THE Backroom Boy is a riveting and living account of the many twists and turns in the life of a cadre in the centre, former president Kgalema Motlanthe said in the foreword of the biography of struggle stalwart Andrew Mlangeni.
The former Robben Island prisoner Mlangeni launched his biography at Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, on Thursday.
Many described his book as an important contribution to the history of the struggle.
The Rivonia Trialist who was a next next door inmate neighbour to Nelson Mandela spent 26 years in jail.
His book, ‘The Backroom Boy’ is a recollection of the 91-year-old’s experiences ‘before prison, in prison and after prison.’
In a speech, Mlangeni said his is a story deriving its significance from the unbreakable link with the noble struggles of a nation to be free.
“This makes my story, your story, and your story, mine. By so saying, your struggles are a special part of me and believe I am a valued part of you,” Mlangeni said.
He said in books, their hopes in prison were kept alive by the undying hopes of the struggling people outside jail propelled by the determination that someday everyone will be free.
Mlangeni served as a Member of Parliament, and currently chairs the ANC’s Integrity Commission. He is also the founder of the June and Andrew Mlangeni Foundation.
He said had it not been for the ceaseless struggle that continued even when prison doors were shut, after being sentenced to Robben Island 53 years ago, in 1964, they could easily have been erased from the memory of South Africans.
The chairperson of the ANC in KwaZulu Natal Sihle Zikalala, who attended the launch, said the book was an important contribution to the history of this country.
“The book is great and presents a history which many people do not know.”
Zikalala said Mlangeni was part of the generation of ANC leaders who played a critical role in the struggle and in building the ANC.
He said the party was resolving its current internal affairs with the help of Mlangeni.
With the departure of Ahmed Kathrada, Mlangeni remains one of the two Rivonia Trialist still alive.
The other is Denis Golberg.
Human rights lawyer and activist Advocate George Bizos said the story of Mlangeni was unique and urged young people to read it.
“Educating young people about the history of this country is important, and we applaud Mlangeni for writing a book that serves to present the historical accounts of apartheid past and personal experiences during that period.”
Bizos said it was disappointing to see how things have turned out today.
“I have a feeling that the democratic loving people of this country will prevail over those (whom i do not want to name) who are not living to the standards that we all worked for.”
In his closing remarks, Mlangeni said: “May the bond of solidarity that defeated the force of imprisonment be with us to face up to new invisible forms that seek to divide us from being a united nation to build this beloved country.”