We are deeply saddened to hear that Ntate Andrew Mlangeni has passed away. Another great tree has fallen in the forest. He was the last of the surviving Rivonia trialists. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and comrades.
Over the years, we worked with Ntate Mlangeni on multiple projects. He was always there for us, never expecting anything in return, quietly delivering on his promises. He would even decline a pick-up for an event, because, in his words, “I can get myself there you know.” He was content to be what he himself called ‘the back-room boy’. This was the title of his memoir, published in 2017.
His contribution to the struggle for freedom in South Africa was enormous. One of the first cohort of Umkhonto we Sizwe freedom fighters, he was found guilty of sabotage in the Rivonia Trial and spent 23 years in prison, most of them together with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island and in Pollsmoor. In the democratic era he served two decades in parliament and was always a fearless conscience to the governing party. Awards came his way, but he always prioritised service.
Foundation Chief Executive Sello Hatang remembers him with fondness: “He called me mora because I share a first name with his son. He always made time for us and always brought a smile to our faces with his dry, self-deprecating sense of humour.” When asked one day about his lifelong smoking habit, for instance, he responded: “It has ruined my singing voice.” When asked on another occasion, late in life, if he was still playing golf, he said: “If not for my knee I would still be out on the tee.”
Ntate Mlangeni was a member of an extraordinary generation of leaders in South Africa. He was what Madiba called a great patriot. May his life and work keep inspiring us to build the country of his dreams, one which meets the needs of the most vulnerable and which roots out corruption. As he said at his 93rd birthday party: “I didn’t struggle so that people can steal from the poor.”
We will not forget him. Hamba Kahle Mkhonto.
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