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Sat, 12.16.1961

uMkhonto we Sizwe is formed

uMkhonto we Sizwe

*uMkhonto we Sizwe was formed on this date in 1961. This Army was the paramilitary wing of the African National Congress (ANC).

Nelson Mandela founded uMkhonto we Sizwe after the Sharpeville massacre. Its mission was to fight against the South African government. Its name is of Xhosa pronunciation, meaning "Spear of the Nation," abbreviated MK.  After warning the South African government in June 1961 of its intent to resist further acts of government-instituted terror if the government did not take steps toward constitutional reform and increase political rights, uMkhonto we Sizwe launched its first attacks against government installations on December 16, 1961.

It was subsequently classified as a terrorist organization by the South African government and banned. For a time, it was headquartered in Rivonia, then rural but now an affluent suburb of Johannesburg. On July 11, 1963, 19 ANC and uMkhonto we Sizwe leaders, including Arthur Goldreich and Walter Sisulu, were arrested at Liliesleaf Farm, Rivonia. The farm was privately owned by Arthur Goldreich and bought with South African Communist Party and ANC funds, as non-whites could not own a property in that area under the Group Areas Act.

This raid led to the Rivonia Trial, in which ten leaders of the ANC were tried for 221 militant acts designed to "foment violent revolution." Wilton Mkwayi, chief of uMkhonto we Sizwe at the time, escaped during the trial. The organization was formally disbanded in a ceremony at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, Gauteng, on December 16, 1993, although the armed struggle had been suspended earlier during the negotiations to end apartheid.

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