September 17, 2021 | Ronnie Kasrils | Andrew Mlangeni: A tribute to Comrade Legitimate


Ronnie Kasrils will pay tribute to Andrew Mlangeni, who referred to himself as the ANC leadership’s “Backroom Boy”.

A self-effacing tender man, sentenced to life imprisonment as a terrorist, the life of the last surviving Rivonia trialist, Andrew Mokete Mlangeni (1925-2020), has bustle its direction.

So diligent modified into Mlangeni in whatever responsibilities were assigned to him – tiny or mountainous, onerous or unsafe – that his comrades-in-palms nicknamed him Mr Legitimate, Comrade Steadfast, Mr Dependability or phrases to that pause.

The likes of Joe Modise, with whom he worked on uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) missions, would slap their thighs, and giggle: “Mlangeni! Man, nothing could presumably well also terminate him once he modified into seized with a role. It’s good to also bet there could presumably well also very most attention-grabbing be one final consequence – fulfilment of his mission.”

The final consequence modified into they dubbed him “Robotic”, denoting any individual who modified into remorseless in forward movement. That modified into in jest to tug Mlangeni’s leg. No offence taken. He had a self-deprecatory sense of humour and referred to himself as the ANC leadership’s “Backroom Boy”. [His chosen title for an engaging biography by Mandla Mathebula]

I first met Andrew Mlangeni within the firm of Modise. This modified into in Durban quickly after the return of the frail from protection force practising in China early in 1963. They were collecting dynamite we had “liberated” from a construction location.

‘Hot’ vehicle

The one vehicle we, of the then Natal MK Recount, possessed had change into too “hot”, and Modise ordered Mlangeni to power it aid to Joburg, the set up they’d alter its appearance and registration. One thing previous us in Durban. The promise modified into they’d change it. That never came about.

Years later, after Mlangeni’s 26-One year Robben Island “sojourn” and the legalisation of the ANC, he had change into transport officer on the Joburg Shell House Headquarters. I duly approached him and requested a vehicle for my assigned work, which, as a campaigns officer, required journeys staunch via the nation.

He regarded at me considerably bemused, explaining that given some time he would look what modified into that you’ll want to presumably well be also mediate of, however there were others who were sooner than me in line for a vehicle. Automobiles were in short provide. Poker confronted, I argued that I had been in line from the time of his 1963 Durban traipse with Modise. His eyes twinkled with mirth. “Hotfoot recount that to Modise,” he teased. I got my vehicle within the kill. But our friendship didn’t rely. I needed to reduction my flip.

To him, guidelines were traditional. That went alongside with his integrity. There modified into no ask of favouritism or what’s known as cronyism currently.

Born in 1925 within the Free Recount, he knew poverty and tormented by the originate. He modified into two years worn when his father died. In penury, his mother moved to point to day Soweto they in most cases lived in a shanty town.

By the age of 12, he had left college to kind some money from informal chores; then became a manufacturing facility employee and, by his early 20s, a bus driver for PUTCO.

By the early 1950s, he had joined the ANC Early life League and, by 1954, the ANC.

He served at Mandela and Sisulu’s facet via the mass mobilisation campaigns of the 1950s, the set up they eminent how respectable and diligent he modified into.

On chronicle of such qualities he modified into selected for a One year’s protection force practising in China as piece of a path blazing group of six. On returning home, he carried out MK operations with distinction till his arrest and indictment alongside his comrades-in-palms on the Rivonia Trial of 1964 and his sentence in conjunction with them to life imprisonment.

It modified into partly the hot vehicle that Mlangeni had pushed from Durban to Joburg that resulted in his undoing. He modified into brutally tortured, suffered electrical shock therapy, however kept his mouth shut and gave no shred of knowledge away. And the Backroom Boy had a great deal of knowledge below his hat.

Fortitude, integrity and fulfilment of the mission were the golden threads that ran via his life: Gorgeous to the very terminate, via carrier as an MP, Chair of the ANCs Integrity Committee, a form of responsibilities, deployment and top awards.  

For him, success and accolades by no method supposed that the battle to eradicate poverty, racism, exploitation and inequality modified into carried out with.

“Cherish your nation”

He modified into ready to set up on his verbalize in opposition to corruption and strove in his mute, backroom advance to prevail on the ANC leadership to set aside the home in repeat. He understood the truth of an ongoing endeavour and of passing on the baton to the next generation.

Honesty and carrier to the of us, now not greed and self-hobby, were his mantra.

“Cherish your nation, admire your of us, fight corruption” modified into his message in these latter years.

Despite the years of sacrifice and deprivation, he had stumbled on time to revel in life, particularly his marriage to his spouse, June, and the four young of us he fathered.

She had waited faithfully for him one day of all these years of Robben Island. He loved to quip that she modified into his 2nd spouse; the first being his admire for golf.

Tragically, she passed on in 2001 and that modified into a devastating blow. Yet, as ever, his resilience came to the fore alongside with his irrepressible wit.

In his closing years, (he modified into one thing of an atheist by the advance), he would narrate that he modified into taking a look forward to quickly joining her. It modified into clear that he had no alarm of loss of life – whether or now not within the fight in opposition to apartheid or the battle with illness.

Perchance it modified into the golf, and needless to state his abiding admire of June, that kept up his morale – however surely it modified into the years of battle that formed him and gave him his fortitude.

One of his last responsibilities, a tribute to his internationalism, modified into endorsing a solidarity pledge to the Folk of Palestine, standing with them in opposition to doubtlessly the most modern Israeli annexation deal of Trump and Netanyahu.

A life to celebrate

Below lockdown, my hyperlink to Andrew modified into via his devoted son Sello. We wished some mountainous names and I asked Sello whether or now not he could presumably well also accumulate his unwell father to agree. In subsequent to no time came aid the e-mail with Andrew’s endorsement – and that has supposed loads to the Palestinian of us.

It must had been Andrew Mlangeni’s last political act.

We deeply mourn this passing of a tender extensive, a self-effacing Backroom Boy, who stood on the forefront of our of us’s battle for freedom, equality and democracy.

His is a life to celebrate at a gorgeous bleak time. Can also the instance of his dedication succor this nation as we grapple with the many-sided pandemic of Covid-19, inequality and poverty.

Andrew Mokete Mlangeni, Backroom Boy, Comrade Legitimate, stands centre stage. A beacon of hope and gentle-weight for our nation and of us, and the generations to advance.

“A extensive tree has fallen,” acknowledged the ANC in an announcement. “The loss of life of Ntate Mlangeni marks the terminate of a revolutionary life that modified into dedicated to the battle for justice and the defence of our freedom.” 

– Ronnie Kasrils is a battle damaged-down and frail government minister

This post in the initiating seemed on and written by:
Ronnie Kasrils