Zuma reflects on Mlangeni’s contribution to the struggle, and how he met him

Former president Jacob Zuma reflected on the contribution of the late struggle stalwart Andrew Mlangeni on Friday.

Zuma was speaking at a “virtual reflections” memorial about the life and times of Mlangeni, and how he first met the anti-apartheid veteran who was the last remaining Rivonia triallist.

Mlangeni died at the age of 95 earlier this week after he was admitted to 1 Military Hospital in Thaba Tshwane, Pretoria, on Tuesday following an abdominal complaint.

News24 reported earlier the Mlangeni family had seemingly distanced themselves from the announcement by the ANC that Zuma would be speaking at the memorial.

Speaking at a media briefing on Friday on the arrangements for Mlangeni’s funeral next week, Malose Kekana, a trustee of the June and Andrew Mlangeni Foundation, said the family had little control over particulars of the ceremony.

Before his death, Mlangeni had openly criticised Zuma.

In an interview with the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, which it posted on social media, he said the former president had “messed up” and it was unfortunate.”We put him there my dear, hoping, trusting, that he was an honest man. Look what he has done.”

Reflecting on the life and contribution the stalwart had made towards the struggle against apartheid, Zuma recalled he first met Mlangeni in jail.

He said following their arrest and interrogation, they were all detained and ended up in the same cell with a group which included Mlangeni.

“In the cell, besides myself, it was comrade Andrew Mlangeni, our leader, comrade Lombard Mbatha, our commander, who was taking us across, Matthew Ntaba from Cape Town, an old man, Price Ndabane from Cape Town, Russel Mbane from Cape Town, Riot Mkhwanazi from Durban and Justine Khuzwayo from Durban concluded the number we had in our cell,” Zuma reflected.

In the cell, he said, they had laughed and joked, unaware they were not allowed to, until a warden barged in, asking who was making noise and threatening in Afrikaans that their punishment would be depriving them of food.

“While we were in prison, we were happy to be arrested together with the leaders and indeed we got to know that Mlangeni was one of the leading cadres, as we stayed in prison. A very easy to go to [person].”

Secret training in China

Zuma said Mlangeni belonged to a group who joined the ANC in the early 1950s.

He added the stalwart had been highly involved in the changes within the ANC during the struggle when calls for freedom heightened.

Zuma said Mlangeni was also among the volunteers who had conducted door-to-door campaigns asking residents what type of freedom they wanted.

“Those complaints and suggestions were put together into a charter which was called the Freedom Charter. Mlangeni comes from that kind of situation. It is also important that it was as the regime realised that this kind of ideological thinking, they then conducted a big national arrest of the ANC and the alliance.”

He added Mlangeni and others were at the cutting edge of changes within the party during those times and was part of a group that was secretly sent to train in China.

“Nobody knew they had gone to China because the leadership, the high command, in order to start the armed struggle, you need comrades who would have been militarily prepared to help participate in establishing MK and commanding the operations of MK in the country, and Mlangeni was one of them,” the former president said.

Criticism of corruption

Mlangeni had, during the time of Zuma’s presidency, called for an end to corruption and also condemned the Gupta family.

In 2016, the Cape Times reported that in an exclusive interview with its sister publication, The Star, the stalwart accused Zuma of killing the country, economy and ANC.

Mlangeni told the publication it pained him seeing corrupt leaders.

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