Solomon Mahlangu Residence (formerly Unitas)

Freedom fighter, revolutionary
Birthplace: Gauteng (then Transvaal)

Mahlangu’s death intensified international anger against the apartheid government in South Africa.

Dedicated to the emancipation of his people, Solomon Mahlangu died a martyr to the cause of freedom.

As a young man, he watched, with growing concern, student protests against the introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in African schools.

He was just 20 years old when hundreds of pupils were killed and thousands more wounded as security police pushed back against the activists.

The fight begins

The passionate revolutionary joined the ANC in 1976 – year of the Soweto student protests - and left South Africa to be trained by the ANC’s military wing, uMkhonto we Sizwe, at camps in Angola and Mozambique.

A year later, he returned as a fully-fledged cadre and skilled, armed soldier, prepared to assist with the protests.

In June, 1977, Mahlangu, Mondy Motloung and George “Lucky” Mahlangu were intercepted in Goch Street, Johannesburg.

During the ensuing shoot-out (although it was argued that Mahlangu had not fired a shot), two civilians were killed and two wounded. Mahlangu and Motloung were arrested.

Standing trial

Mahlangu was charged under the Terrorism Act and with two further counts of murder. He pleaded not guilty.

Evidence was led showing that Mahlangu had entered the country together with 10 companions, bringing with them ANC pamphlets, arms, explosives and ammunition.

His fellow suspect, Motloung, was declared unfit to stand trial, owing to severe assault during his arrest.

Mahlangu, however, was unable to escape his fate. Found guilty of murder and under the Terrorism Act, he was sentenced to death by hanging on 2 March, 1979.

Despite intervention from governments and organisations across the world – including the United Nations – Mahlangu was denied leave to appeal and executed on 6 April, 1979.

Reportedly, his last words were: “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.”

Global outrage

Mahlangu’s death intensified international anger against the apartheid government in South Africa.

At home, his execution triggered a groundswell of fresh support from anti-apartheid movements, the general public and activists.

Concerns about violence at his funeral forced the police to have him buried in Atteridgeville. Nearly two decades later, in 1993, Mahlangu’s remains were reinterred at Mamelodi Cemetery.

Fitting tributes

In the same year, the Solomon Mahlangu Square in Mamelodi was named in his honour.

In 2005, he was posthumously awarded The Order of Mendi for Bravery in Gold as national acknowledgement of his willingness to sacrifice his life for South Africa.

Unitas students asked that Mahlangu be honoured in their residence for his revolutionary courage.

His name would remind them of the importance of fighting against injustices faced by young South Africans today.