Of Youth Day and the Soweto Uprising

For many, it started it started as an ordinary day…

No one could have imagined that this day would rock Soweto, South Africa, even the world and over 40 years later people would still remember, the day when the end of apartheid begun.

Under the Bantu Education Act government schools in South Africa were prohibited from using local languages and students could only learn specific subjects taught in Afrikaans and English. In January of 1976, an official order was made making Afrikaans the compulsory medium of instruction in schools. As Afrikaans was regarded as “the language of the oppressor” this led to uproar and boycotting of classes which eventually resulted in students planning a peaceful mass protest on the morning of Wednesday the 16th of June 1976.

Afrikaans must be abolished placard 
June 1976

As had been planned 3 days before, by 19 year old Tebogo ‘Tsietsi’ Mashinini then president of the Soweto Students Representative Council (SSRC) along with 500 other students, when they met at the Orlando Donaldson Community Hall; to discuss ways and means of confronting and challenging the Department of Bantu Education. The plan had been to march to Orlando stadium and have a protest rally to plea with the government to remove Afrikaans as compulsory in schools.

To hell with Afrikaans placard june 1976

There was singing and chanting as the students marched across the streets of Soweto, from Naledi High School, in the southwestern end of the township to Morris Isaacson High School in Jabavu.

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, which means ‘God Bless Africa’ a song which had banned by the apartheid regime was the anthem for freedom.

Tear gas and rubber bullets were fired at the protestors in an attempt to disperse the students, but they were too determined to be silenced, not until they had been heard. The march continued down a few more streets, students pelting police with stones and bottles.

Then gun shots and terror as the police opened fire with live ammunition…

PhotoJournalist Sam Nzima‘s iconic image of Hector Pieterson being carried

Hastings Ndlovu, Hector Pieterson and close to 200 students, died that day in Soweto, South Africa and several hundred more across the whole country as the wave of Uprising which started in Soweto, spread throughout the country; becoming not just revolt against unfair education policy but the whole apartheid government. The actual death toll remains unknown/undisclosed.

Image

Freedom would not come come until almost two decades later, when apartheid finally ended in 1994.

Image credit: African Travel Canvas

Today, you can revisit the route of the June 16th march which was declared a heritage trail. It starts outside Morris Isaacson High School and continues to the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum in Orlando West.

June 16 is a public holiday in South Africa, Youth Day, in remembrance of the students who lost their lives that day in defiance of the apartheid government and their Bantu Education. The actions of these students sparked an increase in the intensity in the fight for liberation and the end of apartheid in South Africa.

To Honour The Youth Who Gave Their Lives In The Struggle For Freedom
Memorial To Honour The Youth Who Gave Their Lives In The Struggle For Freedom

 There’s a statue of Tsietsi Mashinini. Hoisting his right fist upwards, in the universal gesture signalling the mobilisation of people to reclaim power and influence, and embrace their liberation

a statue of Tsietsi Mashinini. Hoisting his right fist upwards, in the universal gesture signalling the mobilisation of people to reclaim power and influence, and embrace their liberation

“The day shall come when all shall be free to breathe the air of freedom which is theirs to breathe and when the day shall have come, no man, no matter how many tanks he has, will reverse the course of events.”

Tsietsi Mashinini memorial
June 16 1976

31 Comments

  1. A resilient people the South Africans. But aren’t all Africans. Anyway, Aluta Continua.

    Always a fresh breeze reading your content B.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hearing this always stirs up something within me! May their story always be told, their courage always admired and what they fought for never be lost.
    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think we need more of this as reminders to what we have been through, what we have witnessed, and to protect us from endlessly repeating history, what short memories we have.
      ~B

      Like

      1. I know we do need these reminders. And I think the shirt memory is owing to the fact that alot happens and we just have new worries everyday..
        Well I speak for the Uganda’s. So it’s very hard to keep reliving the past….

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I totally get it, each day I await to hear the new worry as I wonder how much will people take before civil disobedience becomes a duty.
        ~B

        Like

    1. Texts can’t agree if there was 10 000 or 30 000 students protesting anyway who would be counting.
      I am always amused when a report carries numbers of people in a crowd, be it protestors or any other gathering… Like but who counted those people 😂😂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Opinions, opinions. As this uprising was planned in the Kremlin and the language issue was the ruse, we knew what it was about: communist take-over and our youth exploited by foreigners to do the dirty work as unpaid soldiers. Apartheid would have ended more peacefully if people didn’t become violent. White voters voted for freedom but communist lack leaders wanted war. Riots postponed liberty and the anarchy caused division. If only people will learn the facts and learn to see straight. Instead, as in the USA recently, the masses side by the Antichrist communist instigators. Sunday, they go to church and shout Halleluja again and wear choir robes. Explain that.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Pity real education doesn’t happen any longer. Outcomes-based education turned several nations into opinionated fools. I am glad we still learned facts back then. I still read quite a lot of non-fiction.

        Like

  4. You cannot deny a people freedom because they will always seek it if it meant blood. I am surprised at the selfishness of those who oppress and deny others what every man and woman is born with. Jesus Christ!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seems freedom is not something that can only be taken never given… If you oppress a people long enough treading on them like dust beneath your feet, the dust will I’ve day swirl around your ankles and rise to your face and choke you….
      1amand a feeling somewhat oppressed
      ~B

      Liked by 1 person

    2. It seems freedom is not something that can only be taken never given… If you oppress a people long enough treading on them like dust beneath your feet, the dust will I’ve day swirl around your ankles and rise to your face and choke you….
      1amand a feeling somewhat oppressed
      ~B

      Like

  5. There is nothing vibrant about promoting atheist communism. Find out 1st why the British implemented apartheid in the 1800s, sorry not the British, first the Communists. They were the racists that didn’t want black members.
    Apartheid only came as a result of black anarchy and riots, as the blacks sided with atheist communist Karl Marx when he lived in Cape Town.
    His sister and Olive Schreiner were friends who shared a lover Havelock Ellis “whose body is Jesus Christ to us” as they wrote it.
    The black youth uprising was conceived in the Kremlin.
    Apartheid was to prevent the headless leadership we have today, a country leaking at its seams, with sewage running in the streets.
    Communism prevented GOOD black leaders from leading SA. We can blame June 16, 1976 and the youth of then for the mess we endure today.
    Get the facts, leave your opinion for the pot smokers to discuss in university lecture rooms. Education has always been free as libraries don’t charge.
    Get real education. Get it yourself. Get the facts.

    Like

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