Solomon Mahlangu Square gets R36m make-over

Pretoria – The newly renovated Solomon Mahlangu Freedom Square, which commemorates the struggle heroes and heroines, in Mamelodi, east of Pretoria, has officially reopened today.

The square, which is a multifaceted landscape, narrates the heritage and history of the location and its people.

Speaking at the official opening on Monday, Tshwane Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa said the city spent about R36 million for the first phase of the Solomon Mahlangu Square.

The Memorial Square, as it is also known, was upgraded to inspire, educate and offer economic opportunities to the local community.

The renovations included strengthening the Solomon Mahlangu Statue’s landmark qualities. The Statue is now an anchor point for reflection on the proposed meandering ribbon pathway and the new Liberation Spine, with the latter further enhancing the aesthetic value of the Statue.

The existing status quo has been changed by rotating the Statue to face down the proposed new Liberation Spine across the park. A new sloping plinth has been constructed behind the Statue in order to accentuate its importance and for a gateway artworks intervention fronting onto the adjacent intersection of Maphalla Drive with Tsamaya Avenue and Stormvoël Road.

This constitutes a positive impact, as it strengthens the landmark qualities of the Statue as the central focus element of the proposed new Liberation Spine while at the same time, augmenting the symbolic meaning of the proposed new Liberation Spine.

The Statue contributes to an understanding that Solomon Mahlangu paid for his beliefs with his life. At the same time the statue is a tangible reminder of one of the darkest chapters in the history of South Africa, which is the struggle against racial oppression and the fight for a free and democratic South Africa.

The Statue is consequently of notable historic and symbolic importance as it celebrates both an icon and an iconic struggle.

“This is honour of all the people who paid dearly for our democracy with their lives. We have to ensure that Solomon’s death is not in vain,” he said.

According to Mayor Ramokgopa, the second phase will consist of a museum and a theatre among other things.

He said the Solomon Mahlangu Precinct is for all the people of Mamelodi and all those who fought for democracy.

“Through the struggle, we managed to achieve our democratic government in 1994,” he said.

With regard to services, Mayor Ramokgopa assured Mamelodi hostel dwellers that their lives will be improved for the better.

“The freedom fighters fought for a better life for all,” he said, adding that the Re ya Vaya bus service will be extended to Mamelodi.

With regard to employment, Mayor Ramokgopa assured the locals that the city will create more job opportunities for them.

Also speaking at the same event was Chief Lucas Mahlangu, who spoke on behalf of the Mahlangu family, saying as the family they were honoured by the event.

“Solomon played a role in our democracy. He fought against the injustices,” Chief Mahlangu said.

Chief Mahlangu told the audience that Solomon Mahlangu was a brave young man who was not afraid to die.

The Solomon Mahlangu Statue is an integral layer of the historic development of the site of the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom Square. It was first unveiled in September 2005. The then Minister of Defence Mosiuoa Lekota and the then Executive Mayor of Tshwane Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa officiated at the unveiling ceremony.