Some time in 2017, I was commissioned by the Andrew and June Mlangeni Foundation to edit a book about the life of Andrew Mlangeni, which had been written by a young scholar, Mandla Mathebula. The Foundation took us out to lunch at a smart restaurant to talk about the project. Mlangeni was modest and soft-spoken, reserved but deeply confident — and most elegantly dressed. Actually, sitting next to each other, we flirted shamelessly throughout the lunch.
It was at this lunch meeting that Mlangeni referred to himself as the “backroom boy” of the ANC leadership in the days of struggle, and it was then that I decided this was to be the title of the book. Mlangeni loved it, and resisted all attempts to give the book a more laudatory title. That was Mlangeni – steadfast and determined, but humble.
I met Mlangeni quite a few more times in the course of editing the book, and grew very fond of him. Others will write of Mlangeni’s work and his massive sacrifice, 27 years on Robben Island. My memory of him is a personal one, of his absolute sincerity and of the twinkle in his eye. Rest in peace, dear Andrew.