page 1a - NMF_Smuggled_Letter_2_001.jpg


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Reference code

ZA COM NMAP 2010/9-1-2-1a




  • January 1977 (Creation)

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1 page ; 19 x 9 cm

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Judge Thumba Pillay
Accession number NMPP and AP 2010/9

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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.

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Access by permission of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory

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Copyright held by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory

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  • English

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Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory

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M/S Seedat, Pillay and Co, Durban
I intend instituting legal proceedings in the CPD [Cape Provincial Division] against the Dpt [Department] of Prisons for a declaration of rights and for an interdict restraining the prison authorities from abusing their authority and subjecting me and my fellow prisoners to political persecution and from committing other irregularities.
In this connection I should be pleased if you would act for me and brief Adv. [Advocate] G. Bizos of the Jhb [Johannesburg] Bar or any other barrister he recommends. I hope you will be able to arrange a consultation at your earliest possible convenience either with a member of your firm or with counsel when the full facts on which the cause of action is founded will be placed before you.
If your firm is for any reason unable to come down for consultation, I would still like to retain your services but would be happy to have an interview with any other person you might send. Arrangement for payment of your fees and disbursements will be made directly with you or your representative at the consultation.
On Oct 7 1976 I wrote and asked the Commanding Officer, Col[onel] Roelofse, for permission to instruct my lawyers to institute proceedings. The request was refused and I had no option but to smuggle this letter out of prison.
On July 12, 1976 I wrote a 22 page letter to the Commissioner of Prisons and expressly drew his attention to the abuse of authority, political persecution and other irregularities committed by the C.O [Commanding Officer] and his staff. A copy of this letter is still in my possession and I hope to hand it directly to you in due course. Meantime I would suggest that you ask him

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