Nelson Mandela’s defence: A psychological capital documentary analysis

  • Rene van Wyk Department of Industrial Psychology, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Keywords: HERO behaviour, positive psychology, PsyCap, African National Congress, ANC


This qualitative documentary analysis examines Nelson Mandela’s defence statement at the Rivonia Trial, Pretoria Supreme Court, on 20 April 1964. The defence document is analysed through the psychological capital lens, depicting themes that support the constructs of hope, efficacy, resilience and optimism. Psychological capital characteristics played a major role in the initial non-violent policies of negotiation. The inevitable establishment of Umkhonto we Sizwe followed, as a result of the increased restrictions and unwillingness of government to negotiate and collaborate. Mandela showed a determined spirit to unite the country. The discussion gives insight into Mandela’s authentic psychological capital leadership under difficult political and personal circumstances. Some implications are indicated in adopting Mandela’s psychological characteristics for personal reform.

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