June 16, 1976 is an unforgettable date for Africans in Occupied Azania, for it was a bloody and chaotic encounter in Soweto.
Many students lost their lives—some of them got injured from being lambasted, brutalized and gunned down by the apartheid South African police force, together with its defence force.
Their sin was to protest against the envious and vicious Bantu education system which robbed black students a sense of belonging, identity and most importantly dignity and purpose for life.
The apartheid regime accomplished this spiteful act by forcing all black schools to adopt Afrikaans as their medium of communication.
June 16 was the day which is commemorated annually in South Africa, remembering the young fallen soldiers of the struggle who were heartlessly killed by the apartheid regime during the Soweto student revolt.
The motive behind this 1976 student revolt can be traced back in 1953 where the Bantu Education Act, No. 47 was established and introduced to black people under the instruction of the heartless settler colonialist named H.F. Verwoerd.
This repressive colonialist who was the Minister of Native Affairs at the time vowed that Black people’s education system should be made inferior to that of other races and that black people in general should be educated only far enough for them to be useful workers.
In his words, he stated that “the natives will be taught from childhood to realize that equality with Europeans is not for them.”
He went on to claim that “There is no place for the Bantu child above the level of certain forms of labour.” Altogether this meant that the education of black people was to be inadequate and meaningless.
Colonial “Afrikaans” language adoption a precursor for retaliation
All these malicious determinations by Verwoerd which deprived black people adequate education obviously did not sit well with the black communities.
As a result, year by year impatience, resentful hate and curse against the apartheid system grew rapidly amongst black people.
1974 came and Afrikaans was infiltrated and forcefully introduced by the apartheid regime to be used as the medium of instruction in all black schools.
Mind you, to students this language was alien, and associated with the pernicious relationship we have with regime, nor could teachers speak, read or write it properly.
Unsurprisingly students were provoked by the decision of the system and that led student movements to commence organizing students all over South Africa with the purpose to denounce Afrikaans and apartheid laws in general.
It was up until June 16, 1976 where the brave students took it to the streets in a protest which was to be later known as “The Soweto Uprising.”
The students revolted against the Bantu education and all unjust and racial laws of the apartheid system which were designed to oppress black people.
This uprising was enthusiastically motivated by the South African Student Organization (SASO) and Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) which both were directly affiliated to Steve Bantu Biko who was banished under house arrest at the time.
The June 16, 1976 demonstration began peacefully, as students who were estimated to be about 3000 to 10,000 from Soweto—the biggest township in South Africa—took it to the streets. They marched peacefully to a rally which was to be held in Orlando stadium.
African students’ organizing efforts met with violence
Students had organized this to also speak-out against the totally malevolent apartheid regime.
However, unfortunately, the peaceful march of the brave students was met with instantaneous violence: teargas was fired on them and later they were shot rapidly with lethal bullets.
This covetous act by the apartheid police force led to the death of plenty students.
Some were injured whilst many were detained and others fled for their lives and joined many exiled freedom fighters outside of South Africa.
The gruesome attacks of these students were led by the apartheid police force which acted under the orders of its unreasonably aggrieved government.
The brave students, unwilling to surrender retaliated with stones and bricks which they threw to the police as the only means of defending and fighting for their lives.
Just like with the 1960 Sharpville Massacre, this was to have a negative and damning image for the South African repressive regime.
As a result, they did not allow journalists to keep pictures they took from the deadly event taking place on that day.
However, the celebrated journalist Sam Nzima, who has just passed on to join the ancestors, exposed to the world the brutality of the police who fired bullets and brutally attacked armless students who were peacefully marching.
The following day the entire nation revolted against the system. And the apartheid regime saw this as a turning point.
Indeed the date June 16, 1976 is never to be forgotten; it shall always be remembered in our history against White power.
One can claim that the 2015 uprising where we saw university and college students all over Occupied Azania (South Africa) uprising during the #feesmustfall protests, demanding nothing but free education, was motivated by the Soweto Student Uprising.
To the poor African students, the revolution is still on until black people attain total power of their own political, economic and social affairs.
Therefore, let us make it our duty to take on this neo-colonial apparatus which continues to exploit black people. Let us unite in solidarity and eliminate all of those old grand-Pas, uncle tom-ing in the parliament from power.
Let us get organized and declare revolution and do away with neo-colonialism and seek total change which will destroy the colonial-capitalist system and implement a liberated and unified socialist Africa.
Let us all understand that you are either on the bleeding edge or on the cutting edge and when you are on the bleeding edge you are fortunate because you don’t fear pain and you have nothing to lose as you are already in pain and have lost everything.
So, let that blood and pain be the fuel and driving force to give you a fighting spirit and un-surrendering revolutionary ambition to lead the struggle because the struggle continues until we have won our Africa back.
Build the AISO in Occupied Azania
As a continuum of the 1976 struggle against colonial education, the African People’s Socialist Party – Occupied Azania is building the African Internationalist Students Organization (AISO). We are calling on students to join AISO and raise the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist African working class stance.
Mveliso Kraai is student of politics in the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the lead organizer of the African Internationalist Students Organization (AISO).