To­day, he’s ev­ery­one’s Solomon Mahlangu

CityPress - - Voices and Careers - Moss Mashishi voices@city­press.co.za

As we cel­e­brated Free­dom Day this week, my mind was pre­oc­cu­pied by the re­cent spat be­tween the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fighters and the Mahlangu fam­ily over who has the right to cel­e­brate the life of strug­gle icon Solomon Mahlangu.

Ac­cord­ing to a quote at­trib­uted to fam­ily spokesper­son Gideon Mahlangu, “the political or­gan­i­sa­tion that would be rel­e­vant to com­mem­o­rate and hon­our Solomon Mahlangu is the ANC and the mass demo­cratic struc­tures ... that is our po­si­tion”.

This view re­flects the cri­sis we find our­selves in, 22 years post democ­racy, re­gard­ing what con­sti­tutes our na­tional iden­tity, and, more specif­i­cally, who lays claim to our na­tional he­roes and hero­ines.

Though Mahlangu was a cadre and prod­uct of the ANC, to­day he is a na­tional as­set. The sacri­fices that he and many others en­dured are cap­tured in this pow­er­ful quote at­trib­uted to him: “My blood will nour­ish the tree that will bear the fruits of free­dom. Tell my peo­ple I love them.”

The self­less­ness that he and others sym­bol­ise has given birth to the non­ra­cial con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy that is present-day South Africa. As such, his mem­ory is no longer the pre­serve of the lib­er­a­tion move­ment alone, but of the en­tire na­tion.

To this end, a num­ber of pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions have been named af­ter him, in­clud­ing:

The Na­tional Youth De­vel­op­ment Agency, which has es­tab­lished a Solomon Mahlangu Schol­ar­ship Fund;

Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu Free­dom Square, lo­cated in Mamelodi;

The for­mer Hans Stri­j­dom Av­enue in Pre­to­ria, now Solomon Mahlangu Drive; and

Wits Uni­ver­sity, which is be­ing lob­bied by the stu­dents’ rep­re­sen­ta­tive coun­cil to re­name the main ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing, called Se­nate House, to Solomon Mahlangu House.

I have de­lib­er­ately avoided mak­ing men­tion of the ded­i­ca­tions be­stowed on him by the ANC, to make the point that he has tran­scended his recog­ni­tion as party hero to be­come a na­tional hero.

I there­fore ap­peal to the Mahlangu fam­ily and to my party, the ANC, that we re­frain from negat­ing the con­tri­bu­tions that icons such as Mahlangu have made in cre­at­ing the post-apartheid South Africa we cher­ish to­day by con­test­ing the right of all South Africans to cel­e­brate them. This may well im­ply that we tol­er­ate sit­u­a­tions in which we dis­agree with those who use an ex­em­plar’s mem­ory for ex­pe­di­ency or other mo­tives. Mahlangu’s sacri­fices, like those of many others, did not only serve to lib­er­ate the ANC and the mass demo­cratic move­ment, it lib­er­ated all South Africans. The ANC ex­e­cuted the strug­gle not as an end in it­self but as a means to at­tain a demo­cratic and just South Africa built on a com­mon na­tional iden­tity. It fol­lows that the he­roes of our move­ment are he­roes of this na­tion. Hence, all South Africans, in­clud­ing those we dis­agree with – ir­re­spec­tive of their re­li­gious, cul­tural and political dif­fer­ences – have the right to hon­our the mem­ory of Mahlangu. Mashishi is chair­man of Ma­song Cap­i­tal

Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu Free­dom Square in Mamelodi

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