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Rivonia Trialist, Andrew Mlangeni: A cadre at the centre of a revolution

18 February 2020 1:10 PM

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

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 two 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.

When the Apartheid government banned the ANC, the SACP and the Pan Africanist Congress in 1960 – an action Helen Suzman warned the government against, ANC leaders were forced to meet and operate underground.

After the Minister of Police, Charles Robberts 'Blackie' Swart's stern warning to freedom fighters, the thought of forming another organisation became unfathomable to most of Nelson Mandela's comrades. With large numbers of people and very few arms at their disposal – Mandela’s comrades believed that the liberation movement, which sought to free South Africans from the damning grip of the Apartheid government, was a suicide mission.

So, needless to say, the birth of the African National Congress’ armed wing, uMkhonto weSizwe ("Spear of the Nation") was a contested one.

We can't go underground with so many people, we're committing suicide... and where are we going to get arms, weapons to fight such a powerful national party government? You are crazy Mandela... So, they used to dismiss him.

Andrew Mlangeni — Rivonia Trialist

Part of a select group of six members, Andrew Mlangeni was recruited by Joe Slovo to undergo military training. After becoming Percy Mokoena, he travelled to China in 1962, a long and dangerous trip, for special training as an underground operator after the ANC was banned.

In 1961, Nelson Mandela had convinced his comrades to form “MK,” and made the decision to take up arms in the fight for the dejected people of South Africa – a turning point in the country's history.

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.


18 February 2020 1:10 PM

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5 June 2020 11:26 AM

Journalist Pippa Green interviewed the struggle icon this year, to commemorate 30 years since his release as a political prisoner.

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Andrew Mlangeni: From the apartheid struggle to the corruption struggle

17 March 2020 2:34 PM

Lessons from a Rivonia trialist: Andrew Mlangeni talks about the transition into democracy and the challenges we face today.

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History for the Future: The 'Backroom Boy' finally goes home

10 March 2020 8:00 AM

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

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History for the Future: Negotiating the release that would set South Africa free

3 March 2020 10:24 AM

One of the last surviving Rivonia Trialists, Andrew Mlangeni recounts the memories of his time in prison until his release.

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History for the Future: "The trial that changed South Africa”

25 February 2020 1:08 PM

In this episode, Andrew Mlangeni recounts how he travelled back to South Africa in the face of mounting tensions.

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11 February 2020 11:05 AM
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