Retracing the liberation struggle history: Late Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu’s family plans to visit Tanzania

IN 1978, The African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa established an educational college in Mazimbu, Morogoro Region that was officially opened in 1985 by the then ANC President, the late Oliver Tambo.

The College was named Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (SOMAFCO) in honour of the late Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu, a liberation struggle activist and operative of the ANC Military Wing who was brutally killed by the apartheid regime in 1979.

The 600 acres of land formerly a sisal farm on which this College was built, was donated on behalf of the Tanzania government by Honourable Anna Abdallah then the Morogoro Regional Commissioner.

In 1992, two years before apartheid ended, the ANC handed over the College to the Tanzania government and is now one of the Campuses of the Sokoine University of Agriculture.

However, the spirit of SOMAFCO lives on and the historic College is still well remembered as a beacon of international solidarity and collaboration. The late Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu (SKM) has been inspirational for the youth in South Africa and other parts of Africa during the liberation struggle and post liberation period.

Memories are still fresh when SKM made the inspirational remarks that “… tell my people that I love them, they must continue to fight. My blood will nourish a tree that will bear fruits of freedom…” He ended by defiantly saying Aluta Continua, a Portuguese word meaning the struggle continues.

These were very encouraging words from a 22-yearold young man made to the cause of liberation struggle. Indeed, it was a show of patriotism and selfless sacrifice from this brave young man. It is quite unfortunate that SKM did not live see free South Africa to enjoy the fruits of his struggle.

Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu born from the royal family of the Mahlangu chieftaincy on the 10th July 1956 in Doornkop village in Mpumalanga province, started schooling in Mamelodi and completed his standard eight in 1976 but left school to become a train hawker selling fruits and vegetables to assist his mother, Ms Martha Yebona Mahlangu.

SKM also nicknamed as ‘AK 47’, joined the new generation of the Umkhoto we Sizwe (MK) of the June 16 Detachment. He was arrested on the 13th of June 1977 and taken to John Vorster prison where he was found guilty on accounts of murder with several other charges. He was brutally hanged in the morning of the 6th April 1979.

Apart from SOMAFCO in Mazimbu Morogoro which was named in his honour, in South Africa, there is also SOMAFCO in Mamelodi, Gauteng Province and in Mdantsane, Eastern Cape.

Several buildings and halls in some universities have also been named in his honour including a popular Senate Hall at Wits University, a building in Rhodes University in Eastern Cape, University of South Africa-UNISA, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in the Eastern Cape and a number of sports facilities including a stadium in Mpumalanga and sports complex in Western Cape. There is also a street named after him in Pretoria and a statue erected in his honour in Mamelodi where he had lived.

The Mahlangu family, through Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu Trust and legacy has embarked on an initiative to promote and deepen the culture of patriotism, social cohesion and national building among others.

These are important steps as a way of investing on the youth, assisting them to be responsive and preparing them to be good leaders of tomorrow. Last month, Chief Lucas Mahlangu, an elder brother to the late Solomon, delegated members of his family to visit the Tanzania High Commission in Pretoria for discussion on Solomon Mahlangu project and possible collaboration with Tanzania.

The family also discussed on their planned visit to Mazimbu -Tanzania later this year. According to the family members, only their late mother had previously visited the historic rich Mazimbu Morogoro.

The family further informed the High Commission about the ongoing book project supported by the South Africa government which aims at telling a true story of SKM life and his contribution to the liberation struggle.

They also discussed about the family scholarship programme and a possible exchange programme between Tanzanian and South African universities. In July this year, the family had invited the High Commission to participate in Kalushi Day to commemorate Solomon’s birth date during which the High Commission took the opportunity to remind the audience on the Tanzania’s contribution to the liberation struggle, the role of the youth in national building efforts and the ongoing measures by the government to maintain the training camps and other monuments and sites used by the former freedom fighters.

Apart from the educational College (SOMAFCO) in Mazimbu and Dakawa Vocational Centre which was built later, Tanzania also offered training camps to the freedom fighters from across the region, notably Kongwa -Dodoma, Mgagao-Iringa, Farm 17-Nachingwea and many other camps. But it was only SOMAFCO that provided primary and secondary education to students who left South Africa after the 1976 Soweto uprising and children of those who lived in exiles.

The planned visit to Mazimbu -Tanzania later this year by the family members of the late Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu clearly shows the importance of preserving and well maintaining our country’s rich historical heritage including monuments, historical sites and archival materials. If well preserved, this is likely to boost the country’s growing list of new tourism products. And the new product this time around is the liberation tourism product.

The Writer is Tanzanian Ambassador to South Africa.

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