, both these avenues of advancement are deliberately curtailed by legislation. The present Government has always sought to hamper Africans in their search for education. One of their early acts, after coming into power, was to stop subsidies for African school feeding. Many African children, who attended schools, depended on this supplement to their diet. This was a cruel act. There is compulsory education for all White children at virtually no cost to their parents, be they rich or poor. Similar facilities are not provided for the African children, though there are some who receive such assistance. African children, however, generally have to pay more for their schooling than Whites. According to figures quoted by the South African Institute of Race Relations in its 1963 journal, approximately 40% of African children in the age group between 7 to 14 do not attend school. For those who do attend school, the standards are vastly different from those afforded to White children. In 1960/61 the per capita Government spending on African students at State-aided schools was estimated at RI2.46. In the same years, the per capita spending on White children in the Cape Province (which are the only figures available to me) was R144.57.

 

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