AP TheBigStory reported this week that the Nelson Mandela Foundation has found what they suspect to be the earliest record of Nelson Mandela being interviewed for television. It is thought that the interview was conducted in 1956 near the start of the Treason Trial of 156 people.

Pre-dates other footage by five years


Previously, it was believed that the first known Television interview film record available was that done by Brian Widlake on 31 May 1961 after a trial that lasted nearly five years. The Foundation suggests that this interview was taken between sessions of the 1956 trial and was broadcast by Dutch broadcaster, AVRO in 1961.


The video was released on YouTube by the Nelson Mandela Foundation on 1 September. It is only 24 seconds long, but in it, Mandela said that 'from the very beginning, the African National Congress set itself the task of fighting against white supremacy." He looked very young and composed as he went on to say, "We have always regarded it as wrong for one racial group to dominate another racial group." He reiterated that "from the very beginning the African National Congress (ANC) has fought, without hesitation, against all forms of racial discrimination."

The trial last four and a half years

The 1956 Treason Trail, decades before Nelson Mandela became the leading political figure as the president of the new South Africa, is not to be confused with the Rivonia Treason trial of 1964 which saw Mandela imprisoned for 27 years and eight months.

Top Videos of the Day

The 1956 trial started off with many defendants. There were 105 Africans, 21 Indians, 23 whites and 7 colored leaders from the ANC, the South African Congress of Democrats, South African Indian Congress, and the South African Communist Party. As time went by, the number of accused on trial was reduced to 92, with 61 tried and found not guilty in a separate trial. 30 people, including Nelson Mandela, ended up as defendants in the full 1956 Treason Trial. After four and a half years the case was withdrawn and they were released. 

First foreign funding for anti-apartheid movements

The 1956 trial was the first time that money was fundraised outside of South Africa and represented one of the first foreign anti-apartheid interventions. British Canon, John Collins, set up a fund to pay legal expenses and to look after families of the people on trial. He was disturbed as the possibility of the death sentence was being proposed should the accused's be found guilty. His fundraised £75,000 for defense attorney representation.

Segregation in the jail

There were a range of racial profiles on trial that covered the spectrum of the country. Ironically, although they all sat together in alphabetic order during the trial, outside of the court they were racially segregated in jail. When permission was granted for the defendants to meet to plan their defense, the whites were separated from the other people of color. In 1995, Nelson Mandela described this as follows: "The authorities erected an iron grille to separate Helen and Leon Levy (as whites) from us and a second partition to separate them from Lilian and Bertha Mashaba Gxowa (as African women) ... Even a master architect would have had trouble designing such a structure." 

The recently discovered film footage of Nelson Mandela is a gem of a find for the historians - he is much younger than he was in the 1961 interview, and will it now be held in posterity as part of the South African Heritage.