Drum magazine

The Treason Trial 1956

February 1957 cover.
Cover image: Jurgen Schadeberg

The Treason Trial was a trial in which 156 people (105 Blacks, 21 Indians, 23 Whites and 7 Coloureds), including Nelson Mandela, were arrested in a raid and accused of treason in South Africa in 1956.

"The treason trials, now the talk of South Africa and the world at large, started with a bang-bang-bang. There was drama ......"

Scores of diplomats, politicians, libertarians, legal toffs and news correspondents from around the world flew in to be observers of this latest showpiece of the Nationalists and of course Drum was in close attendance too, most of the Drum staff were there.

The spread showing all the 156 accused. In the detail (left), Nelson Mandela is fourth row, second from right.

Sylvester and the team devoted much of the issue to it, including the centre-spread on which were featured, in five rows of thumbnail portraits and captions, each and every one of the 156 defendants. Technically this was the way for a news-picture magazine to handle such a situation typographically; it was a demonstration of one aspect of what he had been making a study of. The pictures are there to be read, as it were, not as mere illustrations that the eyes skim.

The trial lasted until 1961, when all of the defendants were found not guilty.