TRIBUTES are pouring in for the last remaining Rivonia trialist, Andrew Mlangeni, who died on Tuesday night.
Mlangeni, the last surviving co-defendant convicted in 1964 with Nelson Mandela at the Rivonia Trial, died at the 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria.
He was 95.
His death was confirmed by the Office of President Cyril Ramaphosa, which said on Wednesday that he had died overnight after being admitted to the hospital because of an abdominal complaint.
“The passing of Andrew Mekete Mlangeni signifies the end of a generational history and places our future squarely in our hands,” said Ramaphosa.
“He was a champion and exemplar of the values we need to build a South Africa that provides dignity and opportunity for all and which takes its rightful place in the global community of nations.”
“My thoughts are with the Mlangeni Family today and with all who have had the blessing of meeting and being touched by Bab’ Mlangeni’s passion for achieving a better society as well as his passion for a life that is well-rounded, adventurous, healthy and embracing of people from all walks of life.”
Ramaphosa participated in Mlangeni’s birthday’s celebration last month in the company of, among other notable guests, President Thabo Mbeki, President Kgalema Motlanthe and Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
Andrew Mokete Mlangeni was born on 6 June 1925 at Prospect township in Soweto.
Faced by poverty and financial problems, Andrew was unable to continue with his studies. After 1946 he worked in several industries and factories where he experienced worker exploitation.
As a result, when working as a bus driver for Putco he was active in the strike for better working conditions and a living wage. In 1951 he joined the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) and later in 1954 he joined the ANC.
During the Congress of the People he was a branch delegate at Kliptown. From 1958 to 1960 he was an ANC stalwart and in 1961 he was among the first to be sent for military training outside the country.
On his return in 1963 he was arrested after state witnesses told the court that he was one of the people responsible for recruiting and training an armed force. He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island. Mlangeni was however released when negotiations between the ANC and the government began.
The ANC Parliamentary Caucus said on Wednesday it had learnt with great sadness of the passing of former ANC MP, ‘the last Rivonia Trialist that was remaining, Isithwalandwe Comrade Andrew Mlangeni’.
“As the ANC, we have lost a great leader, utata, a revolutionary who dedicated his life in the struggle towards the liberation of our people. His sentiments are still befitting as we are also faced with the Covid-19 pandemic, which has added on to the challenges we continuously strive to alleviate in our country,” the caucus said in a statement.
“It is incumbent upon us to take the baton forward, embrace the fighting spirit of Tata Mlangeni and work tirelessly in improving the lives of South Africans. We offer our sincerest condolences to the family, friends, comrades and loved ones of the legendary Andrew Mlangeni.”
Mlangeni was awarded Isithwalandwe Seaparankwe – the highest honour by the African National Congress for those who have made an outstanding contribution to the liberation struggle in 1992 – and received the Presidential Order for Meritorious Service: Class 1: Gold from President Nelson Mandela in 1999.
Interim leader of the Democratic Alliance John Steenhuisen has also paid tribute to the ANC veteran, saying his contribution to the fight against apartheid and the liberation of the people of South Africa – which included serving 26 years in prison following the Rivonia Trial in 1964 – will forever be remembered in our nation’s history with reverence and respect.
“Our best possible tribute to Andrew Mlangeni would be to give expression to these honourable qualities as we seek to build a more just and inclusive South Africa through the power of education and a zero tolerance for corruption. That is the South Africa that he would have wanted to see,” said Steenhuisen.
“The DA extends our heartfelt condolences to his children and the rest of his extended family. We also extend our condolences to all his many friends and colleagues in the ANC where his passing undoubtedly leaves a massive void. He was a much-loved and respected figure in the party, and we wish them strength and comfort in this difficult time.”
Condolences continue to pour in for Mlangeni on Twitter under the hashtag – #RIPANDREWMLANGENI.