COSATU remains inspired by the legacy of Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu

05 April 2024

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and millions of working class and young South Africans remains inspired by the heroic legacy of Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu.  COSATU and its Young Workers’ Forum will be remembering Kalushi as we mark the 45th anniversary of his execution by the apartheid regime on 6 April 1979 for his participation in the liberation struggle and uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the then armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC).

The values of Kalushi remain as relevant today as they did then.  Whilst South Africa is today a constitutional, non-racial and non-sexist democracy, the principles that Kalushi lived and died for continue to set an example for all South Africans.

He was born in Pretoria in 1956 and came of age at the height of its most brutal periods from the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction for African leaners, to forced removals across Pretoria to not only neighbouring townships like Mamelodi and Atteridgeville but also far flung rural areas in what later became desolate homelands such as Boputhatswana, KwaNdebele amongst others.

Despite all of these hardships and seemingly no hope of change on the horizon, Mahlangu did not despair or wait for others to change his life.  He crossed the border into exile in Mozambique to join the ANC and MK with the hope of returning to South Africa after receiving military training in Angola and playing his role in the nation’s liberation.  He did so knowing full well his chances of living to see this democracy were remote and the likelihood of his capture and execution high. 

We are confident that Kalushi would be appalled by some peace time charlatans nakedly riding on the heroic legacies of MK in pursuit of self-enrichment and staying out of prison.

Whilst we honour his memory, we must seek to do justice to his sacrifices as we rebuild the state and uproot the cancers of crime and corruption, as we provide relief to the unemployed and the poor, grow the economy and create jobs.  It is natural at times in a noisy democracy to complain about government and lose sight of our very real and impressive achievements.

We should be proud not only do we have a vibrant democracy but also a progressive Constitution that compels government to address the legacies of the past and the inequalities of today.  We should be pleased we have moved from the dark days when the apartheid regime deliberately underfunded the education of children from African, Coloured and Indian communities, to one where free schools and meals are available in working class communities, NSFAS is helping millions of students pay for tertiary education, 27 million citizens receive financial assistance from the state, the Presidency has rolled out an Employment Stimulus helping 2 million young people earn and a salary and gain the skills and experience needed to find permanent work, and more recently Parliament has passed the National Health Insurance Bill laying the foundation for universal health care.

Whilst we have many challenges, and painfully own goals, that we need to address as a nation, we can without fear of contradiction state that the sacrifices of Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu were not in vain.  Yes at times we have and will stumble, but on so many fronts, South Africa is a better place than what it was when he was born in 1956 when forced removals were the norm, or 1966 when any form of opposition was banned, or 1976 when hundreds of Black learners were shot dead by the police or 1986 when townships were under siege from the military. 

As we seek to overcome our challenges of crime and corruption, unemployment and poverty, growing the economy and creating jobs; we would do well to remember the example set by Kalushi.

Issued by COSATU

For further information please contact:
Matthew Parks
Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator 
Cell: 082 785 0687