Honours for South Africa’s Rivonia Trialists


18 January 2016

Rivonia Trialists and anti-apartheid activists Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni and Denis Goldberg on Friday, 15 January received the Freedom of Sedibeng District Municipality. The trio will also receive the Freedom of the City of London on 27 January.

Kathrada said that he was honoured and humbled to receive the accolade. “One recalls the Sedibeng region’s contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle in the Evaton Bus Boycotts in the 1950s‚ as well as the horrors of the violence that erupted in the Vaal Triangle‚ particularly Boipatong‚ closer to the advent of democracy,” he recollected.

Sedibeng was home to events such as the Sharpeville Massacre, but was also where South Africa’s democratic Constitution was signed into law, Kathrada said.

“It is therefore symbolic of how far we have come as a country – from racial oppression by the state‚ to the non-racial future that the Constitution promised‚ and still promises.”

It was during the Rivonia Trial that Mandela made his famous speech that ended with the words: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

The Freedom of the City of London

It is believed the tradition of awarding people the Freedom of the City of London began in the 13th century.

“The medieval term ‘freeman’ meant someone who was not the property of a feudal lord but enjoyed privileges such as the right to earn money and own land,” states the city’s website. “Town dwellers who were protected by the charter of their town or city were often free – hence the term “freedom of the City’.

“From the Middle Ages and the Victorian era, the Freedom was the right to trade, enabling members of a Guild or Livery to carry out their trade or craft in the square mile.”

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Today things have changed, but the tradition continues towards “people who have lived or worked in the City or have been proud to be admitted”.

Source: Times Live and South Africa.info reporter