A Celebration of Life
Andrew Mlangeni, the last civil rights icon who fought for the liberation of black South Africans against apartheid, the racist regime in the country rooted in colonial white-oppression. A fight that resulted in a life prison sentence alongside other historical figures - such as the late great Nelson Mandela, for plotting to overthrow the unlivable regime with guerrilla warfare. A fight that he can now hang up as he rests in peace.
The icon was buried on Wednesday - after passing away at 95 years of age post-hospitalisation from abdominal pains, in a grand flag-clad ceremony worthy of the hero that he was to celebrate him as national pride. Flags flew at half-mast as Mlangeni, who died last week aged 95, was laid to rest in a state funeral. The mourners wore face masks and observed social distancing rules in line with coronavirus precautions.
South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, had earlier expressed, in a tribute to the deceased legend, that his passing signified the end of a generational history but also the passing of the baton to younger South Africans to build an even better country.
On this day, he had even more moving words, "We have lost not only a great patriot but a strident moral voice," he said in his eulogy before mourners who included ministers and elite members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). He continued, "He served his movement and his country loyally for over seven decades. The struggle for freedom and democracy was his life, and the freedom that we enjoy today is his legacy to us. He belonged to an era of tireless struggle, of sacrifice and service, of honour and integrity. It was an era of leaders who embodied the best in humanity."
Gone But Never Forgotten
Like Mandela, the country's first black president, Mlangeni spent more than a quarter of a century imprisoned. Born in the central Free State province in 1925, Mlangeni joined the youth wing of the ANC in the early 1950s.
He was among the first group of liberation fighters to be sent outside of South Africa for military training in the early 1960s. On his return home two years later, he was arrested. The eight-month Rivonia Trial, named after the Johannesburg suburb where the ANC leaders were arrested, brought the anti-apartheid struggle to world attention.
Expecting to be sentenced to death, Mandela declared in an impassioned three-hour speech from the dock that freedom was "an ideal for which I am prepared to die". Instead, the group was sentenced to life imprisonment where they served 26 years behind bars on Cape Town's notorious Robben Island alongside fellow anti-apartheid activists including Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada and Dennis Goldberg, before his release in 1989.
Mlangeni lived his entire life in Johannesburg's Soweto township, the crucible of the anti-apartheid struggle.
He was laid to rest at the Roodepoort Cemetery, west of Johannesburg.