The Durban University of Technology (DUT), Faculty of Arts and Design will honour struggle icon and former member of parliament, Dr Andrew Mlangeni, with an Honorary Doctor of Education on Thursday 26 April 2018 at DUT’s FJ Sithole Hall, Indumiso Campus in Pietermaritzburg.
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.
As a Putco bus driver, he became involved in a strike for better working conditions and a living wage. This led to him joining the ANCYL from where he rose to eventually become a dedicated and loyal stalwart of the ANC, for which he has received many community and government accolades. During the Congress of the People, Mlangeni was a branch delegate at Kliptown, and he was one of the six-member group, hand-picked, to undergo the first ANC military training in China in 1962, even before the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe. He was arrested on his return to South Africa in 1963 for recruiting and training an armed force.
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.
Picture Credit: google images.