The Rivonia Trial was a trial that took place in South Africa between 1963 and 1964, in which ten leaders of the African National Congress were tried for 221 acts of sabotage designed to "ferment violent revolution"http://observer.guardian.co.uk/mandela/story/0,8224,436395,00.html to overthrow the apartheid system.
It was named after Rivonia, the suburb of Johannesburg where 19 ANC leaders were arrested at Liliesleaf Farm, privately owned by Arthur Goldreich, on 11 July 1963. It had been used as a hideout for the African National Congress. Among others, Nelson Mandela had moved onto the farm in October 1961 and evaded security police while masquerading as a gardener and cook called David Motsamayi (meaning "the walker").
The trial was essentially a mechanism through which the apartheid government could hurt or mute the ANC. Its leaders, including Nelson Mandela, who was already in Johannesburg's Fort prison serving a five-year sentence for inciting workers to strike and leaving the country illegally, were prosecuted, found guilty, and imprisoned. The apartheid regime's attack on the ANC's leadership and organizers continued with a trial known as Little Rivonia, in which other ANC members were prosecuted for their anti-apartheid activities. Amongst the defendants in this trial was the chief of MK, Wilton Mkwayi who was sentenced to life imprisonment alongside Mandela and the other ANC leaders on Robben Island.
The government took advantage of 90 days without trial, and the defendants were held incommunicado. Meanwhile, Goldreich and Wolpe bribed a guard and escaped from jail on 11 August. Their escape infuriated the prosecutors and police who considered Goldreich to be "the arch-conspirator."
Lawyers were unable to see the accused until two days before indictment on 9 October. Leading the defence team was Bram Fischer, the distinguished Afrikaner lawyer, assisted by Harry Schwarz, Joel Joffe, Arthur Chaskalson, George Bizos and Harold Hanson. At the end of October, Hepple was able to leave the dock because he had agreed to testify for the prosecution; later he managed to flee the country.
The trial began on 26 November 1963. After dismissal of the first indictment as inadequate, the trial finally got under way on 3 December with an expanded indictment. Each of the ten accused pleaded not guilty. The trial ended on 12 June 1964.
Kantor was discharged at the end of the prosecution's case.
Originally the death penalty had been requested, but was changed because of world-wide protests and skilled legal maneuvers on the part of the defence team. Eight defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment; Lionel Bernstein was acquitted.
http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/trials/toward_robben_island.html "There was no surprise in the fact that Mandela, Sisulu, Mbeki, Motsoaledi, Mlangeni, and Goldberg were found guilty on all four counts. The defense had hoped that Mhlaba, Kathrada, and Bernstein might escape conviction because of the skimpiness of evidence that they were parties to the conspiracy, although undoubtedly they could be prosecuted on other charges. But Mhlaba too was found guilty on all counts, and Kathrada, on one charge of conspiracy. Bernstein, however, was found not guilty. He was rearrested, released on bail, and placed under house arrest. Later he fled the country."
Denis Goldberg went to Pretoria Central Prison instead of Robben Island (at that time the only security wing for white political prisoners in South Africa) where he served 22 years.