“My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom. Tell my people that I love them. They must continue the fight.”
This was the last words of Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu before he was hung at the age of 22.
The opening scene with Soloman nursing a bullet to his foot tugged on my heartstrings. So young yet so brave in his fight for freedom for his people.
Kalushi follows the life of the Solomon Mahlangu, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) cadre who was wrongfully accused on charges of murder and terrorism in 1977 and executed by hanging in 1979. We get a peek into his upbringing, being a street hawker to support his mom, Martha and assisting his brother Lucas, attending high school amidst ongoing riots, fleeing the country to Mozambique to get training to assist in the fight for freedom.
Thabo Rametsi portrayed the role of Solomon and he did a stellar job. I felt every single emotion, all the pain, anger and acceptance he experienced and I applaud him for that. There are so many scenes that will absolutely break your heart like the one on the train where he get caught travelling without a ticket, beaten into oblivion by a white guard, forced to eat his own tomatoes and onions then get peed on while the black guard just stood there, watching while one of his own gets treated like less than a human being.
The movie touched on June 16 but not in-depth. Solomon’s decision to fight for the freedom of his people was fuelled by the unnecessary deaths of so many youths on this day though. One scene that’s of great significance in the movie is where, in school, his teacher posed the question as to when Jan van Riebeeck arrived at the Cape and ironically that’s the same date he was executed 327 years later.
Himself, Lucky, Mondy and Tommy London journeyed to Mozambique and get caught by a guerilla group. The helicopters used in the 40 second scene took three years to negotiate and it’s a scene that shows you the enormity of the Apartheid regime. They’re being held at the camp but decide to embark on a letter writing campaign to the ANC to request being rescued and they’re being rescued successfully to embark on their training. In the Angola camp they are being addressed by Oliver Tambo over the radio, the voice over artist used for this was the director himself, Mandlakayise Walter Dube. After their training was complete they journey back to South Africa for their mission. They stay over at Solomon’s cousin’s place, which in the end work against them as the police turned him as a witness against Solomon, betrayed by his own blood. Later on in the movie the infamous shoot-out ensued where Mondy killed 2 white people and they were arrested. Solomon and Mondy were brutally abused while in police custody as the police detained them under the 90-day Detention Law giving the state time to fabricate a case against the pair. Before the trial could commence Motloung was so badly beaten that he sustained severe brain damage and was declared Motloung unfit to stand trial. Solomon was charged with two counts of murder, two of attempted murder and several charges of sabotage under the Terrorism Act and he pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Mondy was the one who fired the shots that killed the two civilians and wounded two others but the Prosecution argued that under the law of Common Purpose, Solomon shared intent with Mondy and Lucky, making him guilty of murder whether or not he pulled the trigger.
When he was sentenced to death, his mom walked outside and broke down in one of the most heartbreaking scenes on the movie. His final words in court were moving, he still believed that we will be free from the Apartheid regime and through the lives of him and so many others we can finally enjoy that freedom.
Kalushi took 9 years to make and unlike our other struggle movies, it’s directed by a South African producer, Walter Dube and has an all South African cast. Thabo Rametsi makes history by becoming the first South African actor to portray a South African hero from an Apartheid period in this movie and it’s long overdue.
Khalushi walked away with “Best film award” at The Luxor African Film Festival in in the historic Old and New Kingdoms of Ancient Egypt.
Thabo Rametsi-Solomom Mahlangu
Pearl Thusi-Brenda Riviera
Thabo Malema-Mondy Motloung
Jafta Mamabolo- Lucky Mahlangu
Welile Nzuzu-Tommy London
Gcina Mhlope-Martha Mahlangu
Fumani Shilubana-Lucas Mahlangu
Louw Venter- Van Heerden
Marcel van Heerden-Judge Theron
Mona Monyane-Comrade Eve