page 3a - NMF_Smuggled_Letter_2_005.jpg


Identity area

Reference code

ZA COM NMAP 2010/9-1-2-3a




  • January 1977 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

1 page ; 19 x 9 cm

Context area

Name of creator

(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

Biographical history

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Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Judge Thumba Pillay
Accession number NMPP and AP 2010/9

Content and structure area

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

Language of material

  • English

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Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory

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during such visits.
Language qualifications of the Censors. The man who is directly in charge of censoring mail and magazines is W/O [Warrant Officer] Steenkamp who was previously in charge of the section. Although he may have passed Matric English he is certainly no more proficient in that language than I am in Afrikaans and I doubt if Sgt [Sergeant] Fourie is any the better.
Even the C.O. finds it difficult to express himself in English. In fact during the 14 yrs of my incarceration I have met no C.O. whose English is as poor as that of Col. Roelofse who commands a prison . . . where the overwhelming majority of prisoners are English-speaking and who know no Afrikaans.
Ban on correspondence with political supporters. Lt. Prins has now told me that we are not allowed to communicate with any people known to the Dpt to be our political associates nor to relatives of other prisoners irrespective of the contents of the letters.
Telegrams and Easter cards. The C.O. has introduced a new practice of not allowing us to see the actual telegrams sent to us. What happens now is that one is given a message scrawled on a piece of paper and without the date when the telegram was sent and received as well as other essential information. The current belief is that these telegrams are first referred for scrutiny to the security police before delivery to addressee and in order to cover up the resulting delay the C.O. has introduced this practice.
The people who send these telegrams pay more money in order to ensure speedy delivery of the message and it is a matter of public concern when a govt [government] dpt deliberately frustrates the smooth and efficient operation of a public service for which citizens pay a special fee.
Money received for prisoners. There is a general impression amongst prisoners that the C.O. and the Security Police are running a racket with our moneys. On May 31, 1976 Lt Prins sent a message to the effect that an amount of R30 was received from Mr and Mrs Matlhaku on Nov. 5, 1975.

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