South African Anti-apartheid icon and last Rivonia trialist Andrew Mlangeni dies at 95


Anti-apartheid icon and the last surviving Rivonia trialist, Andrew Mlangeni has died at the age of 95.

In a statement, President Cyril Ramaphosa said he had learnt “with deep sadness of the passing away overnight” of Mlangeni.

The ANC stalwart was admitted to 1 Military Hospital in Thaba Tshwane, Pretoria, on Tuesday following an abdominal complaint.

Ramaphosa said: “The passing of Andrew Mekete Mlangeni signifies the end of a generational history and places our future squarely in our hands.

“Until recently, we were able to sit at Bab’ Mlangeni’s feet and draw on his wealth of wisdom and his unfailing commitment – even at his very advanced age – to a better life for all South Africans.

“With his passing as the last remaining Rivonia Trialist, Bab’ Mlangeni has indeed passed the baton to his compatriots to build the South Africa he fought to liberate and to reconstruct during our democratic dispensation.

“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 said.

Struggle history

Mlangeni was born on 6 June 1925 – the ninth child in a family of fourteen. In 1951, he joined the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) and in 1954 he joined the ANC. In 1961, he was among the first to be sent for military training outside the country.

According to South African History Online, 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 along with former president Nelson Mandela, Denis Goldberg, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada and several other struggle icons.

After his release from prison 27 years later, Mlangeni served as a member of Parliament for the ANC from 1994 to 1999. He served in the National Assembly from 2009 until 2014, when he retired.

Mlangeni was awarded Isithwalandwe Seaparankwe – the highest honour by the ANC for those who have made an outstanding contribution to the liberation struggle in 1992, and he received the Presidential Order for Meritorious Service, Class 1: Gold from Mandela in 1999.

Tributes for Mlangeni started pouring in on Wednesday morning.


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Amuna Misso
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