• Programme Director: Cde Minister Lindiwe Sisulu
• The Mlangeni and Ledwaba Families, Aunt Priscilla, Maureen, Sylvia and Sello, grandchildren and great grandchildren;
• Veterans of liberation struggle, Alliance Leadership;
• Leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Alliance;
• Leaders from the political sector; trade union sector; business sector; legal sector; professional bodies; civil society; media;
• Stalwarts; youth leaders; youth;
• Trustees of the June and Andrew Mlangeni Foundation
• Fellow compatriots;
We gather here to commemorate the life and memory of our late father, uncle, grandfather, brother and dear leader, Isitwalandwe Seaparankoe Comrade Andrew Mokete Mlangeni.
96 years ago today, during a church feast at the Mlangeni home, in Matjeteng, Matia and Aletta were blessed with a set of twins – a daughter they named Emma, and a son they named Andrew Moeti Mokete.
We thank his parents, his siblings, his wife, his children, and his grandchildren for sharing Oom Andrew with us. We were blessed to have him in our midst, leading us by the sheer force of example.
A special word of gratitude goes to Mme Mathotse Mlangeni for her strong mental constitution and resilience of spirit, which is aptly captured in Bertolt Brecht’s, “Lullabies”.
It reads in part as follows:
“When I carried you in my body
There was no hope anywhere
And I often said: it’s an evil world
That’s waiting for the one I bear.
I gave you birth, when birth was
A dangerous thing to give
When it was brave to conceive you
And a battle to let you live.
And so, my son, stay close to your own people
So your power, like the dust, will spread to every place.
You, my son, and I and all our people
Must stand together till there are no longer two unequal
Classes to divide the entire human race.”
This cradle song finds resonance of feeling in the hearts of mothers across all generations and is often recited whenever moments of despair are contrasted by the virtues of hope and promise.
As individuals and as a civilization, there is an age-old question that causes us to ponder into the distance of night, wondering and planning, curious and cautious. We ask of ourselves: what have I left in this world that will be remembered when I am gone? We ask of humanity: what have we contributed to the ethical advancement of society that will be valued and preserved for generations to come?
It could be said that even the most honest man would want to leave “something” behind:
– For some the desire is to leave wealth and assets for their loved ones.
– For others it is their name branded on street signs.
– But, for the late Isitwalandwe Seaparankoe Andrew Mokete Mlangeni, it was far more than any of these worldly trappings, it was an heirloom of life’s most precious lessons and the wisdom to know how to act upon them.
Comrade Andrew Mlangeni was concerned for his fellow comrades with a deep sense of empathy. This scarce and admired quality tells us of the solidarity, courage, and selflessness of Comrade Andrew and his generation of leaders. Through his devotion, Comrade Andrew represented and personified a higher calling that went beyond the petty notion of “I”, “me”, and “myself”. Comrade Andrew was the embodiment of true service and commitment to the people and the ideals of a “better life” for all as enshrined in the supreme law of our land – The Constitution.
As we gather here to lay down a wreath and pay respect to one of our most revered servant leaders, we reflect on the life of Ntate Andrew Mokete Mlangeni – the last of the leaders who stood trial in “The State vs. The National High Command and Others [Colloquially referred to as the Rivonia Trial]. He departed from our midst in 2020 at a time when our nation and the rest of the world were and still are being ravaged by the Coronavirus which has disrupted practically all human life as we have come to understand it.
Remembered as a giant amongst giants, Comrade Andrew was a leader of our struggle who embodied the very core of what our struggle represented and stood for. He was an elder on whose counsel one could rely because he was truthful, earnest, and dependable. He generously gave us his knowledge and skills. His pleasant, passionate, and upright nature shone throughout his life.
These potent memories of this man, noble of character, are ephemeral recollections that last only as long as the consciousness of those who hold them. And so, it is our duty and responsibility to make real here on earth, what the angels in the heavens now have in their grasp: a legacy of Comrade Andrew that exemplifies loyalty and that inspires others to lead a life worthy of celebration. The void he leaves behind is not easy to fill, and rising to the challenge should be our daily bread.
The tombstone of Comrade Andrew and that of his compatriots, our ceremonial wreath laying, traditional homage, and our prayers to the above, are sacred gestures in honour of those who came before us. They become landmarks of contemplation and reflection for those that will come after us. They become a tribute cast in stone that acts as a starting point to discover and understand the life of ancestors. These gatherings become a treasure trove of information where the stories of the departed live on and are shared. Their stories live here.
And in the case with Comrade Andrew, his story lives here alongside his abiding wife, Comrade June (Ledwaba) Mlangeni.
Laying side by side, these gravestones, united in their position as a stimulus for uncovering the untold stories of our past, are a compelling reminder of the power of love and conviction to effect lasting change for all.
Comrade June, a symbol of the revolution and a leader in the struggle in her own right, lived her life in the service of others, and offered an extraordinary contribution to the cause of justice side-by-side with many women leaders of her generation.
As a pillar of strength and support, for their marriage, home, family and community, during the darkest times of apartheid, Comrade June also suffered imprisonment after a passbook protest march in 1956. Spending time in the Women’s Prison at the Old Fort among other leaders including Winnie Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, Caroline Motsoaledi, and many more,
her life was not only punctuated by some of the boldest moments in struggle history, but was also marred by brutal apartheid police harassment and the hardships that follow.
Therefore we who gather to pay tribute and commemorate Comrade June and Comrade Andrew must pledge to each other, in the name of the people of South Africa, that we will always remember their contribution, that we will live up to their example, and that we will continue with determination to complete and improve the task to which they dedicated their lives. Our pledge must be a call to action for every citizen to be vigilant.
As Comrade June and Comrade Andrew’s souls rest in peace, may their legacy continue to keep us all along the path towards creating a better South Africa for all.