Photo Essay | Farewell, Andrew Mlangeni

The last of the Rivonia Trialists, Andrew Mlangeni, was laid to rest in Johannesburg. He spent 26 years in prison in his fight for a free and fair country.

Despite lockdown regulations, residents of Dube and greater Soweto came out to pay their respects to Andrew Mlangeni, the beloved struggle icon. Police and the South African National Defence Force were overwhelmed by the turnout as mourners greeted the arrival of the coffin draped in the South African flag at Mlangeni’s home. His son, Sello Mlangeni, said just having their father back for 30 years was a “blessing”.

Mlangeni, who died on 22 July 2020, was an avid golfer, taking up the sport through a part-time job as caddy. He continued to play well in his 90s. Before he died, Mlangeni expressed the urgent need to see “the country peaceful, corruption destroyed, the economy improving, jobs being created, houses being built, electricity and water supplied”. He believed participation in the struggle did not entitle anyone to unearned rewards.

His passing marks the end of any living link to the Rivonia generation.

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28 July 2020: An uMkhonto weSizwe soldier and masked members of the community wait for Mlangeni’s coffin to pass by.
28 July 2020: SANDF soldiers block Ndlovu Street with a vehicle in anticipation of the arrival of Mlangeni’s coffin in Dube, Soweto
28 July 2020: A member of the clergy blesses Mlangeni’s coffin as masked mourners look on.
29 July 2020: Artist Lebani Sirenje, aka Rasta, puts the final touches to a painting of Mlangeni during the funeral at the University of Johannesburg campus in Soweto.
29 July 2020: Officers in full regalia walk beside Mlangeni’s coffin as the mourners leave the funeral at the University of Johannesburg campus in Soweto.
29 July 2020: Mlangeni’s coffin arrives at the Roodepoort Cemetery in Soweto, which is where his wife is buried. Mlangeni is survived by three children, Maureen, Sylvia and Sello.
29 July 2020: Mlangeni’s fellow golfers pay tribute. Mlangeni was a part-time caddy when he met Bobby Locke, the SA champion and one of the world’s top players. Locke inspired Mlangeni’s love for the sport.
29 July 2020: High-ranking SANDF members form a guard of honour as the coffin is lowered into the same grave as Mlangeni’s wife, June.
29 July 2020: Members of the family line up to pay their last respects. Mlangeni had four children, but his time on Robben Island meant he missed watching them grow up. 
29 July 2020: Mlangeni’s grave is filled by personnel wearing masks and protective coveralls.
29 July 2020: In Dube, Soweto, a man wears a face mask with a photograph of Mlangeni as he looked at the Rivonia Trial in 1963.
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