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Andrew Mlangeni, South African anti-apartheid campaigner, dies at 95

One of the most prominent and active South African anti-apartheid campaigner Andrew Mlangeni, who was jailed alongside Nelson Mandela in 1964 after a treason trial, has died at the age of 95.

Mlangeni speaks about former South African President Mandela during Nelson Mandela International Day in New York. Image credit Yahoo News

But who was this hero?

Mlangeni was born in Soweto, South Africa, in 1925. In 1951, he joined the youth wing of the African National Congress (ANC), which is now in power, and was later sent abroad for military training.

On his return in 1963, he was arrested and stood trial alongside seven others including Mandela in what became known as the Rivonia trial, named after the suburb of Johannesburg where some of them were arrested.

Mlangeni was sentenced to life imprisonment and sent with Mandela to Robben Island prison, the main jail used at the time for Black male anti-apartheid prisoners.

After his release, he served as a member of parliament and lived in the township of Soweto, outside Johannesburg, until his death.

In 2018, Mlangeni received an Honorary Doctorate in Education from the Durban University of Technology in South Africa, and later was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Law by Rhodes University.

This great man was also awarded the Freedom of the City of London on 20 July 2018. On that visit, he was a guest of honour at the opening of the Mandela Centenary Exhibition at the South Bank Centre, alongside Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. On the Centenary Celebration of Nelson Mandela's birth, he also read Mandela's favourite poem - Invictus - which was aired on the BBC's Newsnight programme.

French director Nicolas Champeaux, South African anti-apartheid campaigner and former political prisoner Andrew Mlangeni and French co-director and screenwriter Gilles Porte present at Cannes "The State Against Mandela", a documentary about the historical Rivonia trial in the 1960s. Image credit Yahoo News

Yet, a few hours ago, the South Africa’s presidency reported in a statement that Mlangeni, who spent 26 years of his life in jail and was the last of the eight defendants in the trial to die, had been admitted to hospital following an acute abdominal pain.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who fought with Mlangeni for racial equality and an end to white minority rule, described him as a “beacon of ethical leadership and care for humanity”, whose death marked the end of a generation of history and left the future in the hands of those who remained.

“With his passing... Mlangeni has indeed passed the baton to his compatriots to build the South Africa he fought to liberate and to reconstruct,” he cried.

Mlangeni championed the outstanding values needed to do this, including dignity and opportunity for all, and his “dramatic life was a unique example of heroism and humility inhabiting the same person,” Ramaphosa added.


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