History for the Future: Lessons from a Rivonia Trialist
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History for the Future: Negotiating the release that would set South Africa free

To commemorate 30 years since Andrew Mlangeni's release as a political prisoner, Life Podcasts presents History for the Future: Lessons from a Rivonia Trialist. In episode four of this captivating six-part podcast series, Andrew Mlangeni recounts his memories of his time in prison until his release in October 1989.

It was 1986 – Nelson Mandela was admitted to a private hospital in Cape Town for TB treatment. It was then that, the whispers of negotiation started to permeate the air in the prison cells of South Africa’s long-serving freedom fighters.

Pressures were mounting and, the ruling National Party was divided.

At the time, the “unconditional” release of political prisoners by the racist regime of South Africa was highly politicised… but, it was imminent.

It was then, in the quiet moments curled up in the solitude of his cell when Andrew contemplated whether his decision to take up arms against the apartheid government was worth the agony of being separated from his beloved family.

He had left his wife behind with four small children, struggling to makes ends meet. She had become a target and, the Special Branch had started persecuting her for the actions of her imprisoned husband – getting her fired from her places of employment.

Amid mounting demands for release of political prisoners, it seemed that the spirit of defeatism had overcome Authoritarian President, P. W. Botha.

He resigned from office.

Shortly after F.W. de Klerk’s inauguration as State President – 8 African National Congress political prisoners were finally released from Robben Island... among those set free were Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi and, Andrew Mlangeni.

"Mandela believed if they were released, they could go join the forces who were demanding the release of all political prisoners and the return of exiles. But, for that to happen, they would have to wait another three years" — Pippa Green.

Listen to his remarkable story in six podcast episodes as part of the History for the Future series.

For more articles like this one, visit the History for the Future: Lessons from a Rivonia Trialist feature page.


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To mark 30 years since Mandela's release from prison, Pippa Green speaks to Rivonia Trialist, Andrew Mlangeni about his life.

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