Four political detainees escape from Pretoria Central prison in one of the most dramatic escapes in SA history


Prison Cell

Sunday, 11 August 1963

Four political detainees: Harold Wolpe, a listed Communist arrested on the Bechuanaland border; Arthur Goldreich, caught in the Rivonia raid; Moosie Moolla, accused in the Treason Trial; and Charlie Jassat, escaped from the Johannesburg Central Police station after bribing a young warder on 11 August 1963.

Mannie Brown was involved in planning and implementing the successful escape of the four detainees but a massive manhunt and police operation led closer to Mannie and he was forced into hiding while his family went into exile.

The prison break came roughly two months before the infamous Rivonia Trial was due to begin in Pretoria.  Probably the most dramatic escape in South African history, the detainees' exit from the country, particularly Goldreich's, infuriated the prosecutors and police who considered Goldreich to be 'the arch-conspirator' with regard to the Rivonia Trial.

Wolpe and Goldreich surfaced in Francistown, Bechuanaland Protectorate on 28 August 1963, having flown there from Swaziland. They eventually flew to London where their families joined them. Moolla was later based in New Delhi as the Asian representative of the African National Congress (ANC).

• South African History Online ,'Rivonia Trial', [online],Available at [Accessed: 8 August 2013]
• African National Congress,(2003),'The death of Mannie Brown',[online],Available at [Accessed: 8 August 2013]

Last updated : 11-Aug-2014

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

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