Special honour for struggle stalwart

Victor Mecoamere

Victor Mecoamere

The elderly are special and they should be treated with respect befitting their dignity.

Veteran freedom fighter Andrew Mlangeni made this assertion in Johannesburg at the weekend.

This was shortly after the completion of the successful Andrew Mlangeni Games for Older Persons, which had attracted about 8000 elderly spectators and about 300 participants at Elkah Stadium in Rockville, Soweto.

Mlangeni was charged under the notorious Sabotage and Suppression of Communism Act with former president Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Elias Motswaledi and others.

These ANC stalwarts and other prominent members of the movement were sentenced to life in June 1964.

Mlangeni was later transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town after spending many years on Robben Island

Other Rivonia Trialists included Denis Goldberg, Arthur Goldreich, James Kantor, Lionel "Rusty" Bernstein, Harold Wolpe and Raymond Mhlaba.

In the 2008 Andrew Mlangeni Games for Older Persons contestants aged between 60 and 73 represented Johannesburg, the West Rand, Sedibeng, Ekurhuleni and Gauteng North in highly entertaining games, including the duck walk, ring toss, egg and spoon and tennis-ball race.

The winners walked away with trophies.

Beaming with pride and saying that he was "truly humbled by the rare honour of having such a special social development programme named after me", Mlangeni challenged South Africans to start treating the aged with love, respect and dignity.

Other speakers were MTN corporate affairs general manager Eunice Maluleke, former Johannesburg mayor Isaac Mogase, Gauteng social development MEC Kgaogelo Lekgoro and Gauteng legislature social development portfolio committee chairman Stewart Ngwenya.

Maluleke said older persons were South Africa's heritage.

He said the company that sponsored the games and gala honouring Mlangeni were helping to preserve this special heritage through events that brought cheer to the lives of Gauteng's mature citizens.

Mogase, who is a parliamentarian, said: "We need to encourage the youth to respect their elders because people like Mlangeni, who is a true African National Congress stalwart, played an immense role in the struggle for liberation and remains a priceless gift to humanity.

"Mlangeni is also an inspiration to youngsters because he is 83 and still plays a decent round of golf, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and serves in parliament and in Soweto's community development structures.

Lekgoro said to Mlangeni: "We have decided to name the games for older persons in your honour because you are an inspiration.

"In the past resources for the indigent, frail and elderly were disbursed along colour lines, disadvantaging the majority of our people.

"Today the games and all the various social development services benefit all of our citizens on an equal basis."

Ngwenya said the Gauteng provincial government's decision to honour Mlangeni in this manner was commendable and befitted the veteran political activist's name, stature and community standing.

l Sowetan - with Old Mutual and SABC - collaborates with the nine provincial social development departments on the highly respected Community Builder of the Year Awards, that are a part of the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation's projects.