“My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom. Tell my people that I love them. They must continue the fight.”
These were the final words of Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu, a hero of the revolutionary struggle who was hung by the aparth government on this day 40 years ago.
Born in July 1956 in the apartheid townships of what was then known as the Eastern Transvaal, Mahlangu had a passion for education and dreamed of one day becoming a teacher. By the mid-1970s, however, black schools across South Africa had become sites of political struggle, and Mahlangu’s young life was pulled in a different direction.
In 1976, as student protests claimed hundreds of young lives, and many students faced prosecution and detention, he joined the African National Congress (ANC). Then, early in 1977, Mahlangu left home under the cover of night for Mozambique and then Angola, to pursue the struggle for freedom as a soldier of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK).
Armed with new military training, Mahlangu was sent back to infiltrate South Africa and assist with student protests, along with two other MK soldiers, Monty Motloung and George “Lucky” Mahlangu. The small unit made it as far as Johannesburg before being confronted by police. In the ensuing gun battle, two civilians were killed.
While George Mahlangu was able to evade capture, the others were arrested. A brutal beating by police left Motloung unfit to stand trial, leaving only Solomon Mahlangu to face charges of murder – though he had not fired the fatal shots. Despite widespread local and international outrage, he was found guilty under the Terrorism Act and executed by hanging at the Pretoria Central Prison on April 6, 1979. He was just 23 years old.
Today, Mahlangu is remembered as a martyr of the struggle for freedom and his short life represents the courage of young people who fought the inhumanity of the apartheid regime. He was awarded the Order of Mendi for Bravery in Gold posthumously in 2005.
As we remember his life, we are also ensuring that his legacy lives on. To commemorate his struggle for equal education, the Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu Scholarship Fund (SKMSF) was established in 2014 to allow young people with strong academic backgrounds to further their studies.
The house in which Mahlangu was born will soon be declared a national heritage site as part of our efforts to educate the youth about the history of our country.