Andrew Mlangeni

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A portrait of Andrew Mlangeni at his Soweto home, taken by Matthew Willman in February 2019

Andrew Mokete Mlangeni (born 6 June 1925), also known as Andrew Mokete Molakene,[citation needed] is a South African political activist and anti-apartheid campaigner who, along with Nelson Mandela and others, was imprisoned after the Rivonia Trial.

He was born in Soweto. After having to give up his studies owing to poverty, after 1946 he experienced worker exploitation as a factory worker. When working as a bus driver, he was active in a strike for better working conditions and a living wage, and in 1951 joined the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) and, in 1954, the African National Congress (ANC).[1]

In 1961 he was sent for military training outside the country, but on his return in 1963 was arrested, after being accused of recruiting and training an armed force. He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island.[1]

He was married to June Mlangeni and they have five children, his wife died in 2001.

After his release from prison 27 years later, Mlangeni served as a member of parliament for the ANC from 1994 to 1999.[citation needed]

He was close friends with Nelson Mandela and spoke at Mandela's memorial service at FNB Stadium.[citation needed]

In 2015 director Lebogang Rasethaba made a film about Mlangeni, entitled Prisoner 467/64: The Untold Legacy of Andrew Mlangeni.[2]

In 2017 Mlangeni appeared with fellow defendants at the Rivonia Trial, Denis Goldberg and Ahmed Kathrada, along with lawyers Joel Joffe, George Bizos and Denis Kuny in a documentary film entitled "Life is Wonderful", directed by Sir Nicholas Stadlen,[3] which tells the story of the trial. (The title reflects Goldberg's words to his mother at the end of the trial on hearing that he and his comrades had been spared the death sentence).[4][5][6][7]

On 26 April 2018, Mlangeni received an Honorary Doctorate in Education from the Durban University of Technology in South Africa.[citation needed]

Mlangeni was awarded the Freedom of the City of London on 20 July 2018.[8] On that visit, he was also a guest of honour at the opening of the Mandela Centenary Exhibition at the South Bank Centre, alongside Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. On the Centenary Celebration of Nelson Mandela's birth, he also read Mandela's favourite poem - Invictus - which was aired on the BBC's Newsnight programme.[9]


  1. ^ a b "Andrew Mokete Mlangeni". South African History Online. 17 February 2011.
  2. ^ "Prisoner 467/64: The Untold Legacy Of Andrew Mlangeni". Archived from the original on 3 February 2016. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  3. ^ "Life is Wonderful Q&A" (video). 13 August 2018. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  4. ^ Life is Wonderful trailer on YouTube
  5. ^ Stadlen, Nick (Nicholas) (22 July 2018). "Unsung heroes: the men who stood trial with Mandela". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  6. ^ Green, Pippa (13 June 2018). "Apartheid history: Overlooked Rivonia triallists feted in Life is Wonderful". Business Day. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  7. ^ "'Life is Wonderful' screening reinforces call for such histories in curriculum". Nelson Mandela University. 15 June 2018. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  8. ^ Wintour, Patrick (18 July 2018). "'I did it for freedom' – Nelson Mandela's quiet comrade". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  9. ^ @BBCNewsnight (18 July 2018). "Here is Nelson Mandela's former cellmate Andrew Mlangeni reading Invictus to honour his friend's legacy on what would have been his 100th birthday..." Twitter. Retrieved 6 May 2019.