Three names were considered for what was initially known as the ANC School.

These were:

  1. The Albert Luthuli Institute
  2. The ANC School and ;
  3. The Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College ( SOMAFCO)

All these names held merit, but the latter was finally preferred – a befitting honour to one of the youth struggle heroes, resembling the tenacity and resilience of youth.

In 1977, two years before the youth of South Africa erupted in defiance of an unjust education system, a young man by the name of Solomon Mahlangu was detained at Gogh Street in Johannesburg, following a shoot-out that claimed the lives of two people.

Although Mahlangu never fired a single shot, he was, nevertheless tried for murder as an “accomplice” in what the presiding judge (Judge Theron) viewed it as “…facts (that) the accused is equally liable and guilty with Mondy for the conduct of Monday.”

This led to numerous clemency protests in South Africa and further afield. The most notable was a protest of more than 4 000 University students from Witswaterand University. This group involved the “ Group of Ten” led by the late Dr. Nthato Motlana.

In the forefront of the United Nations’ outcry and clemency calls were former U.S President Jimmy Carter, the international anti-apartheid movements, as well as the World Council of Churches and Mr. E S Reddy -from the UN Anti-Apartheid Committee.

Solomon Mahlangu’s arrest and trial inspired one of the greatest international campaigns rallying for a greater focus on human rights violations in South Africa.

His pending execution prompted a rebuke by P W Botha on one of anti-apartheid stalwarts, Helen Suzman.

Suzman associated herself with the Stay of Execution Campaign (in solidarity with Solomon Mahlangu) – a campaign that not only touched all facets of global society, but the sporting fraternity too.

Mahlangu’s execution resulted in a pending Springbok Tour to France in April 1979, two weeks after his execution, to be described as “inappropriate” by the French government. This was prompted by pressure from the Anti-apartheid movement in France, supported by the International Olympic Committee, who threatened to exclude France from the following year’s Olympic Games should they allow the Springbok team to tour that country.

With intensified international collaboration, South Africa was becoming more of a pariah state than it already was.

Upon his sentencing, Solomon Mahlangu raised his hand to signal the Black Power sign and his last words are prominent in society and where inscribed at the entry point in Mazimbu/Somafco as depicted below.

He was defiant throughout his trial, remaining true to the cause of liberation for all South Africans. At the tender age of 23, Mahlangu altruistically chose to pay the ultimate price for his beliefs.

It is the spirit and convictions and his promise that his “blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom…” and the international awareness that he had inspired, that prompted the naming of the College as the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College.

This was a poignant reminder to the world that the youth of South Africa were being killed and denied the true liberation through an inferior education system.