On June 12, 1964, Nelson Mandela received a life sentence for committing sabotage against South Africa’s apartheid government, avoiding a possible death sentence.
Mandela Sentenced for Sabotage
Nelson Mandela, leader in the African National Congress, an organization dedicated to protesting the South African government’s policy of apartheid, had been arrested in 1956 on treason charges, but was acquitted.
The ANC was banned by the government in 1960, following the Sharpeville massacre. Mandela was forced underground, “adopting a number of disguises—sometimes a laborer, other times a chauffeur,” writes PBS. “The press dubbed him ‘the Black Pimpernel’ because of his ability to evade police.
” In 1961, believing that non-violent measures would not be successful, Mandela and other ANC leaders formed Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), a militant wing of the ANC. Beginning on Dec. 16, 1961, MK, with Mandela as its commander in chief, launched bombing attacks on government targets and made plans for guerilla warfare.
Mandela was arrested on Aug. 5, 1962, and sentenced to five years in prison for inciting a workers’ strike in 1961. A year later, in July 1963, the government launched a raid on the Lilliesleaf farm in Rivonia, which had been used as an ANC hideout. It arrested 19 ANC leaders and discovered documents describing MK’s plans for attacks and guerilla warfare.