Tuesday/ the day apartheid died

Young South Africans, wearing face masks and keeping a distance, mark the country’s Youth Day holiday in Soweto, South Africa, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. Nearly 200 young South Africans, wearing face masks and keeping a distance, marked the country’s Youth Day holiday, the 44th anniversary of the 1976 Soweto students’ uprising which helped to bring about the end of the country’s previous regime of racist, minority rule. Äsivikelane is Zulu for “Protect each other’. [Themba Hadebe/Associated Press]
June 16, 1976, is a day that saw fierce police brutality in South Africa.  Several thousand high school students in Johannesburg’s poor township of Soweto demonstrated against the minority South African government.  (In 1974, a decree had been issued that had forced all township schools to use Afrikaans and English in a 50–50 mix as languages of instruction).

The march had been peaceful, but then a police convoy arrived. Not long after that, the protestors were fired upon with live ammunition, causing the deaths of several young students. There was more bloodshed the next day. The number of young people who died is usually given as 176, but other estimates put it at hundreds more.

Many white South Africans were outraged at the government’s actions in Soweto. It would be another 14 years before Nelson Mandela would be let out of jail, but at no point after 1976, was the government able to restore the relative peace and social stability of the early 1970s.

graciously June 16, 1976. Umbiswa Makhubo carries the body of Hector Pieterson, 12 years old. The screaming girl in the picture is Hector’s younger sister Antoinette. [Photograph: Sam Nzima/Archive]

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