By Phumla Williams
“My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom. Tell my people that I love them and that they must continue the fight.”
These are the powerful words that a young freedom fighter uttered before he was hanged by the apartheid state.
The “crime” that 23-year-old Solomon Mahlangu committed was standing in defiance against a ruthless regime and fighting for equal rights and freedoms for all South Africans. He refused to cower under tyranny or be a mere bystander to history.
His memory will forever inspire us in creating a country that belongs to all South Africans. Although a young man at the time, Mahlangu was relentless and even unto death proclaimed his hope for our country.
This steadfast resolve became a symbol of resistance among young people as the fight against apartheid gathered strength. The anniversary of Mahlangu’s death is on April 6, and we continuously remind ourselves of his unwavering spirit.
Recounting his life and story is not only important to remember the many sacrifices that were made for freedom and democracy. His life story is vital in reminding the youth of the critical role they can play in taking forward the vision of Solomon and many others.
Mahlangu’s life should embolden our generation of young people to rise up and take their rightful place in our society.
His words are still relevant for young people who today face different challenges in the form of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
His life is a call to action of our young people that will see them move South Africa forward. However, this time around young people have a government that cares and wants to see them succeed.
The government has prioritised the advancement of young people, particularly their participation in the economy, so they can take their rightful place in our society. We have placed young people at the pinnacle of our work to develop our society and grow the economy.
The National Development Plan envisions a growing economy and the youth of our country will play a critical part in helping achieve the plan’s strategic vision for 2030.
Young people have an important role to play in defining the country and the world they want to live in. It is up to them to find their mission, rally together and fulfil it, and bring about the change they want.
The youth can make their voice heard by voting in the upcoming elections on May 8.
In doing so they will elect public representatives who will represent them in Parliament, especially those they think will implement policies that will improve their lives.
This year’s elections are special because they coincide with the celebration of 25 years of freedom. It is therefore important that all citizens, and particularly the youth, go out in numbers to vote so we can build on the achievements of the past 25 years. More importantly, their participation is critical in the development of our country.
In casting our ballot we pay tribute to the many people like Solomon Mahlangu who sacrificed their lives for us to have this right to vote. We owe it to them to make sure our voices are heard on the future direction of the country.
My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom. Tell my people that I love them and that they must continue the fight.
The government for its part continues to honour his memory through various youth focused programmes.
The Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund launched in 2014 by the National Youth Development Agency is helping deserving South African youth to further their tertiary education. The scholarship increases their chances of accessing quality higher education in their field of study. Financial support is provided to the youth who pursue full-time degrees in critical and scarce skills.
Moreover, the government continues to advance Mahlangu’s ideals through its five priorities to improve our education, improve our healthcare, create decent work, fight crime and corruption and rural development, and land reform.
Mahlangu’s piercing final words have outlived the oppressive apartheid system and still encourage us today. We can take his memory forward by building our nation and ensuring all South Africans enjoy the fruits of freedom he spoke about.
Phumla Williams is the Acting Deputy Director-General of the GCIS.