Accused No. 10, Andrew Mlangeni: 'A pillar to which the ANC could hold onto'

Nelson Mandela and Andrew Mlangeni, with Cyril Ramaphosa.
Nelson Mandela and Andrew Mlangeni, with Cyril Ramaphosa.
Philip Littleton, AFP
  • Andrew Mlangeni died overnight after being admitted to hospital.
  • He was 95.
  • Mandela, in his memoirs, wrote that Mlangeni was one of the first Robben Islanders who supported the idea of negotiations with the apartheid government.

Andrew Mlangeni, the last of the Rivonia trialists, who died during the night of 21 and 22 July, "was a selfless pillar to which the ANC could hold onto," said former colleague and cabinet minister Derek Hanekom on Tuesday.

Mlangeni was 95.

"His passing means the passing of a generation of leaders of great integrity. He never gave up and always continued to hold onto the values he believed in. He was a singular inspiration to many, including to me," said Hanekom, who worked closely with another Rivonia trialist Ahmed Kathrada, who died in 2017.

Denis Goldberg, another trialist, died in April.

Mlangeni was designated accused no. 10 during the Rivonia trial, which saw him appear on charges of treason alongside other ANC leaders, including Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Elias Motsoaledi, Kathrada and Raymond Mahlaba. Mlangeni was tortured during his imprisonment awaiting trial and subjected to electrical shock treatment.

Andrew Mlangeni, 1925 – 2020: The life of the quiet revolutionary and the last Rivonia trialist

Mandela, in his memoirs, wrote that Mlangeni was one of the first Robben Islanders who supported the idea of negotiations with the apartheid government.

According to Hanekom, Mlangeni was always cheerful and unfailingly polite.

"I cherish the early days where we worked together at Shell House [now Luthuli House, the ANC's Johannesburg headquarters] and the support he gave to Kathy [Kathrada] and his foundation. But more so, he maintained a consistent stance against wrongdoing and corruption."

Mlangeni was never judgmental, said Hanekom.

"He held onto his values and principles. Mlangeni will be missed by the ANC and broader society. Him, Kathy and Denis… they spoke coherently right up until the very end."

ALSO READ | Rivonia Trialist and anti-apartheid veteran Denis Goldberg dies

Western Cape Finance MEC David Maynier, who served with Mlangeni on the parliamentary portfolio committee on defence, said he has fond memories of Mlangeni.

"He was a wise old owl and a complete gentleman who commanded great respect from all members of the defence committee," said Maynier.

Mlangeni, alongside Ben Turok, another veteran, was considered the conscience of the ANC's caucus during the early years of the Zuma government, although he by then was already elderly.

Even within the strict confines of party discipline and the three-line whip often called during contentious votes, Mlangeni was unafraid to speak his mind, often siding with Turok when matters such as the infamous secrecy bill were discussed.

His parlimentary office was always accessible to members of the parliamentary press gallery, and he was never shy to discuss golf, one of his favourite hobbies.

He was a member of the Soweto Golf Club, which hosts the Andrew Mlangeni Golf Academy. But although small talk might have started off about golf, the ANC, its future and the inner workings of the party was always the main topic of discussion in his office.

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