"Ï want to move away from that man he reminds me of the German officer who tortured me."
"Three years George and we will be out!" they shouted to their lawyer.
All of us listening, over post lunch drinks, laughed including the late veteran photographer, Alf Kumalo, who once had his skull cracked in police cells. If you have suffered through politics or journalism, as Alf had in both, you tend to see the funny side of the ugliest of moments.
End of an era: firebrand Andrew Mlangeni the last of Nelson Mandela’s band of brothers dies aged 95.
The last survivor of the courageous band of young men who faced unflinchingly the death penalty with Nelson Mandela has died aged 95. The quiet and steely revolutionary Andrew Mlangeni was the last of the survivor of the Rivonia trial, ending in 1964, that saw Mandela and his comrades sentenced to life imprisonment for their part in the underground movement that ran a sabotage campaign as part of the armed struggle against apartheid. Denis Goldberg, the other survivor, died in Cape Town in April. Mlangeni served 27 years in prison, his release came only in 1989, on charges that he had nothing to do with. In later years he used to smile that he had served a life sentence for principle and nothing else. Like all the Rivonia trilaists he pleaded guilty to all the charges, in the hope of putting the government in the dock; it turned out to be so with the international press writing them up not as criminals, but as the Benjamin Franklins of Africa. “All the things that were done by Modise (Joe Modise the late former defence minister) were put on me by the state witness. Everything; I didn’t do anything, I was out of the country. Even when they were concerning bombs etc. That was in 1961 and I was not here!” he told me in 2010 at his home in Dube, Soweto. Mlangeni was under military training in China in 1961 where, along with Modise, he was to become one of the founder members of Umkhonto We Sizwe the military wing of the African National Congress. He even knew little of the underground’s sketchy plan –Operation Mayibuye- for the armed overthrow of South Africa. This half-baked plan imagined small armed groups of men landing on the beaches of South Africa and taking on one of Africa’s toughest defence forces. This was one of the main planks of the prosecution case at the Rivonia trial. “We were fresh from China and eager to fight, so things such as documents we said let them go to the intellectuals,” said Mlangeni Mlangeni , who grew up in Soweto just outside Johannesburg, was born to question the system that condemned thinking men, like he, into a life of poorly paid servitude. He became an activist at an early age, politicized by the injustices he saw in his first job in a factory. Later,he was to organize bus drivers in Johannesburg in going on strike. On his emergence from prison, Mlangeni returned to the small house in Dube that he was arrested in during the winter of 1963. He became an ANC MP and in his mid 80s was very active and opened a constituency office in Dube to help serve the people.
“It is high treason chaps!”- How the joy of reading could have put Nelson Mandela and his struggle comrades behind bars.
How the raid on Rivonia, which lent its name to the trial in which all were sentenced to life, came about has been argued over for years. Theories from informants, to nosey neighbours, to foreign spies are among the theories.
Farewell one of the last survivors of Mandela’s band of brothers: Denis Goldberg – the gentle lion of the struggle.
His humour was legendary, as was his compassion. He once told me that he was handed three life sentences but was given a bulk discount and only served one. On the other side of the coin, he told me of the horror of lying in his cell listening to condemned men screaming as warders dragged them to the gallows. It was pure Denis that he learned the guitar so he could play a heartfelt musical tribute to the condemned.
Anyone who knew him will tell you he was his own man. When politics and the ruling party took a dismal turn in South Africa he was never afraid to speak out against the ill-advised actions of many of his former comrades.
12Page 1 of 2