The case of Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu is typical of the racist system the world functions in, where white guilt is always individual and black guilt is always collective. In other words, people will always judge all black people on one black person’s wrongdoing. Black and brown people often find themselves apologizing for something they didn’t do, but someone of their race did. Often it leads to judgements and racism but sadly it also leads to murder.
Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu was born in Pretoria on 10 July in 1956. He was the second son of Martha Mahlangu. His father left him in 1962, and from then on only saw him infrequently. His mother was a domestic worker and took sole responsibility for his upbringing. He attended Mamelodi High School up to Standard 8, but did not complete his schooling as a result of the school’s closure due to ongoing riots.
He joined the African National Congress (ANC) in September 1976, and left the country to be trained as an Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) “The Spear of the Nation” soldier. The training was received in Angola and Mozambique and on 11 June 1977 he returned to South Africa as a cadre, heavily armed, through Swaziland to assist with student protests.
On 13 June 1977, Mahlangu and his companions, Mondy Johannes Motloung and George “Lucky” Mahlangu, were accosted by police in Goch Street, Johannesburg. “Lucky” Mahlangu managed to escape, however, in the ensuing gun battle two civilian men were killed and two wounded. Solomon Mahlangu and Motloung were arrested.
Solomon Mahlangu was tried from the 7th of November 1977 to the 1st of March 1978, for charges associated with the attacks in Goch Street in June 1977. He was therefore 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.
The judge accepted that Motloung was responsible for the actual killings, but since he had been so brutally beaten during the course of his capture, he had suffered severe brain damage and was unfit to stand trial. However, as common purpose had been formed, Mahlangu was therefore 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.”