Struggle stalwart, friend and golfer: Celebrating Andrew Mlangeni’s life with pictures
Reuters and IOL
As tributes pour in for Andrew Mokete Mlangeni, we look at the Struggle icon’s life and celebrate some of the highlights in pictures.
Mlangeni, who was jailed alongside Nelson Mandela in 1964 after a treason trial, died at the age of 95 overnight.
He had been admitted to hospital following an abdominal complaint.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, who with Mlangeni fought for racial equality and an end to white minority rule, described him as a "beacon of ethical leadership and care for humanity" whose death marked the end of a generation of history and left the future in the hands of those who remained.
"With his passing... Mlangeni has indeed passed the baton to his compatriots to build the South Africa he fought to liberate and to reconstruct," he said.
Mlangeni championed the values needed to do this, including dignity and opportunity for all, and his "dramatic life was a unique example of heroism and humility inhabiting the same person," Ramaphosa said.
Mlangeni was born in 1925. In 1951, he joined the youth wing of the African National Congress (ANC), which is now in power, and was later sent abroad for military training.
On his return in 1963, he was arrested and stood trial alongside seven others including Mandela in what became known as the Rivonia trial, named after the suburb of Johannesburg where some of them were arrested.
Mlangeni was sentenced to life imprisonment and sent with Mandela to Robben Island prison, the main jail used at the time for Black male anti-apartheid prisoners.
Mlangeni, who spent 26 years in jail and was the last of the eight defendants in the trial to die, was released from prison in October 1989.
Andrew Mlangeni married June Mlangeni (née Ledwaba) in 1950. The couple had four children.
June raised sons Aubrey, Sello, Maureen and Sylvia in their family home in Dube while Andrew was either away on Struggle business or later imprisoned.
The couple celebrated 50 years of marriage months before June’s death in 2001.
Speaking to Independent Media on his father’s 95th birthday in 2019, Sello Mlangeni recalled meeting his father in a hotel in Stockholm in 1989 after not seeing each other for nearly three decades. He said the older Mlangeni at first did not recognise him.
Despite the years of separation, the two developed a relationship based on mutual respect and love.
From freedom fighter to parliamentarian
He went on to become a Member of Parliament for a single term from 1994 to 1999 and then served in the National Assembly for another term before retiring in 2014.
Two films, Prisoner 467/64: The Untold Legacy of Andrew Mlangeni by director Lebogang Rasethaba and Sir Nicholas Van Stadlen’s documentary Life is Wonderful, give a rare glimpse into Mlangeni’s intensely private persona.
Mlangeni appeared in Life is Wonderful along with fellow Rivonia trialists Ahmed Kathrada and Denis Goldberg - whose words to his mother on hearing their sentence inspired the documentary’s name. The eight Rivonia trialists had expected to be sentenced to death and were shocked when they were prison sentences instead.
Two doctorates in one month
In April 2018, Rhodes University conferred an Honorary Doctorate in Law on Mlangeni, and later that month he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Education by the Durban University of Technology.
A year later, Mlangeni was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
A passion for golf
Mlangeni was an avid golfer and even has an annual golf event named after him.
The June and Andrew Mlangeni Foundation organises the Andrew Mlangeni Charity Golf Day annually to raise funds for the projects the foundation run, primarily in Dube.
A principled stance
Over the past few years, Mlangeni was increasingly vocal about internal ANC politics.
In 2016, while chair of the party’s integrity committee he publicly called for then-president Jacob Zuma to leave office. He chastised senior ANC leaders for not forcing Zuma to resign after the damning Constitional Court judgment on Nkandla.
Until his death, Mlangeni remained determined to uphold the values of the liberation movement he had devoted his life to.