Timeline

Andrew Mlangeni is known for his resilience against human adversity, calmness in the face of personal turbulence and resolute disposition and conviction to conquer one’s fear in order to carry the burdens of others.

Andrew Mlangeni, the struggle hero, an icon of liberation from the bondage of colonial and apartheid marginalization of the majority was born on 6 June 1925, on a farm 15 KM outside of Bethlehem in what is known today as the Free State. He was born of farm tenants under the farm labour tenancy system. He was the ninth child and part of the second set of twins in a family of twelve. His father passed on when he was 6 leaving his wife with 12 children to take care of. At a very young age of 9-12 Andrew was already doing some caddy work at Bethlehem golf course to augment his mother and brothers’ meagre incomes.

Education in captivity

After matric, he enrolled for a BA degree with UNISA majoring in Public Administration and Political Science. This course of study took Andrew about 12 years to complete, partly because of lack of funds and also because the authorities decreed that inmates were not going to be allowed to continue studying after their first degree. 

He completed his first degree in 1979 and further enrolled for BA Honours in Political Science in 1982. He completed his post-graduate studies com-laude in 1986. After an Honours degree, he enrolled for a law degree which was ’unfortunately’ interrupted by his release from prison in October 1989.

Migration and Schooling

Andrew Mlangeni and his mother moved to Johannesburg around 1939 to join his brothers who moved a few years earlier. He started schooling at the age of 11 in Pimville Soweto, staying at his elder brother’s house who assisted in paying for his school fees. He completed his primary education and moved on to St. Peters Secondary School, where he obtained his Junior Certificate in 1946 under OR Tambo’s tutelage.

Faced by poverty and financial problems, Andrew was unable to continue with his studies beyond Junior Certificate. After 1946 he worked in several industries and factories where he experienced worker exploitation. His dissatisfaction with slave-wage drove him to join the Young Communist League, YCL to better his and colleagues working conditions and a living wage.

Family man

Andrew Mlangeni was married to a very strong and supporting partner, June Johanna Ledwaba. She stood by him as a comrade in her own right and as a wife. They first met in 1947 and their relationship was consummated into marriage in 1949. Their marriage was blessed with 4 children, 2 girls and 2 boys. 

His wife sadly passed away in 2001, succumbing to cancer. Ntate Mlangeni has a very strong love and respect for his deceased wife because of the support and devotion she had for him as a husband, his family and the least among the people in her community and the country.

Though leaders of many countries throughout the world have tried to persuade the Government to abandon its apartheid policy...

A life of an activist

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 where the Freedom Charter was adopted he was a branch delegate leader at Kliptown, representing Dube branch where he was a branch secretary. From 1958 to 1960 he was a dedicated and committed ANC and Communist Party functionary. When peaceful means of expressing dissatisfaction with political marginalisation and economic deprivation by the minority regime was barred to the majority Andrew Mlangeni was among the first 6 people to be sent outside the country in 1961 for military training in China.

On his return, late in 1962 he joined the underground unit of Umkhonto Wesizwe (MK) and became a member of the High Command. He was arrested on 24 June 1963 on the national raid day. After 11 July Liliesleaf Farm arrest of 1963, Andrew Mlangeni together with Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Denis Goldberg and others was proffered with treason charges and later sabotage.

During the trial, some former combatants turned state witnesses and told the court that he was one of the people responsible for recruiting and training an armed force. Before the court passed judgment on him, Mlangeni told the court that:

“Though leaders of many countries throughout the world have tried to persuade the Government to abandon its apartheid policy, and although resolutions have been passed in the United Nations against South Africa, this has met with no result. All that the Government has done is to reply to the people’s demands by putting their political leaders in gaol and breaking up families”.

He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island. He started his life sentence on 12 June 1964.

Life in prison just like out of prison was a terrain of struggle to Andrew Mlangeni and his colleagues. Their right to education while in captivity was the first matter they fiercely took up with their jailors. The regime was too opposed to allow political prisoners to study. However, they fought tirelessly until their right to study was granted in 1967. Andrew Mlangeni completed his matric courses which he started while outside through correspondence.

AWARDS RECEIVED

Andrew Mlangeni

1992

Isithwalandwe – Seaparankwe

The African National Congress (ANC)

1999

The Order for Meritorious Service Class I: Gold

Government of the Republic of South Africa

2005

Parliament Award

The African National Congress (ANC)

2009

Recognition of Service

Parliament of Republic of South Africa

2011

Andrew Mlangeni Legendary Green Jacket

Ministry of Sport and Recreation South Africa and the people of the Republic of South Africa

2013

Harry Brews Award

Steenberg Golf Club

2016

Freedom of the City of London

City of London

2016

Freedom of the City of Sedibeng

Sedibeng District Municipality

2016

Freedom of the City of Johannesburg

City of Johannesburg

Andrew Mlangeni

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