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Mlangeni: Do not weep for Madiba

Sarah Evans

Andrew Mlangeni, fellow Rivonia trialist and Robben Island inmate, says Nelson Mandela "exuded" leadership based on "collective" thinking.

Fellow Rivonia trialist Andrew Mlangeni. (Gallo)

Whether a free man or incarcerated as a political prisoner, Nelson Mandela  "exuded" leadership based on "collective" thinking.

This is according to Andrew Mlangeni, a fellow Rivonia trialist and Robben Island inmate, whose prison cell neighboured Mandela's during their incarceration.

Mlangeni addressed reporters in Johannesburg on Monday. 

"He was the leader, not only of the ANC, but all political formations. I, together with Walter Sisulu, Raymond Mhlaba, Ahmed Kathrada, Elias Motsoaledi, Govan Mbeki, and Dennis Goldberg spent between 20 and 26 years of our lives on Robben Island, Pollsmoor and Pretoria prisons.

"Madiba was held in high esteem by both prisoners and jailers alike. Equally, he always showed respect for all and in return, he earned such respect," said Mlangeni.

He urged the nation not to "weep for Madiba", despite expressing his own personal grief.

"It is with a heavy heart that I have to bear the pain of witnessing not only Madiba but also many veterans and the comrades of our struggle depart. A part of me is gone with his passing. My sadness is tempered by the comforting knowledge that our separation will now not be long," he said.

'Celebrate his life'
Mlangeni said Mandela would not want the nation to cry because of his death.

"Despite the temptation to weep, we shall not weep for Madiba. Knowing Madiba the way some of us knew him, he certainly would not approve of us doing so.

"I suggest that we rather celebrate his life, a life well-lived, and lived with purpose. We celebrate a life of selflessness, a life capable of turning adversities into triumph."

Nelson Mandela's personal views on the Marikana and Nkandla scandals were not known.

"Unfortunately, he was not well when these things happened. He might have had a view on them if he was not already quite ill," Mlangeni said.

Mlangeni said the current ANC had remained true to Mandela's ideals, but added that these were also the ideals of the party, which survived individuals.

"Even as president, Mandela could not operate as an individual. He had to do as the party said. The ANC is a voluntary organisation – that is what we believed. No one forced you to become a member. It was about self-sacrifice," he said.

'Your loss is our pain'
Mlangeni said Mandela never put his personal interests before "bettering the lives of the people".

This was evident in the fact that Mandela served one term as president before "handing over the baton" to Thabo Mbeki.

"The leadership of our government was based on principles, purpose, integrity, moral ethics. To the Madiba family: you have suffered a loss that no amount of tears can replace. Your loss is our loss, your pain is our pain too," said Mlangeni.

He said Mandela's spirit would not die because the ideals he lived for would survive.

"He can never die because the ideals of freedom, human dignity, respect for individuals, food and shelter for all humankind, will be carried forward by the next generation.

"Thank you, comrade and commander, for instilling in the world principles of love, loyalty, reconciliation, sacrifice, and hope that tomorrow will be better than today. We salute you, our comrade and friend."


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