93 years young: Rivonia trialist and ANC stalwart praised at his birthday

06 June 2018 - 20:49
By Nico Gous

When former President Nelson Mandela said he was willing to die for freedom in South Africa during his famous speech at the Rivonia trial on April 20‚ 1964‚ he was speaking about himself and his fellow trialists.

“He was also talking on behalf of his colleagues‚ because the speech had been discussed. People like Andrew Mlangeni stood there‚ in prison‚ determined‚ stoically and with great courage‚ and they were prepared to die for the cause that finally brought our freedom‚” President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday evening.

He was speaking during Mlangeni’s 93rd birthday celebrations in Sandton‚ Johannesburg.

Ramaphosa said he attended the birthday celebrations after Mlangeni phoned him.

“I didn’t even know that he could use a cellphone‚” Ramaphosa joked. “He called a few times and finally I returned his call - and when I did‚ I said I am coming to your birthday. He was taken aback.”

Mlangeni’s prison number on Robben Island was 467/64 and he is one of two surviving trialists‚ along with Denis Goldberg.

Ramaphosa said it was a blessing for the ANC and South Africa to still have Mlangeni around at 93.

“Not only that‚ but still being compos mentis with all your faculties still functioning.”

Ramaphosa said he also admired Mlangeni as a fellow golfer.

“I kept wondering‚ as I have seen you hit golf balls‚ how you kept the memory of hitting a golf ball after being locked up for 27 years in prison.”

Ramaphosa called Mlangeni “Mr. Integrity” and said he was a “quiet and silent” revolutionary.

Former president Kgalema Motlanthe‚ ANC elections head Fikile Mbalula‚ higher education minister Naledi Pandor‚ ANC Youth League president Collen Maine and ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa also attended the party.

Ramaphosa said the ANC was fortunate to have elders in their midst who can provide guidance to himself and others. He singled out Motlanthe and Mlangeni as his guiding lights.

“Mlangeni is a giant himself‚ a giant of our revolution who has also walked with other giants and that’s the beauty of it all.”

Mlangeni’s daughter‚ Sylvia‚ described him as the “father of the nation”.

“May you see many more years‚ but by the grace of God you will‚” she said.