Mandla Langa (1950 - )
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Profile of Mandla Langa
Mandla Langa was born in Stanger in Northern KwaZulu-Natal in 1950. He grew up in KwaMashu, a township on the outskirts of Durban. He is one of nine children. Among his siblings are honourable Judge Pius Langa and South Africa’s ambassador to Russia, Bheki Langa.
Langa attended Gardner Memorial School and Sibonelo High School in Durban. After completing high school, he enrolled at Fort Hare University. He was actively involved in the South African Students’ Organisation, and his studies were disrupted by political strikes at the time. He returned to Durban and worked as teacher at Nhlakanipho School.
In 1976, Langa was arrested on a charge of trying to leave the country without a permit. He subsequently spent 101 days in jail. While they may have arrested Langa, his mind was free and he sharpened his pen to expose the evils of the system. He began to take his writing seriously, knowing that it served a very important role. Soon after his sentencing, he escaped to Botswana where he went into exile. In those days, at the height of apartheid, exile offered an alternative avenue to continue challenging the apartheid order through other means, by among other things, mobilising the international community.
Passionately dedicated to the resistance struggle, Langa joined Umkhonto we Sizwe the same year he was released from jail in 1976. He received his training in Angola, and subsequently moved all over Africa, occupying various African National Congress posts during this period.
In 1980, Langa won the Drum story contest for his piece, The Dead Men Who Lost Their Bones. In 1991, Langa was the first South African to be awarded the Arts Council of Great Britain Bursary for creative writing.
During his time in exile, Langa continued to produce poetry alongside fulfilling his political duties. He published two works in 1987 and in 1989, called The Tenderness of Blood and A Rainbow on a Paper Sky, respectively. His writing was his way of connecting with home, which he saw as his “perfect universe”.
In exile, Langa obtained a journalism diploma in Hungary and London. He wanted to expose what South African media at that time was unable to expose due to state censorship.
Since the country’s transition to democracy, Langa has held various prominent positions in the media industry. He was a weekly columnist for the Sunday Independent for a time, and vice-chairperson of the Africa 95 Exhibition in London. Langa has also served on the board of the SABC, having initially been the programme director for television at the broadcaster.
His contribution to the world of literature is as undeniable as his political contributions to the emancipation of the country. He is a prominent and award-winning writer who continues to champion creativity in the media through the various positions that he has held over the years.
Langa is currently the director to the Contemporary African Music and Arts, while concurrently serving on the board of several institutions, including the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism, the Foundation for Global Dialogue and Business and Arts South Africa.