A selfless leader worth emulating
"I did not go to prison for 26 years for them to steal from the poorest of the poor."
This is what anti-apartheid icon Andrew Mlangeni said on his 94th birthday last year.
It was a heartbreaking reflection of his beloved ANC, which is the governing party.
It was a tragic reminder of the sacrifices he and his generation made for the liberation of this country, and how they are undermined by its prevailing culture of looting.
This week Mlangeni, a Struggle hero and the last of the Rivonia Trialists, breathed his last breath, marking an end of an era in our political landscape which was defined by a calibre of leaders willing to sacrifice their very lives for a just and equal society.
Mlangeni's life was a powerful journey of leadership, the embodiment of humility, comradeship and selflessness.
An avid golfer with a sharp sense of humour, Mlangeni's passion for education was rooted in his conviction that to "liberate the minds of men was to ultimately liberate the bodies of men".
A brave, yet modest figure, he became known as the "backroom boy" among his peers, one who did not seek the limelight, but believed that the privilege of leadership is an act of servanthood rather than a window to accumulation of things material.
This is why in his twilight years Mlangeni had grown deeply aggrieved by the state of the ANC and the country.
He was saddened that in its erosion of moral authority, the party he loved had betrayed the cause of the people.
"Some of our political leaders have become absolutely corrupt - they are no longer interested in improving the lives of our people ," Mlangeni lamented, while speaking at Rhodes University two years ago.
"They are busy lining their pockets with the money that is meant to help the poor people. What a disgrace."
In the days to come, many will speak in honour of Mlangeni's legacy.
But their words will ring hollow if they continue to fail the cause of the poor people of this country for whom he gave his life.
Lala kahle Sithwalandwe.
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