Beyond the 39th Anniversary of Solomon Mahlangu’s judiciary murder

Sunday, April 8, 2018

By Lennox Mzoxolo Klaas

As a member of a detachment that came after Solomon Mahlangu’s, a member of MK Madinoga detachment, Solly being a member of The June 16 Detachment, this is my perspective and how I chose to remember Solly. 

As we read this piece, the 39th anniversary of Solomon Mahlangu’s judiciary murder, let us try to get into his azimuth and attempt to respond to a number of questions he might have for us. Let us try and see if we are able to get to the direction and the destination he sought to reach. 

As we honour this true patriot, a member of the oldest African Movement and its military Wing uMkhonto Wesizwe, are we ready to heed to the call that solicit this response, Thuma Mina?  

Only at 20 years of age in 1976, Solly responded to this call when he picked up the AK 47 to fight for this Freedom we now enjoy. 

We know he used his last breath not asking for mercy but being resolute to the cause of our freedom when he was confronted by the hangman’s noose.  

As we retrace Solomon Mahlangu’s last 52 steps, can we take a second to reflect on the true meaning of his last words when he steered the belly of the apartheid monster, when he came face to face with the hangman and his noose.  

Those who were there on the execution day, the 6th of April 1979, shared with the world his last message, instead of crying for mercy, Solly said “ My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of Freedom, tell my people I love them, they must continue with the struggle”.  

Solly's cause and struggle for a better life for all will continue to seem in vain if we prolong to pick up his spear and say Thuma mina. 

Our positive response to the call will allow Solly’s spirit to settle as his vision of a better life for all will help to regain the sense of worth. 

He was only 23 years old when he was crucified, a judge whose name is probably forgotten by many, believed Solly will be asking for his mercy and he strongly believed his name will soon be forgotten after he was sentenced to death. 

Millions of South Africans who were not even born at the time of this execution continue to sing songs and recite poems about this gallant fighter. 

One of the survivors from the belly of the hangman has indicated that Solly died many times before his hanging by the racists apartheid machinery. His colleague, who was in the death row as well, spoke of a tradition called mock hangings at the Pretoria Central Prison. 

The prison authorities would psychologically torture them by pretending it was time for their hanging and undergo the process only to be told shortly before releasing the trap door that it was a mock ceremony, you can just imagine this. Apartheid South Africa’s version of torture such as were seen during Adolf Hitler’s concentration camps. 

In spite of all this, Solly remained resolute.  He did not break contrary to the  judge’s opinion and in fact history has proved the opposite. The anniversary to mark Solomon Mahlangu’s judiciary murder is a regular event in the countries’ calendar. 

Solomon Mahlangu’s annual anniversary is attended and addressed by South Africa's’ democratic Presidents in his honor, a tradition initiated by the late African National Congress President Oliver Reginald Tambo in all the camps and the military bases of Umkhonto Wesizwe. 

As is customary, the event is intended to share with all South Africans the vision for which Solomon Mahlangu died. The messages will reflect on the distance we have traveled as a democratic government to attain this Better Life for all.  As active participants in shaping the future of South Africa in all our respective competency areas, each person should take pride when celebrating our achievements as envisaged by Solly but also responsibility when reflecting on our shortfalls. 

While great strides have been made by the democratic government to alleviate the material legacies of our past, many pressing challenges for which Solly fought against still remain. The recent judgment against one racist South African is a constant reminder of the hatred that still exists in South Africa. 

It is therefore the responsibility of each South African to ensure that every effort is made to contribute to the collective effort to redress the socio-economic imbalances that persist. This will not only see the elimination of the high levels of crime, the eradication of poverty and unemployment, but will bring about the rainbow nation of Tat’uMadiba. 

There has never been a better time to play our part given the commitment of the current administration. 

Almost twenty-four years on, today, we bare witness to a governance system premised on a participatory democracy and enjoy the freedoms and liberties envisioned not only by the Constitution but also the heroes and the heroines who lay down their lives for our freedom like Solomon Mahlangu. 

As we raise our hands saying Thuma Mina, let us also pay homage to those who made it possible for us to hold various positions we now command, those who selected the painful path or did something when it was not fashionable to do so. 

This year as we mark the 39th anniversary of the judiciary murder of Solomon Mahlangu, a giant amongst men, a king amongst kings, and a leader of colossal proportion in the armed struggle. We constantly ask what is it about this month where we just witnessed the Mother of the Nation handing over her baton, the same month O.R Tambo handed his, also the month Chris Hani bowed out from the arena of the living. This is no coincidence and reflects that our Gods are with us. 

For those who knew Solomon Mahlangu he was nothing short of an honorable fighter. He was never tempted to point his AK 47 and throw his grenades at civilians as a way of escaping from the apartheid authorities, even when he was cornered. 

Once again, allow me to emphasize that Solly used his last breath to ensure that as a nation, we crossed the ‘finish line’ on the 27th of April 1994 as the first legitimate South African Government, but sadly like so many others, Solly did not live long enough to enjoy the fruits of our liberation. 

It is in honour of Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu and the bravery images he has left behind, that many of us will continue to keep alive the spirit from which our liberation was born, we will stand strong and claim our heritage and with pride continue to confront our challenges as we restore our dignity and as South Africans claim our place in world history! 

Thuma Mina 

Lennox Mzoxolo Klaas is a radio producer at the Government Communication and Information System.

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