Kulani Nkuna
3 minute read
3 Jul 2014
9:00 am

Telling the story of Solomon Mahlangu

Kulani Nkuna

The life story of executed apartheid struggle stalwart Solomon Mahlangu has been a labour of love for its director Mandla Dube.

Kalushi – The Life Story Of Solomon Mahlangu

Kalushi – The Life Story Of Solomon Mahlangu has just wrapped up shooting, and it has been a long, seven-year journey for Dube. It is not over yet, as post-production could easily take up the rest of the year.

South African History Online reports that, on June 13 1977, Mahlangu and his companions, Mondy Johannes Motloung and George “Lucky” Mahlangu, were accosted by police in Goch Street, Johannesburg. Geroge Mahlangu managed to escape, but in the ensuing gun battle two civilian men were killed and two wounded. Solomon Mahlangu and Motloung were arrested.

The judge accepted that Motloung was responsible for the actual killings, but since he had been so brutally beaten during the course of his capture, he had suffered severe brain damage and was unfit to stand trial.

However, as common purpose had been formed, Mahlangu was therefore found guilty on two counts of murder and three charges under the Terrorism Act. He was sentenced to death by hanging.

Kalushi – The Life Story Of Solomon Mahlangu

Kalushi – The Life Story Of Solomon Mahlangu

“I had heard about Solomon Mahlangu growing up as this mystical figure of the struggle,” Dube begins.

“In 2007, somebody suggested that I should do a story about him, but I was bit apprehensive because I was not familiar with the details of the story. Then I met his family, and the more I got to finding out who this guy was, the more I thought about doing a documentary, but the documentary was not big enough. I then did an exhibition, and that was also not big enough. Then it was followed by a stage play and a four-part drama series and that was also not big enough. And that is how we arrived at doing a feature film.”

The film has afforded young South African actors to sink their teeth into a meaty role about struggle icons. It was a relief for many that an American or British actor were not cast for the lead role, according to Thabiso Rametsi who plays Mahlangu.

“For the first time, I got a chance to play a real South African character,” Rametsi says.

Thabo Rametsi (left) plays Solomon Mahlangu and Pearl Thusi plays his girlfriend, Brenda.

Thabo Rametsi (left) plays Solomon Mahlangu and Pearl Thusi plays his girlfriend, Brenda.

“By a ‘real’ character I mean that I am not playing some boy from ekasi who falls in love with uThando and gets HIV. This is a real character: he grows, he is colourful and he is beautiful. I was challenged. It is good for a South African to play a South African lead and to tell our stories with our directors and our casts. I hope this film sends a message that we can play our own roles and that we don’t need an Idris Elba, a Michael B Jordan or a Morgan Freeman. We can tell our stories, so give us some money and we can prove that we are just as good as those actors.”

Some in the cast had not heard of Solomon Mahlangu before starring in the film.

“I did not know of Solomon Mahlangu before this film, but I had seen Solomon Mahlangu Street,” actor Thabo Malema says.

“But being part of such an historic film in this country for the first time, I actually did some serious pre-production. We travelled to his home, met his family, and visited his grave site. The procedure and approach was unique and different to what I have done previously. I get to play a trigger happy kind of role which was fun because I usually play safer roles. I enjoyed the journey of this movie.”