Andrew Mlangeni and the game of golf


ANDREW Mlangeni was an iconic selfless leader with many outstanding qualities. And several true loves. 

His first true love was his wife, June, who stood by him and raised their children while he and Nelson Mandela languished in jail after being sentenced to life imprisonment. 

Mlangeni also had true love for his people. He gave up his own freedom so that all South Africans can today be free. He also loved the ANC, his political home, and stayed with the party even when it strayed from the values that he, Mandela and many founding members stood for.

Mlangeni’s other true love was for golf – the gentleman’s sport.

The ANC legend spent lots of time on the fairways and swinging the golf clubs. He played the game with the rich and famous. He played with heads of states, including South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and his predecessor Jacob Zuma.

Spending time on the golf course was also an extraordinary bonding time for Mlangeni and his son. Sello.

Sello said years of separation prevented him from forming a bond with his father. After Mlangeni’s release from prison, they developed a strong relationship.

Speaking during a TV interview, an emotional Sello spoke of their time on the golf course or at home playing chess.

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The time spent on the greens, putting the ball into the holes was also a unique time for father and son to enjoy quality time. They took the game seriously and would wager bets. “We would play for R100 but the nice thing about my father was that he would be competing with you and coaching you at the same time,” recalled Sello.

Mlangeni’s friends and comrades have, in highlighting his political legacy and his life, placed his love for golf at the heart of their tributes.    

Activities of the Andrew and June Mlangeni foundation revolved around the game of golf. 

Gallery: Andrew Mlangeni and the game of golf

When Rhodes University conferred a doctorate on him in recognition of his contribution to the South African society, Mlangeni spoke passionately about his love for golf, a sport he got attracted to at the age of nine. He became a caddy to augment his mother’s income after his father passed away.

 The South African department of sports, in recognition of Mlangeni’s contribution to the sport, introduced the Andrew Mlangeni green jacket awards. 

The awards are used to honour great sports persons of yester years who due to the injustices of apartheid were relegated to the periphery of society simply because of the colour of their skin.

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South African History Online and the Department of Sports and Recreation has published 10 facts on his life as a golfer. Thy are:

  1. In 1937 at the age of 11-years-old Andrew Mlangeni first became involved in golf while working as a caddy at the Crown Mines Golf Course in Johannesburg after school.
  2. Mlangeni stopped playing golf in 1953 for 40 years when he became “too involved in politics”.
  3. In 1993 Andrew Mlangeni, a keen golfer, resumed his interest in the sport.
  4. Andrew Mlangeni played with Ernie Els on the Erinvale Golf course in 1996.
  5. In Parliament, Andrew Mlangeni monitored the progress of golf in the country with special interest.
  6. In 1997 Andrew Mlangeni was interviewed by Anthony Johnson of the Cape Times interview about his passion for golf.
  7. Andrew Mlangeni’s handicap had been cut to 11 in 1997.
  8. The Andrew Mlangeni Golf Development Program has since been established
  9. The programme aims to expose amateur golfers to a professional tournament and to give them the opportunity to play alongside professional golfers.
  10. The programme is organised on an invitational basis only with a field of approximately 50 golfers.

This is what Fikile Mbalula, the then sports minister, said about the green jacket.

““We bestow to you comrade Andrew Mlangeni, a Legendary Green Golf Jacket, because we are inspired by your selfless dedication, before and after Robben Island, to sport and recreation in our country. We do this electrified by your unwavering commitment you displayed in the revolutionary struggle for social justice and equality. We are rejuvenated by your displayed dedication to the war for peace and human sacrifice.We are exuberant by your exuberance in the battle trenches for peace and human solidarity. We are invigorated by your vigor to struggle for freedom and total emancipation of women, youth and people with disabilities.  The Ministry of Sport and Recreation South Africa and the people of the republic bestow this accolade to the stalwart of the struggle against apartheid colonialism.

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We are doing this because of your enormous contributions in the history of Sport and Recreation in South Africa and we believe that your selfless contribution should be recorded and be shared with many generations to come.  Tat’uMlangeni, normally people say good things about you when you are no more, but, we felt it befitting to honour you whilst you are still alive and we say your tremendous contributions have not gone unnoticed.”

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