Smuggled letter (Image #8) - Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
This item consists of a letter written by Nelson Mandela to the legal firm of Seedat Pillay & Co. that was smuggled out of Robben Island Prison. Mandela wished to appoint the firm to act on his behalf in legal proceedings against the Department of Prisons. Since the authorities refused to allow him contact with his attorneys, he had to use this "illegal" method to seek legal representation. The letter was smuggled out of Robben Island by Mac Maharaj.
Title: Smuggled letter (Image #8)
Description: This item consists of a letter written by Nelson Mandela to the legal firm of Seedat Pillay & Co. that was smuggled out of Robben Island Prison. Mandela wished to appoint the firm to act on his behalf in legal proceedings against the Department of Prisons. Since the authorities refused to allow him contact with his attorneys, he had to use this "illegal" method to seek legal representation. The letter was smuggled out of Robben Island by Mac Maharaj.
Transcript: allow [or] condone these underhand methods, and until your actual decision on the matter proves me wrong, I shall continue to act in the belief that you are not aware of what is going on in this prison.
It is futile to think that any form of persecution will ever change our views. Your Govt and Dpt have a notorious record for their hatred, contempt and persecution of the Black man, especially the African, a hatred and contempt which forms the basic principle of the country’s laws. The cruelty of this Dpt in subjecting our people to the indecent practice of thawuza, according to which a prisoner was required to strip naked and display his anus to inspection by an official in the presence of others, the equally obscene practice of a warder poking a finger into a prisoner’s rectum, of brutally assaulting them daily and without provocation was curbed by the Govt after it has erupted into a national scandal.
But the inhumanity of the average S.A. [South African] warder still remains; only now it has been diverted into other channels and has taken the subtle form of psychological persecution, a field in which some of your local officials are striving to become specialists. I have the hope that a man of your rank and experience will immediately grasp the gravity of this dangerous practice and take adequate measures to stop it.
It is pointless and contrary to the country’s historical experiences to think that our people will ever forget us. Although 160 yrs have passed since the Slachter’s Neck executions, 74 since the internment camps of the Anglo-Boer War and 61 since Jopie Fourie made his last speech.
I will certainly never believe you if you tell me that you have now forgotten the Afrikaner patriots, the men whose sacrifices helped to free you from British imperialism and to rule the country and for you in particular to become Head of this Dpt.
It is certainly unreasonable for any man to expect our people, to whom we are national heroes, persecuted for striving to win back our country, to forget us in our lifetime and at the height of the struggle for a free SA. Your people are slaughtering mine today and not a century and a half ago. It is present SA that is a country of racial oppression, imprisonment without trial, of torture and harsh sentences and the threat of internment camps lies not in the distant past but in the immediate future. How can our people ever forget us when we fight to free them from all these evils?
In SA as in many other countries various issues divide prisoners and officials. I do not agree with the policy of the Dpt of which you are Head. I detest white supremacy and will fight it with every weapon in my hands. But even when the clash between you and me has taken the most extreme form, I should like us to fight over our principles and ideas and without personal hatred, so that at the end of the battle, whatever the result might be, I can proudly shake hands with you, because I feel I have fought an upright and worthy opponent who has observed the whole code of honour and decency. But when your subordinates continue to use foul methods then a sense of real bitterness and contempt becomes irresistible.
The letter ends here. It is a mere summary and some important facts have been left out.
With regard to the question of correspondence, it may well be that this Dpt is only entitled to object to the actual contents of a letter and not to the writer as such. But I have no access to the complete Prisons Act and Rules and Regulations and none whatsoever to the Service Orders. Perhaps you would like to investigate the matter.
I almost forgot to tell you that on Sept 9 the C.O. informed me that he had received [a] letter from the COP dated Aug 26 in which the latter stated that he was satisfied that the administration on this island was acting properly and that he could not investigate the complaints of individual persons kept in custody
Extent and Medium: 1 page ; 19 x 9 cm
Origination: Mandela, Nelson
Subjects: Maharaj, Mac; Mandela, Nelson; Robben Island; Pillay, Thumba