The passing on of comrade Andrew Mlangeni closes the last page of the chapters of our history books about the heroic generation of the Rivonia trial, says the writer. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko/African News Agency (ANA)
The passing on of comrade Andrew Mlangeni closes the last page of the chapters of our history books about the heroic generation of the Rivonia trial, says the writer. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko/African News Agency (ANA)

Ace Magushule: Andrew Mlangeni was a heroic leader of the struggle of our people

By Opinion Time of article published Jul 29, 2020

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ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule

Our nation is mourning, the community of the Southern African region and the African continent is mourning, and indeed the whole of the progressive world of humanity is mourning. The light that has throughout all the years become a guiding torch of the struggle of our people against imperialism and colonial domination has been extinguished.

The gallant son of the African soil, a revered son of our revolutionary movement, a great revolutionary leader of our times, a heroic leader of the struggle of our people, an outstanding volunteer and selfless servant of the struggle of our people, a Commander of the glorious army of our people Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), a recipient of the highest order of our liberation movement Isitwalandwe/Seaparankoe, and indeed an iconic father of our nation, comrade Andrew Mokete Mlangeni is no more. Destiny has let his beautiful heart sleep in the glory of the immortals.

As the sad news of his passing away break the day into the night, the beauty of our mother earth is no more the same, the fascinating beauty of nature is no more the same, the beauty of our sunset and our sunrise is no more the same, the shadow of this illustrious son of the struggle of our people is no more part of us. We reckon that when the calamity of death bestows itself on the destiny of man, every flower returns to sleep, every spark returns to darkness, and every sound returns to silence.

On behalf of the leadership of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC and its membership across the length and breath of our country, on behalf of the entire people of our country, from the deep bottom of our hearts, we convey our heartfelt and sincere condolences to his family, friends and relatives. Our prayers are with you during this difficult moment of the insurmountable magnitude of sorrow and anguish his untimely death bequeathed on you.

We take the opportunity to convey our gratitude and indeed our dearest appreciation to his family, his friends, and relatives for having given the South African nation, the African nation and the whole community of the world nation states for such a precious gift and a humble servant of the people. We shall from the mortal remains of this mountain eagle, continue to gather wisdom from its exemplary life, to further rejuvenate our determination to realise the noble dreams of our struggle for the achievement of our freedom and dignity.

Death is the most gruesome agony to knock at our door, it is the most painful episode in the life of any family, friends and relatives. We know that his passing on made us more vulnerable, like a tree which has just lost its leaves.

But we find comfort that in him was a mountain eagle which feared no death, an eagle dedicated to fly to the mountain top in order to volunteer its own life for the sake of the freedom of our people. As we accompany his mortal remains to its final resting place, the honour which remains with us is that his physical death is not the death of his revolutionary cause.

Therefore as we pay tribute to this titanic son of the struggle of our people, we cannot weep our tears, our lamentations cannot be the way, for he has in his mastery of the art of war of our national liberation, taught our beautiful nation how to triumph over adversity. We cannot weep our tears, for he has become a living testimony that heroism is the epitaph of his monumental life.

As we pay tribute to the memories of his revolutionary life, we find comfort in the words of the Greek philosopher Lucretius when he said: “Rest assured that we have nothing to fear in death. One who no longer is cannot suffer or differ in any way from one who has never been born, when this life has been usurped by death the immortal.

“The old is always thrust aside to make way for the new, and one thing must be build out of the wreck of the other.

“Bygone generations have taken your road and those to come will take it no less. So one thing will never cease to spring from another. To none is life given on freshold to all on lease.

“This is the mirror that nature holds up to us, in which we may see time that shall be after we are dead.”

As a revolutionary who understood the essence of death and its significance to life, and who was never a victim of its obsessive rumination, today as his mortal remains lay in state before us, he can suffer no more when his soul has being summoned back to the land of the immortals, for he has defeated it during his lifetime. Destiny has returned him back to the abundant life of purity which is no different from the life of those who were never born.

What remains is the treasure store of his exemplary life and the footprints, which are today the birthmark of our democratic society. His exemplary life is that of an ordinary son of man who during his lifetime demonstrated to the world his extraordinary forms of courage and gave a whole nation hope.

It is true that the embodiment of any revolutionary hero is not measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart. His warm heart became a beacon for the achievement of the wishes and aspirations of humanity and never his greatest fears.

Today we pay tribute to his acts of gallantry and heroism, to his humility and tenacity, we pay tribute to his dedication and commitment, his profound love and respect to all humanity, his selflessness and everlasting desire to accomplish the wishes and the aspirations of our people. Felicity belongs to the noble, those whose unflinching feats of heroism, have ushered in the greatness and grandeur of the victories of our national democratic revolution.

An iconic son from a real working class background, from a family of labour tenants at a farm near the town of Bethlehem in the province of the Free State, from his humble beginnings, comrade Andrew Mlangeni was baptized by the brutality of the vicious system of the racist apartheid colonial regime. The harsh realities of the inhuman system of apartheid subjugated his family to the most horrible of the conditions.

His whole family had to work for the fortunes of the white farm owner, without any salary in order to preserve the privilege of staying at the farm. These are some of the untold horrors our people had to be subjected to in the land stolen from their ancestral forefathers by the settler white colonialists.

The architects of apartheid colonialism never saw it coming, that from such humble beginnings, the trenches of our struggle could produce such an outstanding revolutionary of his calibre. They never saw it coming that a son of a labour tenant could be such an outstanding standard bearer of our struggle for the liberation of the people of our country.

He belongs to the epochal generation of men and women who had a thorough understanding of the important theoretical view that it is not heroes who make history, but the locomotive of history which creates heroes. A generation which understood that it is not heroes who create the people, but the people who create heroes and therefore make society to move forward.

A generation of a rare mould of men and women who understood that heroes and outstanding individuals may play a part in the life of society only in so far as they are capable of correctly understanding the conditions of its development of a particular time, and therefore the ways of changing it for the better.

More importantly, a distinguished generation of men and women who understood that heroes, and outstanding individuals, may become ridiculous and useless failures if they do not correctly grapple with the objective conditions of society and become a buffer to counter its historical needs, with a false view that they themselves and no one else, are the makers of history.

The understanding of this important theoretical view by his generation propelled them to transform the ANC from being just a movement of petitions and deputations into a militant revolutionary movement, informed by the realities of the new conditions imposed by the declaration of the racist apartheid regime. The new conditions of the heightened oppression and exploitation by the apartheid colonial regime ignited his generation to take the forms of our struggle to a higher trajectory.

This historical period gave birth to the formation of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) which formulated a radical programme of action to mount an offensive against the oppressive laws imposed to our people by the new racist regime. This prompted the call by this heroic generations to declare that during their lifetime, they would attain the freedom of our people.

This unbending commitment for the liberation of our people, led to his generation taking a leading role in the intensification of resistance struggle against the regime. This commitment led to the rolling mass action during the defiance campaigns of 1952, the campaign against the imposition of Bantu education in 1953, the campaign to demand for the return of land back to the people, and more importantly the holding of the historic watershed Congress of the people of 1955 in Kliptown, Soweto.

This magnificent generation of inspiring young men and women was part of the treason trials and indeed part of the nucleus of our historic leadership which took the life and death decision of forming the military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe, and therefore declaring the arm struggle against the apartheid regime.

As part of the High Command of Umkhonto we Sizwe, he was amongst the first after its launch in 1961 to take the solemn oath of its Declaration which says: “The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices – submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means in our power in defence of our people, our future, and our freedom.”

Together with other Rivonia trialists, comrade Mlangeni was sentenced to three life sentences on account of conspiracy to overthrow the apartheid regime. He together with his comrades, agreed to the collective statement read by the accused number one Nelson Mandela which stated: “These are ideals that we are prepared to live for, but if needs be, to die for".

Together with his fellow comrades they spent over 25 years incarcerated by the apartheid government on Robben Island. Despite harsh and long odious confinement behind the prison walls, they remained committed to the arms struggle and refuted numerous attempts by the regime to persuade them to denounce violence as a form of our struggle.

They remained steadfast in their commitment until the apartheid regime was forced by the popular power of the people to release all political prisoners and to unban the national liberation movement, a protracted process which led to the first democratic elections in 1994.

A revolutionary leader of a special mould, an all round cadre, a leader of our liberation movement, a leader rooted in the struggle of the masses of our people, a leader of the vanguard party of the struggle of the working class, the most advanced detachment of our society, a leader of the trade union movement, the great school for the awakening of the class consciousness of the working class. He was indeed a true product of the struggle of our people.

His was part of the historic leadership core within the ranks of our national liberation movement which appreciated the fundamental question of the relationship between a liberation movement, a Vanguard Party, a Trade Union Movement and society in general. In other words he was part of those who mastered the complex theoretical question of the relationship between the national, class and gender questions.

He comprehended the significance of the unity of the revolutionary Alliance in the context of the realities of the South African situation. The reason why he appreciated the multi class character of the ANC and its historic task of uniting all sections and classes of the oppressed masses against colonial oppression and exploitation.

Borrowing from the teachings of the late General Secretary of the South African Communist Party Cde Moses Mabhida, he understood the relationship between the ANC, SACP and COSATU plus SANCO, to be based on mutual trust, reciprocity, comradeship in battle and common struggle for national liberation. That our unity of aims and methods of struggle are a rare instance of positive alignment between the forces of class and liberation.

In the words of the late President of the ANC Cde OR Tambo, the relationship between our revolutionary Alliance partners is not an accident of history, nor it is a natural and inevitable development. That our Alliance is the living organism that has grown out of the struggle we have build out of our separate and common experiences.

That our Alliance has been fertilized by the blood of countless heroes, many of them unnamed and unsung. That the formation of our Alliance has been reinforced by our common determination to destroy the enemy and by our shared belief in the certainty of our struggle.

This is what has made them to be who they are, to be selfless servants of the struggle of our people. In their memory, we shall ensure that we work hard for the unity of our revolutionary Alliance partners and the whole of the progressive forces of our country. We undoubtedly commit ourselves to this task with the understanding that the unity of our revolutionary Alliance forces is the unity of our national democratic revolution and therefore our people.

Part of the strategy of the enemy of our revolution is to separate the role of the historic generations of the ANC leadership from the ANC itself or from the masses of our people. We see this as part of the ongoing onslaught to undermine the leadership role of the liberation movement in the history our struggle against imperialism and colonialism.

Vladimir Lenin teaches us how after the death of a revolutionary leader who has won the popularity of the masses, his enemies appropriate his name and use it to hoodwink the oppressed classes.

He said: “During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander.

“After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, so to say, and to hallow their names to a certain extent for the ‘consolation’ of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time, robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarizing it.”

Our history of struggle is gradually becoming the catalogue of this reality, we cannot allow it, we have to stand up, and cal a spade a spade, we are a witness to this tragedy of history, those who have imprisoned our leaders for more than twenty six years in jail are today celebrating their heroism more than our people themselves. Our enemy is appropriating the names of the heroes of our struggle in order to undermine they very same victories of our liberation.

Nelson Mandela and the historic leadership of the Rivonia trialists are the products of the struggle of our people, they are the soul of the ANC and the ANC is their soul. It cannot be, that today their historic contribution to the struggle for the liberation of our people is appropriated by those forces opposed to the fundamental transformation of our country.

Time has come, that the leadership of the ANC and its membership, our revolutionary Alliance formations and the progressive formations reclaim back the legacy of our own leaders. The enemy is determined to convert them into harmless icons, the enemy is determined to canonise them, to hallow their names and therefore to distort the rhythm of the revolutionary ideals they stood for and for which they were prepared to die for.

Neither of them, from OR Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Andrew Mlangeni, Gavon Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi, Ahmed Kathrada, JB Marks, Moses Kotane, Alfred Nokwe, Mark Shope, Lawrence Phokanoka, John Nkadimeng, Dora Damana, Winnie Mandela, Florence Maphosho, Lilian Ngoyi, and many others ever told us that our struggle is complete and over. During their lifetime, they have unequivocally become part of the broader struggle for radical socio-economic transformation.

Our enemy has mastered the art of deceit, malice, propaganda and the capacity to distort the history of the struggle of the people of our country. They were not harmless icons but revolutionaries in the forefront trenches of our struggle.

But we are confident that our people are more becoming vested with the tactics of the enemy, with its characteristic feature of being vague, amorphous and elusive. We see today those who were blue eye boys and girls of the vicious regime which the world declared a crime against humanity becoming instant heroes of the history of the struggle of our people, they mastered the art of wearing the best of our regalia and to sing and dance the best of our songs.

As we salute their living memories, we shall continue with our struggle for the implementation of the resolutions of the 54th conference of the ANC which amongst others demanded for the expropriation of the land without compensation, the nationalisation of the South African. Reserve Bank (SARB), transformation of the financial sector, establishment of the state bank, establishment of national health insurance and introduction of a free and compulsory education to all the people of our country.

In their memory we shall achieve the momentous task of the unity of our revolutionary forces in the Southern African region, the continent and the world. We shall ensure that together we consolidate power and the hegemony of the revolutionary forces of the MPLA in Angola, SWAPO in Namibia, FRELIMO in Mozambique, ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe, CHAMA CHA MAPINDUZI in Tanzania, and all other liberation movements throughout the world.

We shall ensure that our unity of purpose becomes of paramount importance in the wake of the renewed and mounting ideological warfare against the progressive forces across the world. We shall ensure that we forge the spirit of solidarity and internationalism to unite the poor majority of the people of the world.

In their memory we shall be part of the contingent of the world community to wage the struggle for the improvement of the living conditions of our people. We shall demand a better world of peace and harmony.

We shall be part of the international campaign to demand for the freedom of the people of the SAHARAWI Republic, we shall be part of the campaign for the freedom of the people of Palestine, we shall be part of the campaign to demand for the end of the illegal economic sanctions against the people of Zimbabwe, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

The passing on of comrade Andrew Mlangeni closes the last page of the chapters of our history books about the heroic generation of the Rivonia trial. A generation of outstanding leaders whose exemplary leadership we shall forever cherish to emulate.

We shall forever be inspired by their outstanding and magnificent contribution to the struggle for the liberation of our people. They are indeed a living example that leaders are not born as leaders, but are born in the trenches of our struggle, they are honed and shaped by the values and the traditions of our revolutionary movement in the daily struggle of the people.

They fought and died for noble ideal of achieving the objectives of a non racial, non sexist, democratic and prosperous society. Theirs was the struggle which its main objective is the liberation of the black people in general and the African people in particular.

The history of the ANC is truly like a constantly flowing river, from its source when it was formed on the 8th of January 1912 in the Waaihoek Methodist Church in Mangaung. There may be times that this great river of our Movement flows faster, through narrow ravines and rapids, or slows down and meander through the wide open plains of our country, but ultimately the flow never stops. As this river continues to flow - always connected to the feeding fountain of its original source - so our struggle continues.

This constant historical flow is expressed in the ages old revolutionary slogan - that we, as true internationalists, have also made our own: “A LUTA CONTINUA, VICTORY IS CERTAIN” Yes, indeed our struggle continues, and as long as we carry forward the revolutionary ideals that comrade Andrew Mlangeni bestowed on us, victory is certain!

Let his heart sleep in the glory of our beautiful nation for which he has devoted his life. As we say farewell to his mortal remains, we are confident that we shall meet again in the other and more better world.

May his revolutionary soul rest in peace.

* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

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