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18 Sep 2005 08:45
Minister of Defence Mosiuoa Lekota and Tshwane executive mayor Smangaliso Mkhatshwa paid tribute to former Umkhonto weSizwe cadre Solomon Mahlangu at the unveiling of his statue in Mamelodi, east of Pretoria, on Saturday.
Lekota challenged the youth of South Africa to become involved in the development of their communities.
“Stay away from alcohol and concentrate on your country that Mahlangu died for,” Lekota said.
At the event, for which hundreds had gathered, the African National Congress Youth League also paid tribute to Mahlangu.
League spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said it is important that the South African youth recognise the fundamental sacrifice made by Mahlangu and many others.
“He was a true hero of the struggle. The youth took it upon themselves to rise up and say no,” Kodwa said.
He urged the youth to stand up and do things for themselves.
Mahlangu was 23 years old when he was hanged by the apartheid government in 1979.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge of murdering two white men who were accidentally killed in a scuffle while he was evading arrest by the police.
“Accordingly, Mahlangu never fired [a] shot and yet he stood trial, [was] unjustifiably tried and immorally sentenced,” the South African Communist Party said earlier in a statement.
Despite a call by the international community to pardon Mahlangu, he was hanged on March 2 1979.
His last words were said to be: “Tell my people that I love them and they must continue the struggle and that my blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom.”
The SACP said the struggle against apartheid took a turn in 1976 with an impetus of youthful vigour and daringness.
“This was the generation of Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu,” the SACP said.
Many young people, including Mahlangu, were shaped by the living conditions imposed on them by an illegitimate regime.
“He finally resolved to take up arms in the defence of his people and to reclaim his land.
“The callous murder of Mahlangu committed by the oppressive and racist apartheid regime remains unpardonable,” the SACP said, calling for the expunging of Mahlangu’s criminal record.
“He was no murderer,” it said.—Sapa
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