Dr Andrew Mlangeni challenged Durban University of Technology (DUT) students to be creative and innovative in order to address challenges faced by the African continent.
Dr Mlangeni was speaking after being conferred by DUT’s Faculty of Arts and Design with an Honorary Doctor of Education today, 26 April 2018 at DUT’s FJ Sithole Hall, Indumiso Campus in Pietermaritzburg.
“I’m confident that this University which I have joined as an honorary member will continue to contribute to the transformation of this continent. But for this to happen it requires a vision and a lot of hard work from all of us, especially the youth,” said Dr Mlangeni.
He emphasised that their struggle was not a struggle at national front only but it was a struggle to liberate the African continent. Dr Mlangeni said it is important to adopt the principles of the draft plan of action adopted in Dakar on Higher Education Summit in 2009. “I would like to challenge you to ask yourself as the university of how proud you are of your contribution in terms of research, innovation and development of our country and continent,” added Dr Mlangeni.
Dr Mlangeni also applauded the current generation for their resolute struggle for free education. “Today I’m over the moon because of the introduction of free education for the poor and deserving students because education gives them a fighting chance in this cruel world. I’m very passionate about education because of the denial I received during my upbringing. Education was at the forefront of our struggle,” said Dr Mlangeni.
Mlangeni’s contribution to the liberation of South Africa is well documented, as he was harassed and imprisoned for standing up against the might of the apartheid government. He was sentenced to life imprisonment during the infamous Rivonia Treason Trial alongside seven other struggle icons. He spent 26 years in jail on Robben Island. This South African icon is one of only two surviving Rivonia trialists (Denis Goldberg being the other).
As the title of his autobiography states, Mlangeni has often regarded himself as The Backroom Boy. Instead of the podium, amid the masses and on the world stage, Mlangeni chose the backstage, behind the scenes, where, like many others, he helped build the foundation upon which the frontline leaders of the struggle could stand firmly and hold the mantle high. In the complex and multi-layered struggle against racism and injustice in South Africa, the immense contribution made by the ‘backroom’ men and women like Mlangeni, is often unjustly diluted in favour of the more high-profile, public faces of the liberation struggle of the time.
The 92 year-old Mlangeni is the only son and the 9th of 10 children born to parents who worked as farm labourers under the racist labour tenancy system. Like many children in his time, Mlangeni had no choice but to be a farm labourer but the death of his father meant that the family had to move out of the farm. And so Mlangeni, at the age of 12 gave up on his education and sought work to help support his mother.
But Mlangeni, like other political prisoners, was determined not to let imprisonment get the better of him. From the beginning, they fought for the right to educate themselves further, which was eventually granted in 1967. And Mlangeni was the first person to register to study, after being denied that right as a child because of poverty and racism. He came out of prison with two degrees and remains passionate about education as the key to change.
When he was released together with other Robben Islanders in 1990, Mlangeni again remained in the background but his work to advance democracy continued as a member of the first post-apartheid parliament, and chairman of the ANC’s Integrity Commission.
Faculty of Arts and Design, Deputy Dean, Prof Brian Pearce said that DUT is honoured to confer an honorary doctorate to Mlangeni, to acknowledge his immense contribution towards the liberation of South Africa.
“Dr Andrew Mlangeni is a struggle stalwart who like many, sacrificed his own liberty for the liberation of our country. He has always believed in education and whilst in prison, he completed his BA degree. He has been committed to social justice and community engagement over many years and we are greatly honoured and humbled to welcome Dr Mlangeni into the DUT family,” said Prof Pearce.
Pictured: Dr Andrew Mlangeni (DUT Honorary Degree recipient) being capped by Professor Thenjiwe Meyiwa (DUT Registrar).