Mlangeni: My heart bleeds

2017-05-14 09:02

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‘We took it for granted that people would automatically follow us if things were bad’.

Former Treason Trialist and ANC veteran Andrew Mlangeni (91) has spoken out about his heartache over how the ANC has been diverted from its values.

Mlangeni, who lives in Dube in Soweto, said greed, corruption and a fight for leadership positions now superseded the need to serve the people.

He spoke to City Press after the launch of his book, The Backroom Boy, this week.

“I am sad. My heart is bleeding when I see what is happening in the country. People have become so greedy that money is the most important thing. They have lost the values the ANC stood for.

“People have died for this revolution, this freedom. Some went into exile and died there. Others died here internally during the apartheid years, fighting for freedom. They were shot and killed by the apartheid regime. It is sad. Very sad.

“Today, the ANC is deeply divided. Everybody wants a position. People no longer do things on a voluntary basis – they want to be paid for everything that they do. That was not the ANC position,” Mlangeni said.

“You know the story of the Guptas and state capture. People have sold their souls, their humanity.

“We have lost elections. And it is going to be very difficult, as far as I am concerned, to regain our position in the country. People of South Africa cannot be led by a divided organisation.”

Regarding the title of his book, Mlangeni said The Backroom Boy reflected how he always wanted to be a player behind the scenes.

He related how Nelson Mandela almost solely pushed for the ANC to go the armed struggle route after the ANC and the SA Communist Party were banned in 1960.

“The question after the banning was: What do we do now? Do we fold our hands and stop fighting? The answer was no.”

Mlangeni said Mandela took the lead and rejected the idea from white people in the country who suggested that the ANC just change its name and continue with the same work.

“The answer was no again. Madiba said: ‘Let us hit back by taking up arms.’ But the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) asked how we would do that. We didn’t know anything about taking up arms and working underground. They were resisting, but Madiba continued at every meeting.”

Mlangeni said Mandela was so persistent that eventually, the NEC gave him the go-ahead, but distanced themselves from the decision.

WATCH: Andrew Mlangeni: My heart bleeds

“They said: ‘Go ahead with this thing of yours.’ They warned him that it must not be known that this was an ANC decision.”

Mandela then had to travel to see banned ANC president Albert Luthuli in Stanger in KwaZulu-Natal to communicate the decision. He got a similar response from Luthuli, who said it must never be known that it was an ANC decision.

Mlangeni said that, after the formation of Umkhonto weSizwe, the Soviets were approached to help with training, but they told the ANC that their revolution was over and they could not help with any training. They suggested the ANC go to China.

Alongside Raymond Mhlaba, Wilton Mkwayi, Steven Naidoo, Joe Gqabi and Abel Mthembu, Mlangeni was part of the first group of six to be selected for training in China.

His most memorable time in China was when they met Communist Party leader Mao Tse-tung.

“We did not think it would be possible to meet him because he was a great man. He was like a God to his people.”


Mlangeni said the ANC’s biggest mistake was to take people for granted.

“We took it for granted that people would still automatically follow us even if things were bad and service delivery was not there.”

To reclaim its ground, Mlangeni said the ANC had to give people the services they needed.

“Service delivery is poor. Look at what is happening now in Eldorado Park.”

He said money for projects was being wasted and not utilised for the purposes it was set aside for.

Mlangeni said he supported the veterans’ initiative to reclaim the ANC, but could not openly be part of it because he was chair of the ANC’s Integrity Commission.

“I don’t want to be accused of sabotaging the work of the commission,” he said.

The commission has become unpopular because of how it is exposing people who are involved in wrongdoing. However, at the party’s national general council in 2015, members asked that the commission be given more teeth. Currently, its decisions are not final and have to be ratified by the ANC’s NEC.

But Mlangeni said the problem was that the commission could not be seen to be usurping the responsibilities of the party’s national disciplinary committee.

“We are not a disciplinary committee. But people don’t like the commission. We are told there are people in the NEC who are opposed to our work. They are afraid that we will investigate them.

“They are divided on the issue of whether the commission should exist or not.”

He refused to comment on the matter involving a complaint submitted to the ANC Integrity Commission against President Jacob Zuma.

“We have powers to investigate anybody, including the president himself. No mangamanga business. We don’t care who you are.”

He said the entire ANC leadership should be blamed for the ANC’s troubles.

“That fact, I don’t hide. They don’t act even when they see things are wrong.”

The Backroom Boy, written by Mandla Mathebula, and published by Wits University Press, is available for R320 at book stores


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Read more on:    andrew mlangeni  |  anc veteran  |  book launch

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