Youth tour gallows where Solomon Mahlangu spent his last hour

Friday, April 5, 2019

On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the death of Solomon Mahlangu, a number of youths have been taken on an emotional tour of the isolated place that is the gallows at the Kgoshi Mampuru Correctional Services were he was executed by the apartheid regime.

The liberation struggle icon, Mahlangu was hanged on 6 April 1979, at the then Pretoria Central Prison.

As part of activities planned for the 40th commemoration, 50 graduates who benefited from the Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu Scholarship Fund were taken on a tour of the gallows to follow in the footsteps of the late activist.

The fund was established in 2014 and has since its formation funded the education of over 500 students in various fields of study.

The graduates were representatives of other beneficiaries from all the nine provinces who studied at tertiary institutions across the country.

Speaking to SAnews during the tour, Gedion Mahlangu, Chairperson of the Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu Scholarship Fund, said the fund is one of the many legacies aimed at preserving the legacy of Solomon Mahlangu.

“We want to preserve the history and legacy of Solomon Mahlangu. We want to ensure that the generations to come to know about this history,” Mahlangu said.

He said 40 years on, he is pleased that Solomon Mahlangu’s death was not in vain. “Today there are streets named after him, some institutions have named their buildings after him. As a family we are happy about all these developments.”

Chief Executive of National Heritage Council (NHC), Advocate Sonwabile Mancotywa, who led the visit to the gallows, said there was a need to conduct the tour because it formed part of preserving South Africa’s history.

“Freedom was not free, we needed to narrate the story and our history to the new generation,” he said.

One of the beneficiaries of the fund, Sinethembe Madida, told SAnews that he was proud to be part of this history. “I am grateful ... I didn’t know Solomon Mahlangu, but am grateful that I was able to further my studies through the fund named after him.”

Mahlangu and Mondy Motloung were arrested in Johannesburg in June 1977. He was tried for charges associated with the attacks in Goch Street in June 1977. He was charged with two counts of murder and several charges under the Terrorism Act.

Mahlangu pleaded not guilty to the charges. His council stated that he entered South Africa in June 1977 as part of a group of ten, bringing arms, ammunition, explosives and ANC pamphlets into the country.

Mahlangu was found guilty on two counts of murder and three charges under the Terrorism Act. He was sentenced to death by hanging on 2 March 1978.

On 15 June 1978, Solomon Mahlangu was refused leave to appeal his sentence by the Rand Supreme Court, and on 24 July 1978 he was refused again in the Bloemfontein Appeal Court.

Although various governments, the United Nations, international organizations, groups and prominent individuals attempted to intercede on his behalf, Mahlangu awaited his execution in Pretoria Central Prison, and died on 6 April 1979.

The execution provoked international protest and condemnation of South Africa’s internal policy. In fear of crowd reaction at the funeral the police decided to bury Mahlangu in Atteridgeville.

On 6 April 1993 he was reinterred at the Mamelodi Cemetery, where a plaque states his supposed last words: “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."

In 1993, the Solomon Mahlangu Square in Mamelodi was dedicated to his memory.

In 2005, he was awarded, the Order of Mendi for Bravery in Gold for bravery and sacrificing his life for freedom and democracy in South Africa posthumously.

Earlier this week it was announced that his home will soon be declared a heritage site. -