Johannesburg – One of the last surviving Rivonia treason trialists, Andrew Mlangeni, has added his voice to those who are calling for the criminalisation of racism in the country.
“… I’m saddened… by these racist rants on social media in our country. I think it is time we consider racism as a crime so that we can punish racists. I support those who are calling for a law criminalising racism,” he said.
The 91-year-old liberation icon was speaking at the screening of his documentary at Lilies Farm in Rivonia on Thursday, which is titled ‘Prisoner 467/64 – The Untold Legacy of Andrew Mlangeni’.
Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa has held a series of dialogues aimed at engendering a common national identity and cementing social cohesion. The Minister has been very vocal about efforts to tighten legislation to stem discrimination. He says all of this is to protect what many, such as Mlangeni and Nelson Mandela, have lived and worked hard for to build a new and united South Africa.
When asked how the nation should remember him and how the nation should honour him, Mlangeni, who spent 26 years in prison, said: “I think you must remember me as one of those who fought for liberation in this country…”
Directed by Lebogang Rasethaba, the documentary looks back on Mlangeni’s life and what drove him to give up everything in the fight for freedom. It is an intimate look at what it takes to be a national hero through the eyes of Mlangeni — the personal sacrifices he had to make and the 26 years he spent on Robben Island in the cell next to Mandela.
Chairperson of the Film and Publication Board (FPB), Thoko Mpumlwana, said the screening of this documentary takes place against the backdrop of the scourge of images that add no value to the lives of citizens, especially children.
“The cyberspace has opened doors to the influx of information through mobile technologies. This has exposed our youth and children to harmful and illegal content, even using children in pornographic content and the propagation of racism.
“We have gathered to celebrate the life of a man who dedicated his life to the liberation of this country, even sacrificing the upbringing of his own children.
“Our children and society at large will get to be educated about the importance of self-sacrifice, humility and servant leadership. This work showcases not only the history of our country, but the sacrifices made by Isithwalandwe Mlangeni and many of his generation,” said Mpumlwana.
The FBP is a statutory body mandated to regulate the production, possession and distribution of content to ensure the protection of children against exposure to harmful content.
The life and times of Mlangeni
Mlangeni worked for the Public Utility Transport Corporation (PUTCO) as a bus driver. It was during this period that he decided to take part in a strike for better working conditions and a living wage.
He joined the ANC Youth League in 1951 and later joined the ANC in 1954. From 1958 to 1960, he was a staunch ANC leader and in 1961, he was the first to be sent for military training outside the country.
On his return to the country in 1963, he was arrested after State witnesses told the court that he was one of the people responsible for recruitment and training an armed force.
He was found guilty of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island alongside the other liberation struggle heroes, who were also charged in the Rivonia treason trial.
Before the court passed judgement on him, Mlangeni said: “The court can now see that some of the evidence given against me is true and some false. I have chosen not to give evidence, my Lord, because first of all I do not want to be cross-examined about people I have worked with and places I have visited in case I might give these people away. Also my Lord, I have frankly admitted that I have assisted Umkhonto we Sizwe.
“I want to say that I joined the ANC in 1954. I did it because I want to work for my people. I did this because of the treatment of my people have received from the rulers of this country. In the ANC, I found a political home where I was free to talk.”