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Reference code

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




  • January 1977 (Creation)

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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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escapes mutilation.
On Nov. 24, 1975 she wrote me a 5 page letter and only the remains of 2 pages finally reached me. The censorship policy adopted here is not followed even by your own officials in other jails. As you are aware my wife has recently served a 6 month sentence in Kroonstad. Some of her letters were posted by the C.O. of that prison but heavily censored [at] that end.
But what I intensely detest is to force us to be parties to a practice based on plain falsehood. It is immoral for the C.O. to destroy or withhold letters from our families and friends and at the same time prevent us from telling them about what he does. I consider it callous to allow our people to continue wasting money, time, energy, goodwill and love by sending us letters and cards which the C.O. knows will never be given to us . . . You ought to issue a public statement in which you clearly define the policy of your Dept and set out more particularly what you consider objectionable and the categories of persons who may not write or send us messages of goodwill.
Disappearance of letters in transit. The number of letters that disappear in transit is far too large to be explained on the basis of the inefficiency of the P.O. [Post Office] Dpt and from the unreasonable and persistent refusal of the C.O. to allow us to register our letters. I must draw the inference that their disappearance is not accidental.
Visits. Even here the measures taken by the C.O. in supervising conversations between prisoners and visitors go beyond security requirements. To put 4 or sometimes even 6 warders to one visitor and breathing or staring threatening[ly] at her is a blatant form of intimidation.
It is my duty to tell you that there is a widespread belief amongst my fellow prisoners that at these visits there is a listening device that records all conversations including confidential matters between husband and wife. If this be the case there is hardly any justification for the show of force now generally displayed

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