Rhodes University honours Solomon Mahlangu, Hugh Masekela as it renames residence halls

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Rhodes' Jan Smuts Hall has officially been renamed Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu hall.
Rhodes' Jan Smuts Hall has officially been renamed Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu hall.
  • Rhodes University has renamed two residence halls after South African struggle icons Solomon Mahlangu and Hugh Masekela.
  • The renaming was part of the university's ongoing transformation agenda to honour the two icons who helped build the country's democracy 
  • Mahlangu's nephew, Gideon Mahlangu, and Masekela's daughter, Motlapelula Twala, expressed their appreciation for the halls' renaming.

Rhodes University has renamed two of its residence halls after South African struggle icons Solomon Mahlangu and Hugh Masekela. 

What was known to many students as Jan Smuts Hall and Hilltop Hall was renamed as part of the university's ongoing transformation agenda and to honour the two icons. 

Jan Smuts was renamed after Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu, a South African freedom fighter, struggle activist, and operative of the ANC's military wing, uMkhonto weSizwe.

And Masekela, South Africa's renowned trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, singer, and composer known as "the father of South African jazz", was honoured with Hilltop Hall being renamed after him.

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According to deputy vice chancellor Professor Mabokang Monnapula-Mapesela, the university's renaming policy aimed to correct past imbalances caused by apartheid.

She said:
We want to make sure that our students see that our history and experiences are reflected in the life of our University.

The vice-chancellor, Professor Sizwe Mabizela, said over the past few years, 20 name changes within the university had taken place.

He added buildings, facilities, academic units and structures were named after liberation icons like Ellen Nnoseng Kuzwayo, Walter Sisulu, Rosa Parks, Ruth First, Joe Slovo, Victoria Nonyamezelo Mxenge, Adelaide Tambo, Helen Joseph, Robert Mmangaliso Sobukwe, Chris Thembisile Hani, Miriam Zenzile Makeba, Lillian Masediba Ngoyi, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Mpilo Tutu and Steve Bantubonke Biko.

The Masekela and Mahlangu families attended the renaming ceremony on Friday.  

Mahlangu family spokesperson Gideon Mahlangu thanked the university and its students for seeing it fit to honour "the brave warrior in this manner".

"We believe students will be able to learn the history of Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu as we strongly believe that history is important in building the future of South Africa.

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"Today is an important day, it is a day that not only made South Africa but the entire world to know Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu." 

He went on to express the importance of institutions of higher learning in documenting the authentic history of the country.

Masekela's daughter, Motlalepula Twala, said: "We are beaming with pride about what Rhodes University has done. We appreciate this as a family as we feel that it is in sync with my father's motto of love, learn and teach."

Twala, on behalf of the Hugh Masekela Foundation, said the foundation was an exhibition that moved around, and would like  to come to Hugh Masekela Hall.

She added:
The importance of this exhibition is that Bra Hugh was accessible to people. This [hall] has a lot of his memorabilia, such as some of his caps, writings, horns, and passport copies that see where he has been. We should allow the entire University to be able to experience this.”

Twala said it was important for institutions of higher learning in South Africa to celebrate Bra Hugh before he was celebrated in other countries.

"We are proud, grateful and hope there will be more of these events."

Chancellor Judge Lex Mpati said the renaming of the university halls and residences after human rights activists would instill new values in students.

"Having been associated with Rhodes University from 1979 as a student and serving in council, I have watched with pride and interest the move taken by the university to democratise the spaces.

"We have had residences and halls called Jan Smuts, Botha and others. Now we have Hugh Masekela, Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu and others.

"To have these names now is a huge move, and there is a massive difference between then and now. Rhodes University is indeed a transformative university and is for everybody now, and we are all proud of it," added Mpati.

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