During the Rivonia Trial, (1963 – 64), Nelson Mandela faced the almost certain possibility of the death sentence. Mandela himself admitted guilt. The gallows loomed large. Mandela in his statement from the dock did not attempt to exonerate himself. He ended his four-hour declaration by saying that if need be he would be prepared to die for his beliefs. Mandela’s statement had enormous international impact, and possibly as a result of it, he escaped the death sentence and instead was sentenced to life imprisonment.
It is significant that the first case tried by the Constitutional Court was to declare the death penalty unconstitutional. The interlinking of these two momentous decisions is celebrated in the The Right to Life, which functions as a gentle reminder of the importance of this most fundamental human right.