Tinyeko Captain Ndhlovu, Curator: Insignia, Memorial Plaques, Postal History, DITSONG: National Museum of Military History

Prior to 1976[1]  most black secondary schools in South Africa had already expressed their dissatisfaction through protests across the country. On the morning of 16 June 1976 most

secondary schools  gathered for a planned peaceful march from Soweto to Orlando Stadium for the rally.[2] About 20 000 took part in the protest. This article focusses on the 45th legacy of the Soweto Youth Uprising.

[1]Between 1974 and 1975 in South Africa, most of the black secondary students mobilised themselves and protested against the then Bantu Education Department’s directives: “Afrikaans was officially made equal with English and medium of instruction at black secondary schools”, Thula Simpson, Umkhonto we Sizwe: The ANC’s Armed Struggle, pp.207-8.

[2] Various schools from Soweto such as Morris Isaacson High School, Orlando West Junior High School and others participated in the uprisings. Students were carrying placards with the words “We don’t want Afrikaans/Away with Afrikaans” see figure 2.  The peaceful march was organised by the Soweto Action Committee of South African Students’ Movement (SASM) and endorsed by the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). Unfortunately, on their way to their destination they encountered police who first shot tear gas to disperse the students/demonstrators. The police then used live ammunition, which resulted in hundreds of young people killed (See footnote, 1; Simpson, 2016, pp.207-8).

Figure 1:
Students on their way from Soweto to Orlando Stadium. Photo, Courtesy of Dynamic Africa.

The Soweto Youth Uprising (June 16 1976) has made a huge impact locally, nationally, and internationally. On the days following 16 June, about 400 white South African students (in the spirit of solidarity) from the University of the Witwatersrand marched through the city of  Johannesburg in protest of the massacre of black secondary school students and condemning the police brutality.[1] South African black trade labourers laid down their tools and joined the demonstrations. Most of the black youths in townships expressed their frustrations and anger by burning down schools and any symbols of the apartheid regime. Many students were arrested, while others fled the country to join the liberation movements in exile. Internationally, most of the anti-apartheid political parties, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), countries and the United Nations strongly condemned[2] the South African police’s actions in the using of maximum force that led to the massacre of the students.

[1] South African Apartment regiment had introduced the Bantu Educational system which was designed to ‘train and fit’ Africans for their characters in the new Republic (1948). These was supported by apartheid policies and acts such as the Bantu Education Act 1953, which resulted and triggered series of the uprisings at black townships, from 1974; 1975; June 16, 1976, 1986. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soweto_uprising

[2] Resolution 392(1976) of 19 June 1976 The UN Security Council.


 

[1]Between 1974 and 1975 in South Africa, most of the black secondary students mobilised themselves and protested against the then Bantu Education Department’s directives: “Afrikaans was officially made equal with English and medium of instruction at black secondary schools”, Thula Simpson, Umkhonto we Sizwe: The ANC’s Armed Struggle, pp.207-8.

[1] Various schools from Soweto such as Morris Isaacson High School, Orlando West Junior High School and others participated in the uprisings. Students were carrying placards with the words “We don’t want Afrikaans/Away with Afrikaans” see figure 2.  The peaceful march was organised by the Soweto Action Committee of South African Students’ Movement (SASM) and endorsed by the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). Unfortunately, on their way to their destination they encountered police who first shot tear gas to disperse the students/demonstrators. The police then used live ammunition, which resulted in hundreds of young people killed (See footnote, 1; Simpson, 2016, pp.207-8).

[1] South African Apartment regiment had introduced the Bantu Educational system which was designed to ‘train and fit’ Africans for their characters in the new Republic (1948). These was supported by apartheid policies and acts such as the Bantu Education Act 1953, which resulted and triggered series of the uprisings at black townships, from 1974; 1975; June 16, 1976, 1986. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soweto_uprising

[1] Resolution 392(1976) of 19 June 1976 The UN Security Council.

Figure 2: Schoolchildren carrying placards – “To hell with Afrikaans…” Courtesy of Dynamic Africa Tumblr.

Honouring and commemorating the June 16 Soweto Youth Uprising

June 16 Detachment: Mr Olefile Samuel Mnqibisa was one of the young people who left the country  after the uprising to join Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) in Botswana. The new unit was formed due to the high influx of new recruits from Soweto and other parts of South Africa, and it was named the June 16 Detachment in honour of the incident. Young men and women who arrived to join MK were given the choice to further their education or join the Liberation Force. Mr Mnqibisa joined the Liberation Force and was later transferred to South Angola where he received further paramilitary training. After 1994 when South Africa became a democracy the South African Defence force (SANDF), Former Bantustan[1] Homeland Forces and Armed Struggle: Guerrilla/Liberation Forces, i.e. MK, Azanian People’s Liberation Army (APLA) were integrated into the new South African National Defence Force (SANDF).[2] Mr Mnqibisa was one of those who served as a new SANDF soldier with the rank of sergeant, while residing in Dobsonville. [3]

International Day of the African Child: On 16 June 1991, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) initiated and celebrated this day as the Day of the African Child. This was to commemorate those unsung heroes who partook during the Soweto Youth Uprising in 1976 protesting against the low standard of education, Afrikaans as teaching language, and demanding the right to be taught in their home language.[4] The day was also aimed at promoting the awareness of the continuing demand for the advancement of education offered to African children.

Youth Day, National Public holiday: In December 1994, the Soweto Youth Uprising  was officially renamed Youth Day, gazetted, and officially declared to be celebrated every year as a  national public holiday in South Africa.[5] The month of June is also dedicated to be celebrated as Youth Month.

 

Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum: Although the Museum was named after Hector Peterson[6], the main concept here was also to honour and commemorate the struggle of the young unsung heroes who


 

[5]Former Bantustan (TBVC States), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bantustan

[6] New SANDF https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_African_National_Defence_Force

[7] James Ngculu, The honour to serve: memories of the June 16 MK Detachment;, 2011. Olefile Samuel Mnqibisa’s Written Testimony submitted to Soweto Hearing: Truth and Reconciliation.

[8] Former President of South Africa, Dr Nelson Mandela once said ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”. Trevor Noah once said “Language brings with it an identity and culture, or at least the perception of it.” Trevor Noah, Born Crime: From a South African Childhood, 2016.

[9] South African Public holidays: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_holidays_in_South_Africa

participated and fell during the Soweto Youth Uprising. The Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum[1] became one of the first museums in Soweto when it was launched on 16 June 2002. It is located in Orlando West a short distance from where Hector Pieterson was shot and killed on 16 June 1976. The Museum covers the series of events associated with the Soweto Youth Uprising where more than 150 students were massacred. With the aid of the late photo journalist, Sam Nzima[2], the Museum has a wealth of heritage primary and secondary sources such as films, pictures, newspapers, personal accounts and the iconic renowned photo of the lifeless Hector Pieterson being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubu (see footnotes 10 -12; figure 3).

Figure 3: Photo, courtesy of Sam Nzima/Wikipedia.

Socio-political impact of the Soweto Youth Uprising to our present youth generation

# Rhodes must fall,[1] was a protest movement that started on 9 March 2015. It was originally directed against a colonial statue at the University of Cape Town that commemorated Cecil Rhodes. Most of the students from the University demanded that the statue had to be removed since it was a symbol of colonialism and the unavoidable fall of white supremacy and privilege at their campus. The statue was eventually removed. However, this movement quickly spread to universities such as Rhodes University in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape, Stellenbosch University, University of Pretoria and other universities and cities. It became the sensational head news of 2015 and became famous in Twitter by the #Rhodemustfall.


[10] The victim who was shot and killed by police during the Soweto Youth Uprising, June 16, 1976. Hector Pieterson was carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo. His sister, Antoinette Sithole, runs alongside them. Photo by veteran journalist Sam Nzima (see footnotes 11, 12; figure 3).

[11] Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hector_Pieterson_Museum   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hector_Pieterson

[12] The journalist photographer Sam Nzima who took the renowned photo of Hector Pieterson passed away at the age of 83 on Saturday 12 May 2018 at the Rob Ferreira Hospital in Mbombela, Mpumalanga South Africa.  President Cyril Ramaphosa honoured this legendary with a provincial state funeral. He was also honoured and awarded ‘the Order of Ikhamanga” by former President Jacob Zuma.

[13] The protest against the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes commenced on the 9th March 2015 and by the 15 April the UCT council voted that a statue should be removed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhodes_Must_Fall

# Fees must fall[1] was a student-led protest movement that started in mid-October 2015 in South Africa. It began at the University of the Witwatersrand, due to increased study fees. It quickly gained momentum and spread to other universities across the country such as the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University. The protest ended the same year (2015), but restarted in 2016. This caused the Minister of Higher Education to intervene and capped the study fees with 8% for 2017. 

Challenges the youth is facing today

Our youth’s challenges are our country’s concern. Unfortunately, these are enormous and even more distressing when compared to the 1976 youth generation.

Unemployment hit the top list.[2] South Africa’s unemployment rate for the first quarter of 2021 is 32.5%. The official unemployment rate among the youth aged 15 to 34 was 46.3% (first quarter of the year Some are graduates without jobs or income generation. Since 2020, due to Covid-19 and the national lockdown many South Africans (including the youth) have lost their employment and means of income.

Lack of education and business funding[3] is another challenge, since many people were laid off due to Covid-19. This resulted in the loss of employment or income generation for their parents, guardians or themselves. These led to demonstrations at South African universities, where students pleaded for free education for all and that all student debt be written off.  An example is the recent protest (organised by the #WitsAsinaMali protest movement) at the University of the Witwatersrand, where students appealed for the eradication of their historical education debt. Unfortunately, a bystander[4] who was not part of the demonstration was killed by a stray bullet, which was claimed to be shot by police.

Other challenges that face the youth directly and indirectly at their homes, schools, and communities include bullying (at schools: physical and cyber bullying), gender identity, gender-based violence (GBV), alcohol and drug abuse and human trafficking due to false hope of getting good jobs overseas.

 

Conclusion


 

[14] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FeesMustFall

[15] South Africa’s unemployment rate hit the new rate 32.6% highest record in the first quarter June 1, 2021 from the last year 2020 final quarter 32.5%. This is the highest rate of unemployment since 2008 according to a survey  by Statistics SA We should note that this might have spiked by the Covid-19 pandemic and national lockdown introduced since March 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/safrica-economy-unemployment-idUSL2N2NJ0NV

[16] The South African Government Youth Initiatives: Under the Department of Arts and Culture the then Minister, Paul Mashatile, reported in his budget vote speech for 2012/2013 that as part of the Mzansi Golden Economy Strategy, programmes targeting youth and women in the arts were: the Indoni, My Heritage My Pride; the Trendsetter Initiative; the Public Art; the Emerging Creatives. In 2015 the Minister in the Presidency signed the National Youth Policy 2020 (NYP2020), which offered youth with opportunities such as bursaries, internships and learnerships. Other opportunities include the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) and the National Rural Youth Service Corps Programme. For business funding, there is the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA): https://www.gov.za/issues/government-and-opportunities-youth

[17] According to authorities, the 35-year-old man was hit twice by rubber bullets and succumbed to his injuries” https://www.wits.ac.za/news/sources/cals-news/2021/use-of-deadly-force-against-wits-student-protesters.html

 

In December 1994 the Soweto Youth Uprising was officially renamed Youth Day and gazetted and declared a national public holiday. The Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum founded in 2002, became the first institution in Soweto to commemorate and honour the unsung heroes who participated and fell during the uprising. The legacy of the uprising has a socio-political impact on the current youth and resulted in various movements such as #Rhodesmustfall, #Feesmustfall, #WitsAsinamali and other youth activities. Our current youth has enormous challenges comparing to the youth of 1976, such as unemployment, lack of educational and business funding, bullying at schools, gender-based violence, human trafficking, and other challenges that were not mentioned here. However, the South African Government Agencies such as the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), provide various platforms and assistance such as bursaries, learnerships, and business funding for the youth, with various programmes such as Mzansi Golden: the Indoni, My Heritage My Pride, the Trendsetter Initiatives, the Public Art, the Emerging Creatives; the Public Works programmes: EPWP and the National Rural Youth Services.

 

References

Books

Ngculu, J, The Honour to Serve: Recollection of an Umkhonto Soldier, (New Africa Books, 2011).

Noah, T, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. 1st edition (New York: Spiegel & Grau. Print, 2016).

Simpson, T, Umkhonto we Sizwe: The ANC’s Armed Struggle, 1st edition (Cape Town: Penguin Random House, 2016).

Internet and Websites Visited

Former Bantustan (TBVC States), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bantustan [accessed 14 June2021].

Hector Peterson Memorial Museum, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hector_Pieterson_Museum

Figures 1. and 2 Courtesy Picture of Dynamic Africa Tumblr: https://www.pinterest.fr/pin/290693350952545163/  [accessed 10 June 2021].

https://dynamicafrica.tumblr.com/post/25221578879/this-day-in-history-soweto-student-uprising-june [accessed 10 June 2021].

Figure 3. Courtesy of Sam Nzima & Wikipedia, [accessed June 2021].

Hector Pieterson, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hector_Pieterson_Museum   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hector_Pieterson  [accessed 10 June 2021].

June 16 MK Detachment, https://www.sahistory.org.za/archive/honour-serve-memories-june-16-mk-detachment-lincoln-ngculu-james-makhaya  [accessed 28 May 2021].

June 16 Commemorative events, https://www.gov.za/YouthDay2019  [accessed 28 May 2021].

June 16 Youth Day Public holiday, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youth_Day#South_Africa  [accessed 1 June 2021].

Mnqibisa, OS, Written testimony submitted to Truth And Reconciliation Commission Human Rights Violations Submissions – Questions and Answers, 25.07.1996 Case: Soweto Day 4:   https://www.justice.gov.za/trc/hrvtrans/soweto/mnqibisa.htm    [accessed 1 June 2021].

New SANDF, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_African_National_Defence_Force

Opportunities offering SA Government: Bursaries, Learnership and Employment Youth Programmes, https://www.gov.za/issues/government-and-opportunities-youth [accessed 14 June 2021].

Quote by Former President of South Africa Dr. Nelson Mandela In: Noah Trevor, Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood. First edition. (New York: Spiegel & Grau. 2016. Print, 2016) https://za.pinterest.com/pin/854276623043376866/ [accessed 10 June 2021]

Quote by Trevor Noah,   https://za.pinterest.com/pin/402720391673322300/  [accessed on 10 June 2021].

Sam Nzima Veteran Photo Journalist,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-2RGzIFhsw & https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2018-05-16-photographer-sam-nzima-to-be-given-special-provincial-official-funeral/ [accessed 14 June 2021]

South African Unemployment rate, First Quarter, June 2021https://www.reuters.com/article/safrica-economy-unemployment-idUSL2N2NJ0NV  [accessed 14 June 2021].

 

South African Public holidays, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_holidays_in_South_Africa  [accessed 01 June 2021].

Soweto uprising, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soweto_uprising [accessed June 2021]

The Day of the African Child, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Day_of_the_African_Child   [accessed 01 June 2021].

The June 16 Soweto Youth Uprising, https://www.sahistory.org.za/article/june-16-soweto-youth-uprising  [accessed June 2021].

The UN Security Council, Resolution 392(1976) of 19 June 1976, https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/93718?ln=en    [accessed 14 June 2021].

#Fees must fall, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FeesMustFall [accessed 14 June 2021].

#Rhodes must fall, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhodes_Must_Fall  [accessed 14 June 2021].

#WitsAsinaMali, https://www.wits.ac.za/news/sources/cals-news/2021/use-of-deadly-force-against-wits-student-protesters.html [accessed 14 June 2021].

https://www.news24.com/news24/southafrica/news/timeline-what-we-know-about-the-witsasinamali-protests-and-the-death-of-a-patient-20210311   [accessed 14 June 2021].

 

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