July 10 1956: Solomon “Kalushi” Mahlangu is born in Pretoria as the second son of domestic worker Martha Mahlangu. His father left the family in 1962 and Mahlangu didn’t see him that often after that. Mahlangu went on to attend Mamelodi High School and was in Grade 10 at the time of the 1976 Soweto uprisings. The protests spread throughout the country. After being recruited by Thomas Masuku, Mahlangu joined the protests in his home town, Mamelodi.
In September 1976, he joined the ANC and left South Africa for Angola and Mozambique to be trained as an Umkhonto weSizwe soldier.
June 11 1977: After his training, Mahlangu returns to South Africa as part of a cadre. They were heavily armed and headed to Swaziland to assist with student protests.
June 13 1977: Mahlangu and some of his companions, Mondy Johannes Motloung and George “Lucky” Mahlangu, are accosted by police in Goch Street, Joburg. Lucky Mahlangu escaped. In the gun battle that followed, two civilian men were killed and two wounded. Solomon Mahlangu and Motloung were incarcerated.
November 7 1977: Mahlangu is charged with two counts of murder and several charges under the Terrorism Act. Mahlangu pleads not guilty to the charges.
March 1 1978: Mahlangu’s trial starts and ends.
March 2 1978: Mahlangu is found guilty on two counts of murder and three charges under the Terrorism Act. He was sentenced to death by hanging.
June 15 1978: Mahlangu is refused leave to appeal his sentence by the Rand Supreme Court.
On July 24 1978, he was refused again by a different court.
April 6 1979: Mahlangu is executed by hanging. The execution provoked international protest and condemnation of South Africa’s internal policy. In fear of a crowd reaction at his funeral, the police decided to bury Mahlangu in Atteridgeville.
The day of his execution is believed by some to have deliberately coincided with the 327th anniversary of Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival in the Cape in 1652.
In defiance of then prime minister PW Botha, Mahlangu’s last message was inspirational and volatile.
Mahlangu said: “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.”
April 6 1993: Mahlangu’s body is reinterred at the Mamelodi Cemetery, with a plaque that states his last words. – Phumlani S Langa