Former Robben Island prisoner and former Pan-Africanist activist Gaby Magomola, who met him in 1964 on Robben Island when the Rivonia triallists, including Nelson Mandela, came there, has fond memories of Mlangeni.
“Stripped of their dignity and stoically absorbing the pain, these men embraced the icy cold Atlantic chills and were soon made to change into Robben Island prisoner fatigues,” he said.
“Watching them push those stone-filled wheelbarrows from one end of the prison yard to the other was a sight to behold.”
Mlangeni, like Walter Sisulu, was restrained in demeanour while Govan Mbeki and Madiba were in command.
“These men’s presence among us, the sick and condemned, became an inspirational antidote to our condition and created a bond that made me the man I became. I am eternally grateful for the collegiate relationship I shared with this gallant soldier. Andrew stood out as a man of ethical morals who stood for what was right.”
The last remaining Rivonia triallist died on Tuesday night at the age of 95 at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria. The ANC described him as a “big tree” and a “relentless fighter for liberation”.
ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe said: “A leader who embodied the best qualities of the congress movement is no longer in our midst. The death of Ntate Mlangeni marks the end of a revolutionary life dedicated to the struggle for justice and the defence of our freedom.”
Mlangeni spent more than 20 years on Robben Island and was released with the other Rivonia triallists, aside from Mandela, in 1989. He became a member of the first democratic parliament in 1994.
SA Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande said Mlangeni placed nonracialism as a central value of the struggle and was fiercely opposed to corruption and state capture. Congress of the People’s Dennis Bloem called Mlangeni an “outstanding South African”.
The Economic Freedom Fighters’ Delisile Ngwenya noted that despite Mlangeni’s sacrifices, he never felt entitled and remained humble.