page 2a - NMF_Smuggled_Letter_2_003.jpg


Identity area

Reference code

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




  • January 1977 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

1 page ; 19 x 9 cm

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Name of creator

(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Judge Thumba Pillay
Accession number NMPP and AP 2010/9

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Scope and content

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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(to) incoming correspondence and, in this connection, the C.O and his staff have gone rampant. The censoring is malicious and vindictive and, again, is actuated neither by considerations of security and discipline nor the desire to promote our welfare.
I regard it as part of a campaign of systematic political persecution and an attempt to keep us in the dark about what goes on outside prison even in regard to our own family affairs. What the C.O is trying to do is not only to cut us off from the powerful current of goodwill and support that has ceaselessly flown in during the 14 yrs [years] of my incarceration in the form of visits, letters, cards and telegrams, but also to discredit us to our families and friends by presenting us to them as irresponsible people who never acknowledge letters written to them nor deal with important matters referred to them by the correspondents.
In addition, the double standards used in censoring letters is cowardly and calculated to deceive the public into the false impression that our outgoing letters are not censored. In the case of these we are requested to rewrite them whenever there is any matter to which the prison authorities object so as to remove any evidence that they have been heavily censored. Incoming ones are badly cut and scratched out as the censor pleases. Nothing will best convey to you the extent of the damage caused to the incoming mail more than actual inspection by you in person. Many of the letters from my wife consist of strips of incoherent information that are difficult to keep together even in a file.
My wife has been in prison several times and not only knows the relevant Prison Rules well but also the sensitivity of your local officials to anything they might consider objectionable. She makes a conscious effort to confine herself to family affairs, yet hardly a single one of her letters

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