By Koketso Marishane
The ANC led government has amusingly made a fascinating declaration, June as the Youth Month in the Republic of South Africa. Fascinating because, that declaration was informed by the quest to honour the youth of Soweto, who in June 1976, revolted against Bantu Education, and most precisely, against the system of white settle colonialism.
As living history would attest, that the uprisings wouldn’t have occurred had it not been for the Black Consciousness Movement, the political formation that provided leadership at that time, fueled the fires to spread the uprisings throughout the country, which was supposed to be ‘Azania’.
May those with selective memory be reminded that the 16 June Uprisings Day should be left as is, nothing more, nothing less. For it’s important that the current generations and the following, must know about the June 16 Uprisings, when high school black learners, among them as young as 12yrs, were engaged in peaceful demonstrations against being taught in the language of the oppressors, Afrikaans. Thus, the apartheid regime reacted with brute force, shifting down hundreds of defenseless and unarmed young people.
However, as reality shows, that the South African history is mostly written by the imperialists, colonialists and the victors, there’s seemingly concerted effort by some in the ruling party that’s now promoting elitism, to erase the contribution of the Black Consciousness Movement in the liberation struggle of South Africa, and precisely that of the South Western Township (SOWETO). Although it’s questionable why such heroic movements are not historically recognized, living history attests that, indeed, it is an undeniable fact that in the mid1970s there was no other component of the liberation movement that was active within the country apart from the BCM. Some within the 1976 student ranks eventually defected to the ANC reluctantly admit that they were active in the South Africa Students Movement.
As records would testify, the June 16 Uprisings revived the exiled political movements – the ANC and the PAC. Thousands of young people were forced to flee the country in the aftermath of the uprisings, and many of them found themselves without any political home in exile because the BCM had no yet established strong formal organisations with the necessary capacity outside the country at the time. Records show that most young people strayed into the ranks of MK and the APLA, and after 1976, South Africa changed. There is no doubt that the 1976 generation was a huge catalyst for the final push to dislodge the white minority regime from power in 1994.
The current youth need to object to the “Youth Day” mentality because it’s seemingly based on its deliberate attempt to depoliticise the Soweto Uprising. As such, amusingly joyful festivities are continuously staged for June 16 by the forces of doom. The position per records should be, that June 16 should be a day that the South African nation remembers with dignity. Simply put, June 16 should be a day that the country reaffirms its vow to create a just and equal society in honour of our fallen heroes. #NDP2030Vision
We all that there are political reasons why the current government would like to essentially remove June 16 Uprisings from the national psyche and replace it with the politically amorphous Youth Day, hence the youth must take conscious and frank decisions about the direction this day represents.
For the record, the June 16 Uprising was not a spontaneous act of rebellion as some would suggest or like us believe. Lest we forget iconic leaders like Jafta Jeff Masemola, the longest serving political prisoner on Robben Island. The June 16 Uprising was a culmination of the radical mobilisation of the youth by Black Conscious-aligned organisations such as the South African Student Organisation (SASO), the Black People’s Convention (BPC) and the South African Students Movement (SASM) led by young militants like Tsietsi Mashinini and Khotso Seatlholo, the Soweto Students Representative Council (SSRC) that provided immediate leadership to the black students was a direct formation of SASM.
Koketso Marishane is the NDP 2030 (Youth) Ambassador and writes as a concerned citizen.