Chief Minister of former KwaNdebele homeland and founder member of the Intando Yesizwe Party, Founder member of CONTRALESA, Member of the ANC and UDM.
Prince Senzangakhona James Mahlangu, the second son of the king of the Ndebele, Ndzundza-Mabhoko King Mabusabesala II, and Queen Johanna Selepi, was born on 3 February 1953 in eMthambothini (Weltevrede), Groblersdal. The Prince had an elder brother and a younger sister.
From the age of 16, he sat in on discussions with people who came to discuss their problems with the King. When his father was approached by the Pretoria government to discuss the establishment of the KwaNdebele homeland, Prince Mahlangu was present. The king not only refused, but threatened to burn any trucks attempting to resettle his people. His father's resistance to the homeland system made a great impression on him and in years to come - particularly in 1981 when KwaNdebele opted for independence - Mahlangu was in the forefront against the Bantustan system.
He began his schooling at Mapoch Primary School, Weltevrede, in 1960, proceeding to Ndebele Primary School at Waterval where he completed Standard 6 (Grade 8) in 1970 before going on to Mayisha High in the same area. Here he completed his Junior Certificate in 1972 thereafter he matriculated at Bhekuzulu High School in 1974.
In 1975 the Prince went to study Administration at the University of Zululand. In 1976, because of the national uprisings following the Soweto shootings, his studies were disrupted. He resumed his classes in 1978 at the University of the North, where he completed a BA Administration.
Mahlangu joined the South African Students Movement (SASM) in 1976. During the struggle against the homeland system he made contact with African National Congress (ANC). He was a founder member of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (CONTRALESA) in 1986, and when the CONTRALESA delegation went to meet the ANC in exile the same year, he sent his envoy.
Through both the resistance movement on the ground and his contact with the ANC and the United Democratic Front (UDF) structures, he was advised to contest elections, to take over the KwaNdebele government. With this in mind, Mahlangu formed the Intando Yesizwe Party. It was originally founded as a semi-clandestine organisation in 1984, but was officially launched in 1990.
Mahlangu had more than his share of harassment under apartheid. He was in and out of detention since 1980 and was placed under numerous restriction orders. He was charged with arson, treason and murder but nothing was ever proved against him. During the struggle for KwaNdebele, in 1986, an attempt was made on his life. Three armed men entered his home in Weltevrede and began shooting at him. Fortunately they all missed. On 20 November 1986, Prince James Mahlangu was among ten people who were taken to custody before the election for the new Chief Minister of KwaNdebele after the death of SS Skhosana. Prince James was released 48 hours before the secret ballot voting and lost the election by 25 votes to 41.
Prince Mahlangu served as Chief Minister of KwaNdebele from 1990. On 26 April 1994, Prince Mahlangu’s term as Chief Minister of the KwaNdebele Homeland ended. Four days later the homeland system was abolished. After the transition to democracy in 1994, he served as an ANC MP from 1994 until the ANC later expelled him. He then became the United Democratic Movement’s (UDM) only legislator in Mpumalanga and later defected back to the ANC. On 26 April 2000, Annelize van Wyk, Acting General Secretary of the UDM issued a statement that Prince James Mahlangu had resigned from the party due to ill-health.
In 1996, during his appearance at the Truth and Reconciliation hearing in Moutse, Prince Mahlangu had to explain to the Commission his involvement with the notorious pro-independence grouping known as Imbokhoto. Prince Mahlangu claimed that he was opposed to this organisation and had actually wanted it to be disbanded.
However, according to a 2000 City Press newspaper article, Mahlangu's expected defection from the UDM followed growing criticism of his perceived "sabotage'' of opposition initiatives in the province and his public legislature speeches of support for ANC provincial leader and fellow Ndebele royal Ndaweni Mahlangu. His latest support for the ANC saw Mahlangu flout UDM policy and refuse to back opposition demands for a full investigation into how Mpumalanga appointed a "serial fraudster" as its new anti-corruption head and first black treasury director.
Mahlangu refused to vote on the issue or comment on Ivan Maswanganye's use of fraudulent qualifications from three universities, fake chartered accountant association memberships and two forged matric certificates to get a string of senior government jobs. UDM provincial secretary Selby Mokoana stressed afterwards that Mahlangu's refusal to back calls for an investigation was to be probed.
Prince James Senzangakhona Mahlangu was inaugurated as the Inkosi of the Ndzundza Mabusa tribe with effect from the 3 October 2001. His jurisdiction covered the Klipplaatdrift (Matshiding and Marotholong) Waterval and KwaMagula areas. On 19 August 2005 he passed away at the Louis Pasteur private hospital in Pretoria. Prince Mahlangu was married to Busi and they have two children.
• Anon, (2000), Mpumalanga UDM leader to rejoin ANC from City Press, [online]. Available at www.citypress.co.za [Accessed 15 March 2011]
• Nkambule B, Milestones NDEBELE / PEDI-MILESTONE AND NOTABLE DATES ”“ from Art, Culture and History (online), Available at https://amandebele.com [accessed 15 March 2011]
• Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1996), Human Rights Violations - Submissions - Questions And Answers from the TRC, [online] Available at www.justice.gov.za [accessed 15 March 2011]
• Anon. (2001) Inauguration of mahlangu [online], Available at www.mpumalanga.gov.za [accessed 15 March 2011]
• Anon Leaders of KwaNdebele, from Answers.dot ”“ KwaNdebele, [online]. Available at www.answers.com [accessed on 15 March 2011]