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History for the Future: Lessons from a Rivonia Trialist

History for the Future: Lessons from a Rivonia Trialist

On 11 February 30 years ago, Nelson Mandela walked out of what was then Victor Verster Prison in Paarl, after 27 years in jail. His release followed the release of his most of his comrades who had been sentenced to life imprisonment with him in 1964, in what is now known as the Rivonia Trial. Two, Dennis Goldberg and Govan Mbeki had been released a little earlier.

Only two of the eight men sentenced to life imprisonment by the Pretoria High Court are still alive - Goldberg and Andrew Mlangeni. Mlangeni, who turns 95 this year, had been arrested at his home in Soweto in June 1963, not at the Liliesleaf farm in Rivonia as many of his comrades were.

He describes himself as a “backroom boy”, someone who kept a low profile and worked in the shadows for the freedom struggle, which has consumed him since he was a young man.

But his story shows he was far from a backroom boy!

Born in 1925 on a farm in the Free State, his parents were labour tenants. One of 12 children, he spent his childhood on farms or in small townships in the Free State before moving to Johannesburg in 1940 where he lived with an elder brother. By 1945, at the age of 20, he had joined the Young Communist League, and a few years later the ANC.

In this podcast series, Pippa Green interviews Mlangeni about his remarkable life of courage and reflection.

He traveled to China in 1962, a long and dangerous trip, for special training as an underground operator after the ANC was banned in 1960. He spent 26 years in prison, most of it on Robben Island.

Since his release in 1989, he has been a member of Parliament, a leading member of the ANC’s Integrity Commission, and a keen golfer who has started his own Golf Foundation. We tell his remarkable story in six podcast episodes as part of the History for the Future series.

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