History for the Future: "The trial that changed South Africa”
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, Life Podcasts presents History for the Future: Lessons from a Rivonia Trialist. In episode three of this captivating six-part podcast, Pippa Green sits down with one of the last remaining Rivonia trialists, Andrew Mlangeni. He reflects on his life, his role in the liberation struggle and, the quarter century of democracy he has witnessed.
In the face of mounting tensions, Andrew Mlangeni's return to South Africa after military training, was welcomed one.
He was inducted into the National High Command along with his comrade, Dennis Goldberg and, assumed the disguise of a priest, Reverend Mokete Mokoena, evading the police and recruiting scores of people for training in the ANC’s military wing, uMkhonto weSizwe.
Until he made one fatal error: He returned home to his wife and children.
Just before midnight on 24 June 1963, Andrew Mlangeni’s sleep was disturbed by violent pounding at the door. Police stormed into house, armed and on a mission – to arrest the man responsible for recruiting members in the plot to overthrow the government with violence.
As police dragged him away in handcuffs, Andrew and his wife braced themselves for a six year sentence – an optimist view given the charges against him.
At the start of the Rivonia Trial in October 1963, Andrew Mlangeni (Accused No.10) had already spent three months in prison, most of it spent in solitary confinement. He was tried and found guilty in the Pretoria Supreme Court along with Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, and others.
While the trialists managed to avoid the death sentence, the men were facing life imprisonment on Robben Island – ultimately, a death behind bars.
It would be 26 years before Andrew Mlangeni returned.
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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