Keynote Address by Deputy President David Mabuza on the occasion of the Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund Commemorative Dinner
The family of Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu,
Ministers, Deputy Ministers, and Senior Government Officials,
The Leadership of the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College Trust,
The Leadership of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA),
Representatives of various youth formations in our midst,
Members of the Media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me to address you on this special occasion to celebrate the memory and contribution of Solomon Mahlangu to our liberation struggle.
We meet at a time of national mourning, when we have dipped our flags in honour of our struggle icon, Mam’ Nomzamo Winfred Madikizela-Mandela.
What do we say of Mam’ Winnie? She needs no tales to be told, she who speaks for herself, in her own words, with her heroic deeds forever written in the minds of our people.
What do we say of this mother of our nation? Of this phenomenal woman, a God-send, this great gift from our ancestors alike?
We can only say� thank you� our grateful grace that she will finally rest in peace.
Since that day that she walked into the dusty streets of SOWETO, that day that she married the struggle, vowed her commitment to liberation, she has never wavered, deserted nor broke where many a man ran coward.
She was the embodiment of our struggle, the proud bearer of the scars of liberation and the mother who stood bravely between bullet, child and the people.
Her reception in marriage was a union with her people, a love for country and undying spirit for truth and justice. Indeed, she stood between bullet, child and the people.
She had the generosity of spirit to give her life for those who never asked for it but deserved justice nonetheless. She loved her people as they did her; and long after the lions of history have written their tales, the vegetarians will remember her for the truth she spoke about her struggle.
She was a self-made woman, a torcher-bearer for freedom, a true revolutionary, and a unifier.
We meet today to remember yet another leading light of our nation, Kalushi Solomon Mahlangu.
Thirty nine years ago, the evil apartheid regime executed this young patriot and freedom fighter, Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu.
At dawn on Founder’s or Van Riebeeck’s day, it must have been difficult for our mother, umama Martha Mahlangu to say, kulungile baba uma kuyintando yakho.
How could it have been well with a mother’s soul to know well in advance the date of her child’s cruel death and she could do nothing to protect him.
In the aftermath of his death, Dennis Brutus wrote the poem, In Memoriam: Solomon Mahlangu
In part, Brutus said,
he went to war
he went to his death
The body hurried secretly
and friends excluded;
thousands of mourners barred
At the cemetery in Mamelodi
and thousands of friends
The thousands waiting
are told to disperse
The police announce
The corpse you are waiting for will not be delivered
On the road to the airport
I search the news
till I find the dread item:
he was hanged at dawn
pressed on my awareness
like a nail
hammered in my brain
he went to war
to his death
Solomon Mahlangu was drawn into the struggle because of his deep love for his country and people. His life teaches us that revolutions are born out of deep love and deep care for others.
To honour him, we must continue to demonstrate great care and compassion for our people. We must work with them all the time to improve their living conditions.
As a nation, we owe a great debt of gratitude to freedom fighters like Solomon Mahlangu, Andrew Zondo, Kgosi Mampuru, Inkosi Miskofini Dlamini and many others who were executed in apartheid and colonial prisons.
At Kgosi Mampuru Correctional centre alone, no less than 132 political were hanged to death.
We pay tribute, not only to these fallen heroes, but to their families as well for their irreplaceable loss and suffering in the cause of national liberation.
Perhaps as Mam’ Winnie departs to her final rest, as she joins his family of icons, revolutionaries and stalwarts, we ought to speak about the importance of the new struggle against forgetting how far we have come.
Our history shows that our struggle is not only a statement about the victors and vanquished.
It is an inter-generational struggle for a united, non-racial, non-sexist, just and prosperous South Africa.
In commemorating the memory of Solomon Mahlangu we honour the struggle he and his generation fought against� a struggle against dispossession and oppression.
In their stories of bravery and valour, in their songs of suffering, in their resilience, we must continue to find hope and inspiration.
In celebrating his life we must create the new society he fought for, a society based on a humanist ideal; an acknowledgment and atonement for the horrors of our past; yet also to stake a claim for justice, restitution and reconciliation.
For in truth and sincerity, the grand-children of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the Children of Solomon Mahlangu, are not yet at ease.
They still live in over-crowed and forlorn townships, in back-yards and shacks, in Alexandra, Diepsloot, Langa, Seshego, Kwamhlanga and many others.
They still shout� it is not yet Uhuru, Aluta Continua!
They weep for the land of their forefathers. They call for reconciliation tempered with restitution; human rights that come with responsibilities; equality balanced with economic freedom in their life-time; a democracy grounded in social justice.
Yes the trees nourished by the blood of Solomon Mahlangu are set to bloom. Yes we have made remarkable progress, yet these trees are still to bear the ripe fruits of freedom.
More than anything the children of Solomon yearn for the right to learn. They fight for fees to fall and demand a right to education.
They want to change their given family conditions by the sheer weight of their talents and determination. They seek a hand up, not hand outs. They want to be hoisted and tethered by the height of their own boot straps.
They are also demanding fee-free quality and decolonised education� the education Solomon Mahlangu imagined and paid forward for them.
In truth our education system is struggling to carry their demands and weighty expectations.
On the other hand there are millions of young people who sit at home by no choice or fault of their own.
Their talents lie wasted, buried deep in a society that is appears unable to unearth them.
Around four million – they are neither in education, training or employment.
For these young people formal education is no longer something to aspire to, it has become a justification for their exclusion; for their permanent subjugation.
For many of them as drop-outs, access to quality education appears to symbolise the ongoing legacy of apartheid, elitism and social marginalisation.
It is for this reason that we salute the excellent work done by the SOMAFCO Trust in raising scholarships for deserving and needy students.
In doing so, you have picked up the fallen spear of the MK combatant of the June 16 Detachment, Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu.
You are showing that our young people must be treated, not as a problem, but as assets of national development.
You have made it your generational mission to open the doors of learning and culture.
And we applaud all the young people who are beneficiaries of the scholarship which has been named after a young person who had to leave school early after the aftermath of June 16 to fight for other young people.
He returned on the eve of the first anniversary of June 16 commemoration armed and combat ready to ensure that there would be no repeat of the massacre of innocent school children.
Little did he know that his love for his people would lead him to be hanged for a murder he did not commit.
He lived in an era where courts and parliament were instruments used to put a black person in his place including sending them six feet underground if they dared challenge racial oppression.
Your generation have heeded Mahlangu’s call that we must love our people and that we must continue the fight to restore our people’s dignity.
We believe that this scholarship will produce young South Africans who will be patriotic, and love our people and our culture as envisaged by the Freedom Charter.
We also wish to acknowledge the good work of the NYDA in being the voice of South African youth.
As Deputy President and Chair of the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC), I have committed to work more closely with the NYDA to ensure that we multiply the success of the NYDA in its youth development programmes.
As government, we will continue to prioritise the empowerment of youth through skills development, enterprise development, and job creation.
We look to your generation to lead the efforts to end AIDS by 2030. We look to you to promote safe sexual behaviour, the use of condoms, and for fighting stigma associated with disease like AIDS and TB.
You must be at the forefront of crime prevention and crime fighting initiatives in your communities.
Working with you, we must mobilise the South African private sector to make sure that the recently launched Youth Employment Service (YES) by President Ramaphosa becomes a success and is sustainable.
Working with you, we must reignite hope and turn our back on a culture of izikhothane, greed, opulence, and conspicuous consumption.
And so your task as young people, as the NYDA, as the SOMAFCO Trust, as the custodians of the legacy of Solomon Mahlangu is to speak for these young people.
These are young people who today make a living out of fear and despair.
With each rising dawn they are caught between a life of rocks and hard knocks.
Those whose consciences still speak rise each morning to stand at street corner to wait for employment.
Daily we see them pulling trollies of hard toil, on the sides of our roads, doing back-breaking work to make cash out of trash; to remind us daily that poverty is no excuse to do crime.
And so we have to confront these harsh realities of our time; if we are to make anything meaningful of Solomon Mahlangu’s legacy.
While we have tried to formalise the education system, the truth is that about half of those who enter our schools have dropped-out.
They look to the NYDA and as their representatives; they look to you to speak for them; to hear them; to bring hope and to respect them enough not to play partisan politics with their future.
They have laid their hopes and aspirations at your feet to give them a fighting chance and not to fight amongst yourselves.
They care precious little for our ideological and party- political wrangling, they ask only that we serve and work in their interest.
They look to you to help them unlock their talents; to create opportunities for skills and decent work.
They seek the dignity of earning a living; gaining a skill; something to turn into enterprise; if only by the sweat of their brow and nothing else.
They are hoping for a skills revolution; a system that recognises that skills do not depend only on formal schooling; skills that enable them to learn by hand; skills that are portable from business to business, from one employer to the next.
As the poet laureate Maya Angelou writes in, I know why the caged bird sings:
We must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, are more educated and more intelligent than college professors. We must always listen carefully to what country people called mother-wit; in those homely sayings was couched the collective wisdom of generations.
In the name of Solomon Mahlangu. Let us join hands to empower young people; to teach them to fight ignorance through skills and to make more of life than what is taught only in formal education.
Giving young people skills and abilities to fend for themselves is the best honour and gift to give to the memory of Solomon Mahlangu.
Remember always, for these millions of young people, it is not yet Uhuru!
You are our best hope.
Only you can give a new meaning to the dawn on which Solomon Mahlangu’s blood was spilled.
he went to war
he went to his death
I thank you.
Source: Government of South Africa