The arrival of Jan van Riebeeck was responsible for events which eventually led to the apartheid government's execution of uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) soldier Solomon Mahlangu, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said at a ceremony on Saturday to mark 40 years since his death.
"Fellow South Africans we have gathered here this morning not to mourn the fact that a criminal regime hanged him for his effort for a just and humane society but to celebrate a life that was dedicated to freedom and construction of a national democratic society," Mthethwa said in a speech in Pretoria.
"April 6th marks a double tragedy in the sense that it marks the arrival on our shores of that convicted criminal Jan Van Riebeeck, his landing had a devastating effect that led directly to Solomon Mahlangu being hanged," said Mthethwu.
Mahlangu was hanged on April 6, 1979, after being found guilty of murder as authorities arrested him on his return from exile where he received military training from MK, the military wing of the then-banned ANC.
According to SA History online, this was in spite of court appeals and interventions and pleas from the local and global anti-apartheid communities to not carry out his hanging order.
Mahlangu's memory is evoked at almost every protest march through a song as capture by @Thabiso_Dlamini who tweeted this:
His family visited the gallows where he was hanged to perform rituals and to call out his clan names.
His epitath is: My Blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom. Tell my people that I love them, they must continue to fight.
#SolomonMahlangu was born on the 10th July 1956, the second son of Martha Mahlangu and originally from Mpumalanga, although, he grew up in Pretoria. His mother a domestic worker took sole responsibility for his upbringing. #Kalushi40 pic.twitter.com/O3WYcLkN6I
Mthethwa said: "At times events such as this evoke unpleasant memories of the turbulent apartheid years, but it can help those who were born after the dawn of democracy to understand the heavy price their forebearers paid for democracy."
He said that had he lived Mahlangu would have turned 63 this year, but his memory lives on through song, street names, and was also told in the film, Kalushi.
He reminded guests that Mahlangu was among the youth of the 1976 uprising that fought for equal education for all, and believed that young people should be educated to honour the legacy of those who fought in that struggle.