The ANC 12 Treason Trial - Never on Our Knees

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No. 2 - January/February 1980

On Thursday 19 November 1979 the racist apartheid regime of South Africa sentenced James Mange to death in a 'court' in Pietermaritzburg. The South African regime intends to add James Mange's name to a long list of people murdered 'judicially' — the most recent being Solomon Mahlangu who was hanged on 6 April 1979. James Mange is one of the African National Congress 12 Treason Triallists.

The ANC 12 Treason Trial was part and parcel of the war between the South African regime and the ANC(SA). This is obvious from the background to the trial, the conduct of the ANC 12 in the trial and the viciousness of the racist court at Pietermaritzburg.

War in South Africa

All 12 comrades were charged under the treason laws, with 43 alternate counts under the Terrorism laws. Two were also charged with conspiracy to incite murder. All 12 were alleged to have been involved in armed actions against the security forces. This was the first time that a South African 'court' has admitted that the security forces are engaged in a war with Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation — the military wing of the ANC).

Part of the evidence against the 12 was a statement from the ANC describing a major battle in Bophuthatswana on August 10 1978. In that battle ANC freedom fighters engaged the South African security forces and the Bophuthatswana National Guard in a 50-minute gun battle, killing 10 members of the security forces. Normally, the South African regime simply denies the existence of such battles. However, the fact is that the campaign waged by the ANC has reached such a pitch that a tiny part of the truth gets through the systematic censorship. In other words, the ANC Treason Trial was a reflection of the strength of the liberation movement.

Rejection of apartheid 'justice'

This strength was demonstrated in the heroic conduct of the 12 throughout the 'trial —which began on September 4th 1979. The fear of the authorities was shown in the fact that a specially built bullet-proof glass dock was constructed for the trial. The whole front row of the public gallery was occupied by police throughout the trial. When the 12 came into court or during any of the frequent demonstrations by the 12, this row of police would stand up so that supporters could not see the 12. The courtroom was surrounded by policemen armed with rifles and sub-machine guns, and armed patrols guarded the whole of the surrounding area. This concerted display of force completely failed to cow either the 12 or their supporters.

Throughout the trial, the ANC 12 rejected the authority of the court, sang freedom songs, shouted slogans, laughed and showed their complete opposition to the apartheid regime. As one South African paper put it:

‘Never before in South African legal history can there have been such prolonged and steadfast defiance of both the political and juridical system from those arraigned before the court' (Sunday Express 18 November 1979)

On 13 September, 'Justice' Heffer ruled that the evidence of state witnesses would be heard in camera. He based his ruling on an ANC statement which said that the ANC `aimed to eliminate police informers, witnesses who testified for the state at security trials and the security police'. At this point, the 12 dismissed their defence and refused to participate in the proceedings any longer. Their statement to the court, read by the defence counsel, pointed out that:

‘the nature of treason is a crime affecting society itself and to exclude the public is to exclude the people affected by what the ANC seeks to achieve'

The statement also defined their 'crime' as:

‘attempting to overthrow the South African Government by all means including violence. They (the 12) consider the courts as part of the apparatus of the Government'

Repeated attempts were made by 'Justice' Heffer to break the united refusal of the 12 to participate in the court. All to no avail. The ANC 12 refused to accept the discipline of the court in any degree whatever. At one point Mandlenkosi Hadebe entered the dock smoking a cigarette. His response to ‘Justice' Heffer's repeated orders to put out the cigarette was simply to say 'Leave me alone'.

Court proves that ANC is a national liberation movement

The evidence, as is usual in such cases, was either circumstantial or based on anonymous informers. However, it amounted to 'proving' that the 12 were disciplined, committed and trained freedom fighters (‘terrorists' in the jargon of imperialism) who were members of a national liberation movement dedicated to the overthrow of the apartheid regime. One incident which particularly horrified the regime concerned James Mange. Whilst in custody, Mange was given a 14.5mm anti-aircraft gun to dismantle and reassemble. Major Adriaan Kleinhans testified that Mange was not only fully conversant with the weapon and highly trained, but also that Mange had cleared the weapon's jammed block in 10 minutes — after Major Kleinhans had struggled unsuccessfully to clear the blockage for more than half-an-hour! The state 'evidence' even included slogans written on the cell walls by the ANC 12. Slogans such as There is only one way to freedom. Fight! and Viva Umkhonto we Sizwe. Such slogans being evidence enough for the racist regime!

The state evidence also proved the nature of the 'independent' Bantustans so beloved by apologists for the apartheid state. The battle of 10 August 1978 was fought out between Umkhonto we Sizwe fighters and the South African Defence Force (SADF) on `independent' Bophuthatswana soil. Two of the 12 were arrested in 'independent' Bophuthatswana by the SADF! Security police Major M D Ras muttered in court that `it had occurred to him that he might have been guilty of kidnapping a suspect that he took into custody at the Bophuthatswana border'. The suspect was John Sekete. So much for the much-vaunted 'independence' of the Bantustans!

‘Apartheid is high treason'

Eventually the court was finished with the state 'evidence' —an accumulation of stories, lies, truths and half-truths gathered from touts, traitors and policemen. On Thursday 15 November, sentence was passed. Right up to the last moment, the 12 maintained their courageous defiance of the South African Government and its courts. There they were, completely in the power of the barbaric apartheid regime, yet never once were they victims they were always fighters. As sentences were handed out they sang, shouted and laughed. They even displayed placards smuggled into the dock proclaiming:

Apartheid is a crime against humanity!

Apartheid is high treason

Never on our knees

The petty revenge of the humiliated court was carried out by (In)Justice Heffer who gave all the ANC 12 additional sentences for ‘contempt of court'. James Mange was sentenced to death. In an ironic demonstration of his anger, 'Justice' Heffer also gave Mange 18 months for contempt! Mange replied by shouting Amandla (Freedom). Hadebe shouted Hang us all! and was dragged out of court shouting You will pay!. ‘Justice Heffer' described Mange as a  ‘thoroughly repulsive and objectionable character'. This insult from a man who lives off the barbarity of the racist South African state is typical of imperialist hypocrisy. The other 11 were sentenced to prison for 14-19 years.

Mange must not hang!

 The ANC 12 Treason Trial and the death penalty for James Mange are designed to try to break the heroic struggle of the ANC(SA). The trial is a measure of the regime's desperation. The South African state knows that the liberation movements throughout Southern Africa are moving forward towards victory. It has to try and destroy the liberation movement inside South Africa. It is using all the means at its disposal to do so — terror, torture, and rigged trials. The similarity with British imperialism's war against the Irish people is no coincidence. The entire trial of the ANC 12, with only minor changes of detail, could have taken place in the Six County statelet in Ireland. Throughout the world, imperialism is fighting a rearguard action against the oppressed. The ANC 12 have given inspiration to this struggle. That is why South Africa wants to murder James Mange.

James Mange must not hang! He is appealing against his sentence, but time is desperately short for the campaign to save his life. Pickets have taken place weekly outside South Africa House in London. Messages of solidarity should be sent to James Mange's wife, Dipuo Moerane, c/o the ANC office in London. Dipuo Moerane was herself in detention for a year. She was released at the end of the ANC Trial. Solidarity action should be taken whenever and wherever possible. Mange must not hang!

All 12 Treason Triallists were involved in the Soweto rising in 1976. All 12 have dedicated themselves to the struggle for national liberation in South Africa. The ANC 12 deserve our complete support.

James Mange must not hang!

Prisoner of War status for all South African political prisoners!

Free all POWs!

Victory to the ANC!

Terry Marlowe

Information, leaflets etc. can be obtained from: ANC, 28, Penton Street, London NI.

The Pietermaritzburg 12



Sentence (years)

(the second figure is the sentence given for `contempt of court'.)

John Mofokeng Sekete


16 + 1

Jeffrey Ramasaka Lagbabe


16 + 1

Thibe Jimmy Ngobeni


16 + 1

Andrew Mapheto


14 + 1

Bennet Pantese Komane


16 + 1

Titus Mogaletoe Maleka


16 + 1

Sydney Sekwati Choma


16 + 1

Mandlenkosi Hadebe


16 + 1

Mandla Jack Mthetwa



Vusimuzi Nicholas Zulu


13 + 1

James Daniel Mange


Death + 1.5

Tladitsage Molefe


18 + 1



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