In this blog we focus on everything you need to know about the events that etched 16 June 1976 into the nation’s minds forever. 16 June is a day engraved into the collective conscience of all South Africans and is honoured for both the atrocities and bravery which took place. We look back as some of the important events surrounding Youth Day:
Students rise up
Students in Soweto rallied up against Bantu education, introduced by the National Party in 1953. The new system led to schools becoming extremely overcrowded, with some classes of 60 leaners being reported and the overall quality of education declining. According to one study, by 1961 fewer than 10% of black teachers had a matric certificate. By 1976 the government introduced the compulsory use of Afrikaans from Grade 7, which meant maths and social studies were to be taught in Afrikaans.
Rallied by a teenager
By June 1976 pupils were restless and a meeting was called by student leaders on 13 June with nearly 400 pupils in attendance. They were addressed by 19-year-old Teboho ‘Tsietsi’ Mashinini, an extremely powerful speaker. He suggested that the pupils gather in mass and demonstrate on 16 June. Pupils from as young as 10-years-old gathered at schools across Soweto and set off for Orlando Stadium where an estimated 20 000 pupils congregated.
Police crack down
Police turned up at the stadium en masse and demanded that the students disperse. They then fired teargas into the crowd and released police dogs. This only served to anger the students who retaliated by throwing stones at the authorities.
The first shot
The first shot was fired straight into the crowd, without warning, and was soon followed by others as policemen poured gunfire in to the crowd. Hector Pieterson (13) became the first casualty and was picked up by Mbuyisa Makhubo, a fellow student, who was photographed along with Pieterson’s sister Antoinette Sithole. The photo has since become an iconic symbol of the struggle against Apartheid.
Chaos soon ensued as students either fought back or tried to escape. More policemen arrived as well as trucks and helicopters. The violence continued throughout the night as police and protestors fought across Soweto.
By 17 June, the aftermath of the protest revealed utter carnage as reports suggested that 176 students were killed, while the government had originally claimed that only 23 protestors had died. Although Youth Day will forever be remembered in infamy and the struggle against Apartheid it was also a major turning point in the liberation struggle in South Africa.
Celebrate Youth Day with us by entering our Youth Day competition. You could win music to the value of R5000! It's simple: listen to the songs on our playlist, add three to your mix tape and then submit your details. We'll be giving two winners a music hamper worth R1000, and one lucky winner will receive a music hamper worth R3000! Click here to enter on our 'Make your mix tape' tab, or click here if you're on mobi.