African South Africans' June 16th 1976 Revolt—Sad Times, Bad Times—A Luta Kontinua! AMANDLA! POWER!
The Calm Before The Revolution: The End Of Normal Schooling As We Knew It...
Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela: Commemorating the Students of 1976 in the Song "Soweto Blues"
The Student's Revolution That Overthrew the Apartheid Regime
The days of Mzabalazo ( Struggle/Revolution), had long begun in the primary schools throughout South Africa, in the Eastern and Western Cape in Places like Zwelitsha, Langa and the Transvaal in places like Soweto. What I am saying is that the 1976 rebellion had too many historical antecedents to it before the actual day of 1976. There were issues of non-funded schools, underpaid teachers, less government allocated funds and separate development(racism).
The African communities were expected to buy and pay for their own schooling, children's school uniforms, school books, desks, little coal stoves for the winter, no lunch for the children(each had to carry some few coins to buy themselves "fat cakes"(Magwenya") during the lunch hour, and parents were expected to support stores like Jutas Bookstore to buy highly and abnormally priced text books, and buy uniforms: I mean ties, blazers, grey flannels, tunics and black gym-dresses for girls, white, blue or yellow shirts, and girls had to have a school girdles(bearing schooling colors) and black leather belts for boys. Some teachers had to be hired by and paid for by the students' parents or the community.
The students of the Schools in Soweto and other Townships throughout the Country were segregated from White Students in the Suburbs (Or the "Kitchens") - denoting the areas where their mothers and grandmothers worked for White people, thus so-called by the African people).
The only time that both African teachers and students saw officialdom was when a White School inspector was coming, and the students were expected to prepare the school and try to impress the Inspector that the schools were clean, the bright students were chosen to impress the Inspector with their oratory and other means of demonstrating the African students' abilities to learn.
As for sport, and field and track, Africans competed amongst themselves, and white students competed with each other. Apartheid was total and complete, and sadly, it is still well and alive after all the sacrifice and bloodshed brought upon the people of African descent in South Africa.
Today a lot of the successful African Elite, who owe their very existence today to the events of South African African Struggles, are ass-licking, handkerchief-head apologists of the system that was and is still annihilating(through them) their own people, for money and to be liked by their masters and detractors. Hardcore realpolitik about South Africa has become or been made an anathema, and no one is allowed to rock the boat. Most of the fat-cats today who are ruling and running South Africa, were not there nor present when the students stood up to the might of the Apartheid regime.
Most of them, if not all of them, had left the country in the early sixties and went into exile. When South Africa exploded, and they had nothing to do with the explosion, because it was spontaneous rather that directed from exile by the present rulers of South Africa. What makes the events of June 16th 1976 unique was that no one from the present government of the ANC instigated, nor directed the events of that day. When they came to power, they called it Youth Day, a misnomer in an effort to appease their Western masters, and refused to call it what the people still call it today: June 16th 1976 Students Revolt.
Today the world is in South Africa enjoying the World Cup, but the visitors and tourists really never get to see Zwelitsha, Mdantsane, Lukwatini, Gugulethu, New Brighton, Kwa-Mashu Soweto, free of security or the police interfering. The citizens of Soweto are cognizant of this reality, and the present ANC government has taken upon itself to protect the visitors, tourists, illegal aliens against the local populace.
This means, today, the ANC is giving their protective services to all but the South African African people who are their base of support. When the ANC took over power, negotiated a coalition government, and allowed for a "Sunset Clause" with the past regime, and left Apartheid intact, it did this for what was called and is still called the Gravy Train, and becoming slave drivers and slave catchers (witness the creation of 56 courts, In My 2010 World Cup Hub, which mete-out punishment in record breaking pace never ever seen in the country for the 2010 World Cup.(For FIFA?).
The African people in South Africa have been facing tough and rough times during the apartheid regime; today, they face Sad and Bad Times by their own - that is, by a government they put into power through universal suffrage and tried to create a Rainbow Democracy - but today are forlorn, forgotten, forbidden and neglected in their pleas and cries for fairness and a better life.
This is exactly what the Apartheid regime did: it oppressed, depressed, repressed and suppressed the poor African people of South Africa, ignoring the please and protestations of the poor, by gunning them down, intimidating or incarceration, torturing and abusing the African people. The ANC allows the Americans and other money-rich countries to run the Water, Electricity, Culture and society of the African people so long as they have their hands greased with the billions and under the table cash that no one but them sees.
This 20+ year old government of South Africa is acting precisely like the regime it replaced, and in the process, beats up and intimidates, murders, kidnaps and terrorizes its own, so as to look good to the people who are visitors and tourists in South Africa. They have made promises to the Africans when they took over power, and a paltry, if any, of those were kept.
They have promised the Africans that the coming World Cup will enrich their spirits and pockets, but with rampant un-investigated corruption leading to the World Cup, those promises remain empty, and the locals left flabbergasted and bamboozled as to what is going on. The African culture, Music, language and so forth has been tossed out, and a new American/British/European culture has been set in place.
All these things did not happen over the past 20+ years of ANC rule, they have been happening to Africans for over four centuries, but at present, the ANC has worsened the state of Affairs, and in the process, arrogantly ignores, intimidates, oppresses and depresses its own people, and think nothing of it. This partly gets us to the point of talking about June 16th 1976 and why and how it happened; and why and how the same could happen again, albeit differently.
June 16th !976 - The prelude
The thing about Soweto June 16th 1976 is that it did not begin with the events that the world saw in 1976 with the explosive Revolt engineered and steered by the Students in Soweto, and spread throughout South Africa in the days and months that followed.
For a history on Soweto, read my Hub: "South African Apartheid: SOWETO - So Where To?", because the Township school children determined that they are going to solve the problem of Afrikaans and other grievances they had about their treatment in schools and their parents at work in their own way.
In order to be able to understand clearly and have a fuller picture as to why Soweto June 16th 1976 happened, we will delve a little bit into the origins and early history of African schools in South Africa.
A Very Short History Unsung
In the Hub I wrote and referred to above on Soweto, I have written some History on James Sofasonke Mpanza. Some of us did not come into politics in 1976, but were home-grown little activists during the times of James Mpanza. Towards the end of the Hub I will give a much better picture of what I am talking about when I make mention of the name, Mpanza, and the 1976 June Rebellion.
In short, some of us cut our activist/political in the movement that Mpanza created-as if he knew he was preparing us for the oncoming battle-Students Revolution of June 16th 1976.1976. In order to fully appreciate the Story and Revolution of 1976, we need to go back into concrete ancient history.
South African History of African Education
School Children's History 1799 - 1954
Around the 17th and 18th century South Africa, education for Africans was not really required. The African people, right up to the the turn of the 19th century were still not yet conquered, and they were not yet incorporated into the Cape economy, and the schools were open to the children of freed slaves, or children of color who had the opportunity of attending.Reading "Things Fall Apart" will give some sense and context of such time periods).
Dr. J.T. van der Kemp, of the London Missionary Society, in 1799, 21 years before the other missionary entities, before established schools for Africans in the Eastern Cape were built, he built a school specifically for African children. Some other missionaries built schools in the countries that were not yet colonized, Botswana, Lesotho and the Transvaal. After the slaves were freed in 1834, the need for educational facilities was sorely needed for African children. These schools were created in order to create a new discipline into a new society that was being organized-by the colonizers.
During the nineteenth century, missionaries exclusively provided for African education. The missionaries were given land, but they provided the buildings, hired teachers and funded the schools themselves. The government doled out paltry wages to teachers, more so, in 1910, by the Provincial. 'The first government grants to the mission schools, of twenty to thirty pounds per year, were provided after 1841, and were exclusively appropriated for the 'support of the teacher or teachers.' (Howard Rogers, 1949)
The schools needed patronage. The government gave land towards the building schools, hospitals, colleges as well as farms and orchards. The Glasgow Missionary Society, for example, received a grant of some 1,400 acres just inland from East London, and on this they eventually built the Lovedale school complex.
Sir George Grey afforded and gave patronage when he was the cape Governor from 1854, wanted to integrate the African people into the the economy, and he sought a solution by means of which: "The Natives are to become useful servants, consumer of our goods, the contributor to our revenue, in short, a source of strength and wealth to the this colony, such as the Providence designed them to be." (Nosipho Majeka, 1952) Grey then went about the business of breaking the power of the Chiefs and begun to educate a new class of Africans.
Grey brought with him the ideas on education prevalent in Britain. He not only wanted an educated minority, he seemed to have thought that the education of the Cape was too bookish, and he suggested that the missionaries pay more attention to manual education. Grey believed that the missionaries could provide the education he envisaged for Africans.
He brought these to the members of the Glasgow Missionary Society(later a branch of the Free Church of Scotland) who had already established an elementary school in Lovedale, near Alice in the Eastern Cape. (Muriel Horrell, 1963). Grey also persuaded Reverend John Ayliff to start an industrial school at Healdtown, near Lovedale, and he proceeded to support and subsidized missionary schools that provided such training.
Form then on, the missionaries were to provide nearly all African Education, but the government aimed in its policy at a disciplined population that would become an industrious workforce. (P.A.W. Cook, 1949)
There were 2,827 African students by 1825 in South Africa.According to Freda Troup: "Most of these school were short of funds, ill-equipped, with inadequately trained and lowly paid teachers and children often under-fed, over tired and staying too short a time to benefit - gave the mere smattering of elementary letters which touched only a fraction of the child population." (The more things change,, they do so to remain the same)/
In 1862 Dr. Langham Dale found that only five percent of all African children could read, and few teachers had passed standard four. Dr. Dale's successor successor, Sir Thomas Muir found that 60 per cent of all African children at school did not reach Standard 1. In 1882, Donald Ross, The inspector-General, said that half of the 420 schools in Kaffraria (Eastern Frontier area), Basutoland and the Cape could be closed without loss to education (M. Horrell)
Schools like Healdtown, Lovedale, St. Matthew and a few other schools were able to produce some craftsmen and youth who completed standards 3, 4 and 5. T- Otherwise, many other schools were no more than disciplinary schools or centers where youth were kept occupied, according to Dr.Dale, who continued to add:
"The schools are hostages for peace, and if for that reason only 25,000 pounds a year is given to schools in the Transkei, Tembuland and Griqualand, the amount is well spent, but that is not the only reason - to lift the Aborigines gradually, as circumstances permit, to the platform of civilized and industrial life is the great objective of the educational vote"(Cook).
There were some historians that have commented that the education of Africans was too "bookish and unpractical" In 1920, Dr. Jabavu, stated the reasons behind the discontent in an article in which he contrasted the situation in South African schools with that at Booker T. Washington's Tuskagee Institute: "In our schools 'manual labor' consists of sweeping yards, repairing roads, cracking stones and so on, and is done by boys, and under threat of punishment.
"It is defended because 'it makes for character training.' The invariable result is that the boys grow to hate all manual work as humiliating.... Agriculture, that were at all attempted at our schools, has suffered too, from being a motiveless task. It is the most important thing in 'native' life, and therefore deserves a place in the school career of our boys, as it is practiced in the Marianhill native school in Natal...(Jabavu)
By the nineteenth century, the mission schools were now more better if not the same as any other schools in the country. Between 1884 and 1886 it was reported that Lovedale had more passes in the Standard 3, 4 and 5 classes than any other of the 700 schools in the Cape.
Many of the main missionary schools had no color bar, and in some years the number of White pupils enrolled at Lovedale exceeded that of Africans. The pupils slept in segregated dormitories, sat at separate tables (and ate different food!), but they all attended the same classes. In 1885 when the total African enrollment in the Cape schools was 15,568, there were also 9,000 White pupils at the mission schools. (Horrell; Cook)
The discovery of Diamonds in Kimberley by 1867 and Gold in 1886, brought about revenue that made a significant economical change. In order to empower Whites over Africans. The developing racist society created an education that was different for both different races.
In 1889 the Superintendent-General of Education in the Cape said: "The first duty of the government has been assumed to be to recognize the position of the European colonists as holding the paramount influence, social and political; and to see that the sons and daughter of the colonists, and those who come hither to throw in their lot with them, should have at least such an education as their peers in Europe enjoy, with such local modifications as will affirm them to maintain their unquestioned superiority, and supremacy in this land."
This issue above was explored by the Taunton Commission that three grades of schools had been envisaged which would 'correspond roughly, but by no means exactly, to the gradations of society'. The top grade was for the upper-middle class. The boys (but presumably not girls) would stay at school till ages of 18, 16 and 14 respectively and be trained for occupations suitable to their class origin.
All in all, 10 children out of every 1,000 of the population would be in these schools, and eight of these would be in the third grade where they would be fitted for a living as 'small tenant farmers', small (tradesmen, and superior artisans').(R. Williams)
"The schooling offered to whites(as already noted above), would have to be upgraded relative to that provided for Africans, and the schools would have to be more strictly segregated. Legislation put this into effect was soon forthcoming. In 1893 a new law allowed the subsidizing of mission schools that catered only for White children. Only one year previously,White students who had trained as teachers at Lovedale were not allowed to sit the examination. By 1905, the Cape school Board Act established segregated state schools." (Horrell; Troup).
So that, although the graduates of Lovedale emerged with relatively high standards, the government of the day achieved differentiation by pouring and increasing resources into White schools, while the African schools were always short of funds. These changes took place at a time when the Cape no longer needed African school graduates to fill positions in the growing bureaucracy, and opportunities were there for students who emerged from the segregated schools and churches, and occasionally in one of the lower paid positions in government office.
Only a few Africans were able to study overseas or, at a late date, gain entry into South African universities, and so enter the liberal professions. They were the exceptions, not dissimilar from the sons of laborers in Great Britain who managed to surmount the barriers which kept them out of higher education.
In the interior, when Sir Gorge Grey offered the missionaries assistance for their running their schools, White education in the Cape was already 200 year old. The situation in the provinces of Orange Free State, and Transvaal was different to be used as an instrument for incorporating Africans into the colony's economy. In the provinces of Orange Free State and the Transvaal, when one looks at the 'Great Trek', as they moved across the Orange River, they had no resources and were not about to build a school for people who they meant to expropriate/or regarded as inferior and slaves, and the other thing was that they could not afford to school their children.
The first mission station was set up in 1842 and shortly after a school was built. Kilnerton, near Pretoria was established by the Methodists in 1885. Kilnerton trained Africans as teachers with an entrance qualification being standard three, and they were posted to rural schools after a two year stint. The school closed during the Anglo Boer War of 1899-1902, and was reopened in 1903.
It was at this time that a government survey showed that they were 201 mission schools, of which a couple provided the preliminary education for the students who entered Kilnerton. It is important to note that only a few of these schools offered more than a rudimentary instruction in reading and writing.
The government of the day appointed the first superintended in 1904 for African schools, and a special curriculum for African schools was first issued up to Standard 3 level. The government gave a grant of 4,442 pounds to 121 schools, and in 1907 created the first state African state school. The OFS provided a paltry sum of 45 pounds to 80 pounds a year. These were later increased a bit in the subsequent years by the government.(Horrell)
Natal designed a segregation policy to fit its mid-19th century requirements. The British government refused to provide anything, which was required of their system of direct rule, and the small settler community had limited resources. The region for the British had yet to show promise of any economical development situation. The White people also believed that they would be swamped by Zulu who would trek into their new settlements.
The 19 mission settlements lorded over, or held in trust African rights and land and they eventually built schools and churches. In 1865, the government laid-out guidelines for African education in Natal, made provisions for religious education, instruction in the English language and industrial training. The schools were administered by the Governor and finances were provided for from the reserve funds.
The earliest college was Amanzimtoti Institute, later it came to be known Adams College set up by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions(ABCFM), became one of Natal's Premier African Schools, until it was vindictively expropriated a century later. In 1869, ABCFM set up the seminary of Inanda - the first African girl's school in the country. Its objective was to train students to be christian wives, and a course was offered for girls who had run away from polygamous marriages.
The government of the day was working feverishly hard to formulate a blueprint for African education and Intellectual state of mind and state of being.
By 1912 there were 18,000 African pupils in 232 primary schools, five industrial centers and three teacher-training institutes in Natal. In 1910, Orange Free state and Transvaal became provinces within the Union of South Africa. The money to finance the African school was raised from the Native taxes, and more specifically, from the male Africans.
After 1925, the funds for the education of Africans were allocated and increased through legislation. The provinces continued to under fund, and the state did not give funds for buildings and ground.
A considerable amount of the school funding was contributed by the parents of African school children and it provided for the revenue. The number of African children that were receiving any type of formal education was very small. Although enrollment rose during the depression years, a number of teenagers were still not in school.
'By 1936 it was thought that only 18.1 per cent of al African Children were enrolled at one of the schools already mentioned above. In 1946 the figure was 27.4 per cent, and only reached 30 per cent in 1951.
Only in 1960 did this figure rise appreciably to 40 per cent. A large majority of these African students who managed to enter school stayed there for less than four years. Those who were born in 1956 and beyond, were the recipients of the Bantu Education System. Of Which I am a product of.
By 1945, the number of children attending school for more than four years was only 24 per cent of the total school-going population (or seven per cent of those of school-going age). In 1962 only 30 per cent of those who entered school proceeded beyond the second standard. Few of the youth youth who left at this early stage of schooling - many aged from 11 to 13 - could be considered literate age.
Even when enrollment did expand considerably, as it did between 1925 and 1935, state expenditure lagged far behind. The conditions for the education of Africans, by 1935, had deteriorated so much that an Inter-Departmental Committee, consisting of the four Chief Inspectors of Native Education and the Director of the Bureau of Educational and Social Research, was appointed to to examine and report on Native(African) education (South African Institute of Race Relations- SAIRR, 1964).
The children came in increasing numbers to schools that had poor resources, less books and equipment, and grossly overcrowded schools (It is important at this point to look pictures in the picture gallery of the Hub I wrote: "The Miseducation of Africans: Savage Inequalities in Four Part Harmony"; and the first two pictures, and reading the laws of Apartheid rule from 1948 from the Hub: "South African Apartheid: SOWETO -So Where To? In these Hubs,
I have shown pictures and outlined the draconian laws that controlled all aspects of the life of Africans in South Africa. Along with the overcrowded the government kept on stressing that African Education was costly, and they were not prepared to improve it at the cost of threat to White students.
What the Colonialist government did was to stop the taxation of Africans, and advised that the legislation it had introduced required that local authorities to continue spending no less than the amount voted for education in 1921-22. Each province, therefore, pegged expenditure at the 1921-22 level, and this acted as an underdevelopment technique, and a break on further growth and expansion.
The Inter-Departmental Committee found it was disastrous, and little that transpired in many classes and they visited the schools, they found out that little could pass for education. They suggested some amelioration, but fundamentally their task was to exonerate the system, and this they proceeded to do in the language that was familiar from all government departments, up to the 1970s and beyond.
The committee found that there was a divergence between the ultimate aim of education and actual practice in the schools. They claimed that the objective of education was the same for all people. There were, however, reasons for not providing that same schooling: "Practically considered, the aim in the two cases is not the same because the two special orders for which education is preparing White and Africans are not identical..." The committee declared: "The education of the White child prepared him for life in a dominant society, and the education of the African child for life as a subordinate society ..."(Echoes of the Verwoerdian doctrine)
The limits (of native Education) form part of the social and economic structure of the country." The committee recommended that African Education should be financed by the government. They suggested a grant of 3.65 pounds per pupil. Grant paid at the time for White and Colored pupils were 23.85 pounds and 5.20 pounds respectively. Only in 1945 did the government increase its financial contributions to African education.
When the war ended in 1945, an era came to a close in South Africa. During the war there had been large scale influx of Africans into the main urban centers without concomitant increases in housing or transport facilities. There had also been no basic change in the nature of schooling offered to African children . The mission school achieved everything Sir George Grey wanted of them; they provided teachers and religious leaders.
They espoused the philology of 'christian trusteeship', and they had all too successfully transmitted that to most of their pupils. At the same time, the missionaries had been criticized by both the Afrikaner Nationalists and some African people. The Afrikaner people accused the missionaries of 'liberalism'. of propagating the idea equality (of race) and of failing to inculcate the idea of segregation.
The Nationalist documents attacked the education given to Africans and the mission schools of not inculcating the 'habit of doing manual work'(Cook) A contradiction in terms, but there was a consistency of perpetuating a constancy of under-education, miseducation and underdevelopment-and Dumbing Down of Africans.
Criticisms leveled by radical African groups started from very different premises. The presumption was that, From the very beginning the missionaries, who were protagonist of capitalism, sought to implant the ideas of that system. The mission-schools trained the child to accept an inferior position in society, and that the excessive concentration on religious and moral instruction was designed to inculcate 'humility, patience, fear and passivity. One should Read Steven Biko on this subject.
Missionary-controlled education, therefore, have played an important part in subjugating the minds of the African people and in this way ensuring continuance of White domination. (Majeka) It is interesting to note the brash and arrogant attitudes of some of the mind-set of White supremacists in South Africa regarding this point, to date.
The Early HIstory of Boycotts, Protest, Stay-Away and Riots
It is on record that from 1920 through the introduction of Bantu Education in 1954 and beyond, the were periods of outburst in schools wherein students protested and demonstrated, boycotted chapel or classes and rioted. Almost all protests in schools situated in rural school, and the students of those school were boarded on campus. Most occurred in secondary schools, or in 'teachers' training college and the ages of the students ranged from 15 to 20 years. This is one little or hidden historical fact which I will delve into below.
Life in the schools was not easy and the students resented the 'paternalism', and the order that they should work on the 'farm' or 'orchards. The events that led to the demonstrations were the severity of the punishment, assault perpetrated the White staff on both pupils and African servants and about the quality and quantity of food. Students were fed food according to how much they paid per year.
The mission schools created a division among the students in a following manner: "The students were divided into four categories and sat at separate tables: there were the 14 pounds students, the 17 pounds, the 22 pounds and the 27 pounds per year students. The first category of students received meat once a week with the samp (crushed maize), the 17 pounds students had meat twice a week, and so on up the scale 27 pounds (James Phillips)
The students who paid earned them the right to becoming Prefects, they sat at different tables (and got their superior food) and obtained leave of absence more readily than other students. Their peers considered them to the the 'eyes and ears' of the boarding master. When eventually students at Lovedale rioted, the Prefects were the only African attacked by the student body(South African Outlook, 1 January 1947).
Students never made their complaints known for long periods of time, and once the school knew about their discontent, impositions, extra duties, chastisement or threats of expulsion(or actual expulsion were usually enough to quash any collective action). In those days, the completion of secondary school opened the doors into Fort Hare, then, the only University for Africans in South Africa, then.
The Rise Of Workers.
It was at this time that we begin to see the merging of workers, African miners strike, and their holding a conference to strike, was followed by the strike of students on the 7th of August 1946. In fact the student were long involved in strikes, and without knowing about the events of the miners strike, they went on with their strikes. It is also clear that the students were responsive to the events outside their schools because some of the miners were their relatives, fathers, , uncles and so forth.
International relations, events domestically and events in the campus, all these issues played a part in fueling discontent, and unraveled, as noted earlier in the article and in this paragraph. The direct causes of the larger cause of the conflict can be found inside schools and, having started in the schools, the students restricted their actions to the campus. They did not move off the campus, and they did not appeal of the neighboring communities for assistance, Such behavior would not have been inconceivable before the 1970s.
This part of history(above) will need a Hub all its own, but I have summed it up a bit as the last part below in the end of the Hub.
All the actions taken by the by African students ever since in South Africa are political and all school strikes reflected the discontent in South Africa over discriminatory practices. One Witness to the Lovedale Commission put it this way:
"The modern African boy is given access to the newspaper press and is born in an environment of complaint by the African against color bar. They identified the European staff in the institution as part of the government machinery, and so when they went home we find that they are unhappy with the school with the school authorities whereas in our time we worshiped the school authorities authorities.(Ezekiel Mphahlele)
In-depth View of Strikes in the African Schools
The first stoppages of lesson, strikes and riots occurred in 1920, when the students at Kilnerton went on 'hunger' strike. Then a few months later the students at the Theological Seminar at Lovedale rioted and set fire to the building protesting against 'bad bread'. The damage was estimated between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds. About 198 students were brought to trial and received sentences ranging from imprisonment, plus a fine of 50 pounds, and two strokes with a cane. (South African Outlook, 1947).
The were no reports of strike during World War II, but there were many more during the pre-war years. It is therefore not strange that in the 1930s, students who were starved of resources should express their anger by striking, rioting, and burning the premises. On others, there is dearth of information of these events because the government was avoiding bad publicity and hiding these events.
Also, in the reports of the two official Commissions of Inquiry, set up in 1940 and 1946, this theme would be repeated over and over again , even in 1976(30 years later-but this time on an even larger sale-which is what this Hub will be attempting to address])
The investigations of the Commissions did not lead to better conditions in the schools. Between 1943-45 there were more than 20 strikes and serious riots in schools. Each strike led to the expulsions (and often court appearances) - and to renewed disturbances the following academic year. The most serious confrontation occurred on 7 August 1946 (30 years before 1976 Rebellions), followed by, months after that, with at least six more strikes in some schools and colleges. (The Torch, 1946).
Parents were displeased with the closures of schools and colleges, that they organized a delegation to meet the school principals. The Heads of the Association on Native Institutions (as the college principals dubbed themselves), and they appointed four of their members to meet with the Parents delegation. The Parents got little sympathy and were read a prepared statement which basically criticizing them for not exercising tight control on their children. The same was done with the Black Parents Association in June 1976, but our parents were more uniting with us and stuck to our demands.
The four member committee also informed them that breakage of any school rules will not be tolerated; and the Parents were told that this applies exclusively to African children within the Union of South Africa, and were warned that this was going to lead to stricter control of admission, and closer supervision at schools. (Inkundla Ya Bantu, 1945). The same was said to the parents of the students of 1976 (the more things change, the more they stay the same).
Lovedale attracted much attention because it was the premier African school in the country, and from the Commission's report, it was apparent that the school had been in a state of unrest since 1945, that the students had their own unofficial organization known as "The Board"(Same as the SSRC, 3 decades later), and it called for a strike to remove the principal. 17 of the members of this organization were threatened with exclusion if they failed the forthcoming examinations. One of the 17 so-named were able to proceed to the University College of Fort Hare in 1946.
In the first half of 1946, schools were quite despite the introduction of new rules of conduct by the High school's principal who had just finished. After the riots of 7 August, involving damage to school premises and attacks on Prefects and White members of staff, Dr. R.H W. Shepherd, wrote that the staff had no intimation of disaffection - and this despite the events of the previous year! (South African Outlook, 1946).
The spate of student demonstrations was not over, and continued in 1946, followed by five other other schools, a sit-down strike at Bethesda Bantu Training College, Near Pietersburg(Torch, 1946)... Right through the late forties and fifties student struck with repeated intensity and destruction through boycotting and riots.
One commentator summed this mood as follows: "At almost every African mission boarding school conditions for students are deplorable and this has been the root of all the minor revolt which have taken place from time to time at these institutions.
"Food and the Nazi-like control are usually the main causes for disaffection. Last week the authorities were expecting some sort of explosion at Healdtown (Methodist) Missionary College ... Police at five Eastern Cape towns were asked to stand-by in case something should happen at the college. Earlier, last week, 100 senior pupils were sent home after a passive resistance strike - escorted off the premises by 20 (armed) police ..." (Torch, 1953; Eastern Province Herald, 1953)
There was a paltry number of Black students in White universities, and were allowed to attend the lectures, but were pinned down by the quota system imposed upon Africans. Despite the many disabilities Africans encountered in Johannesburg and Cape Town, they felt that the education they are demanding is worth getting and fighting for. Throughout World War II, Fort Hare had strikes every year.
The strike in 1941 happened because an African teacher was brutally assaulted and an African Waitress in the the Hall; and another one was in 1942 when the boycotting of religious services led to the suspension of 59 students, and there was also another strike in 1943.
Writing at that time, a student noted: "The whole matter revolves around the principles of whether or not University Students are going to allow themselves to be bullied like kindergarten children. It is the old matter of White South Africa regarding the non-European as nothing better than a grown-up baby." (Guardian, 1941; Inkundla ya Bantu, 1943; Guardian, 1942)
A new political mood was beginning to form among Africans in the war years, and a section of the educated ones formed the Congress Youth League. The central core was drawn from the graduates of St. Peter, the Anglican school in Johannesburg, Lovedale, Healdtown, or Adams College. The Youth League did not seek contact with students at schools, and it also included some who had graduated from Fort Hare and those that were expelled because of strikes.
A small branch was finally formed in 1948 within the university of Fort hare. Dr Gordon writes: "In that year, the Congress Youth League-sponsored Program of Action was officially accepted by the ANC(African National Congress),and it was more radical than Africans to reject alliances with any other racial groups."
Gordon belonged to NEUM and opposed the CYL and its Africanist bent, but he also admired their actions on the campus, while rejecting their nationalistic philosophy.
Gordon commented as follows to give a picture of the events at the time:
"The African student is more politically conscious at Fort Hare than any non-European student at any South African university... For the African [as distinct from Colored and Indian students], Fort Hare is a hive of political activity. He questions freely and openly every suggestion made by the European, whether lecturer or visitor ...
"So tense is the atmosphere that politics is brought into every College activity, whether it be a hostel meeting, church service, a sports gathering, a college lecture or a social gathering. I must express great admiration for the unity which existed in the African ranks of the Youth League. They had a feeling of oneness and suspension and expulsion were not feared, while fighting the cause of the African."
That is probably why they were reluctant to admit any other racial group into their organization. The colored and Indian students had no political program ... At a Completer's Social three Youth Leaguers addressed the students in the presence of the principal and the staff that turned a social gathering into a
violent attack on the political and social conditions prevailing in the land. The slogan for the evening was "Africa for Africans'... " One of the Youth League speakers for the evening was Robert Mangaliso "Prof" Sobukwe, who later became the leader of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).
Apartheid Ready To Go
The students faced increasing restrictions and a hardening of attitudes in the aftermath of the Nationalist Party's success at the polls in 1948; the students were faced with the ushering-in of Official Apartheid rule from 1948. When Apartheid rule took over the reigns of government, in 1954, they introduced "Bantu Education.
I have written extensively about Bantu Education in the Hubs, "The Miseducation of Africans: Savage Inequalities in Four Part Harmony" and this is covered in the same Hub under the sub-heading: "South African Specifically - Disharmoniously Orchestrated Miseducation Part Two: Bantu Education: Pedagogy for Mental Disorders ; one can also visit the picture gallery and see the pictures that are used to show how apartheid treated school children in the early sixties. One can also read the following Hub: "South African Apartheid: SOWETO - So Where To?" In it, one can read the extensive sub-topic titled "South African Concentration Camp Laws" and see the Draconian Legislature that the new Apartheid regime instituted when it came into power.
Bantu Education Part Deux
It is worth noting that Bantu education, with all its bad intentions, groomed African students who in the end saw to its downfall. The conditions for African Students at this time were in such a bad state that Dr. O.D. Wollheim found the conditions deplorable that he wrote: "Native education has been in an appalling condition ... Buildings in most cases consist of tin shanties or wattle and daub huts into which are are crammed two or three times the number of pupils which the room should hold.
The equipment is correspondingly pitiful ... The salaries paid to teachers are likewise appalling ... The teacher will occasionally be found to be teaching from eighty to a hundred pupils in two or three different standards all in the same room." At the same time, Africans were totally dissatisfied with the school system as the following account given by Muriel Horrel attests:
"... there was a growing antagonism among Africans to the mission control of schools. Opponents of this system wanted their schools to be administered the same way as those of Whites, and felt that Departmental schools were better off in regard to funds and supplies. Of 2000 mission schools in the Transvaal, 800 had been transferred to the Department (of Education) by about 1949."
As has been noted earlier in this Hub, the amount of State contributions to African school, along with suppliers and payroll, were paltry in terms of what White schools got.
Although the Afrikaners were a minority in terms of the white population, they were fighting very hard for control of the economy and the State. The did not accept the same for Africans and they found it inexcusable. The African people were in a position of subordination, and their overriding concerns was not being taught in their mother tongue, as the Afrikaners insisted on having their Afrikaans language be recognized nationally and in education, but that they wanted an education that would allow them to play their full part in commerce and industry, the economy and politics.
In reality, what lay behind the Afrikaner aspirations was cogently put by a school inspector in 1943 thus: "The Afrikaner teacher will show Afrikaanerdom what a power they possess in the Teachers Associations to build up the country's youth for the future of the republic. I know of no potent instrument ... A nation is born by having its youth impregnated at school in the traditions, customs, ways and ultimate destiny of its people." (J. Malherbe, 1962).
He was so right, and that's what we saw and demanded in our actions, displayed on our placards and marches. They created a rebels out of "Us" African Students, who later in the decades, went on to start initiating the fall of Apartheid.
Bantu Education Philosophy, Theory and Ideology
In 1948, the Afrikaner Nationalist Christian Education(CNE) wrote out a set of 15 articles and laid down the philosophical, theoretical and ideological framework Education of which the first thirteen of these were devoted to the problems of White education. These were written down as follows: "All white children should be educated according to the views of life of their parents. Consequently, all Afrikaans-speaking children should have a Christian Nationalist education ... The key subject in school should be religion ...
"All teaching should also be nationalist ... Owing to the Fall, all children are born sinful, but the children of believers have inherited God's promise, through Christian redemption ... the necessity for education lies in the fact that the child's soul is undeveloped ... Civics should teach the child to preserve the Christian and nationalist character of home, church, society and State. Every nation is rooted in a country allotted to it by God.
"Geography should aim at giving the pupil a thorough knowledge of his own country ... he will love his own country, also when compared and contrasted with others, and be ready to defend it, preserve it from poverty and improve it for posterity. History should be seen as the fulfillment of God's plan for humanity ... Next to the mother tongue, the history of the fatherland is the best channel for cultivating the love of one's own which is nationalism.
"In normal circumstances, the church should not erect schools, but may be compelled to do so (a) if the existing schools are unchristian and unnationalistic and (b) in the heathen world, Science should be expounded in a positively Christian light, and contrasted with non-Christian science. All authority in school is borrowed from God ... Unless (the teacher) is a Christian, he is a deadly danger to us.(Blueprint for Blackout, pgs. 17-22)
Articles 14 and 15 were devoted to issues for Colored and Native education. The article on African education stated: "The White South African's duty to the native is to Christianize him and help him culturally. Native education should be based on the principles of trusteeship, non-equality and segregation; its aim should be to inculcate the White man's way of life, especially that of the Boer nation, which is the senior trustee. The mother-tongue should be the basis of native education, but the two official languages should be learned as keys to the cultures from which the native will have to borrow in order to progress.
Owing to the "cultural infancy" of the native , the state, in co-operation with the protestant churches should at present provide Native education. But the native should be fitted to undertake his own education as soon as possible, under control and guidance of the state(White people). Native education should lead to the development of an independent, self-supporting Christian-Nationalist Native community(The beginning of the idea of Bantustans- my addition) Native education should not be financed at the expense of the White. (Blueprint for Blackout)
The Bantu Education Act of 1953 was an administrative rather than a substantive measure . It put the control of African education by the Native Affairs, and drafting of all regulations with the Minister, and no educational institution could be established or conducted without his permission Dr, Verwoerd outlined the philosophy of Bantu Education for this department, in 1954 by making his intentions very clear:
"When I have control of the Native Education, I will reform it so that the Natives will be taught from childhood to realize that equality with Europeans is not for them ...
"People who believe in equality are not desirable teachers for Natives ... When my department controls Native is fitted, and whether he will have a chance in life to use his knowledge ... What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice? That is quite absurd. The school must equip him to meet the demands which the economic life will impose on him
"There is no place for him [or her, presumable!] above the level of certain forms of labor. For that reason, it is of no avail for him to receive a training which has as its aim absorption in the European Community" (A.N. Pelzer, 1966). A clear contradiction from Sir George Grey's objective of educating Africans so that they can function in a White run national economy. The Afrikaaners were intent on creating an African slave society working for the upliftment and benefit of the White Race.
Transferring schools to the Department of Bantu Education created the displacement of students from schools after their structures had been altered. Teacher-training for boys was discontinued at St, Matthews, and the school was restricted to girls. Lovedale, which was one co-educational, was transformed into a single-sex school and its industrial department was closed down. All the displaced boys and girls were given five months in which to find alternative accommodation, and most found that there was no place for them in schools which already had long waiting lists: they were forced to abandon their education(Phyllis Ntantala, 1960)
In studying the history of schools, it has become clear that the introduction of Bantu Education, meant the destruction of African Education as the Africans knew it. That Whites in South Africa are superior, which was set up and facilitated for by the successive governments, leading to the Apartheid regime's coming into power in 1948. The reorganization of schools showed the government's determination to wipe out the old traditions.
'At Lovedale', said Ntantala, 'the Cuthbert Library, 'one of the biggest and best libraries in the country' was dismantled, the books sold, the library building converted into a storeroom for Departmental books. The campus sites were allowed to deteriorate and most of the maintenance staff were dismissed. All the chores were allocated to the pupils, and compulsory manual work was introduced both before an after school hours.
Ms Ntantala lists some of the student' discontent and administrative repression'.(P. Ntantala) Thirty senior girls were expelled from Shawburry in the Transkei in 1957; 200 men sent home on the eve of the examinations at St. John's College; over 300 students at Lovedale staged a walkout on February 1959, and went home. The incidents continued, moving from one school to another. In 1960, 420 students were sent home from Tigerkloof School in the Cape. A carpentry block was subsequently burnt down, students were detained and eight were eventually sentenced.(SRRSA, 1959-60)
The school disturbances never stopped, and the list of expulsions grew. It could not have been otherwise: the educational system had to breed rebels, and the students had to react. The repressions, whether overt or covert, led students to confrontation situations: the intransigence of the staff led to periodic explosions. Rebellion was endemic in these colleges and schools and so long as they were isolated events, they could be hidden from the public's scrutiny by the government of the day.
When the time came, as it did in 1976, that the revolts were too large to be concealed, and when, furthermore, they coincided with deep worker's strikes and antagonisms in the country, the 1976 student's rebellion took the country to the edge of a full fledged revolution. During the 1976 June 16th Rebellions, the students stepped right outside the classroom and entered the community and social battleground for the first time inside and within their communities: henceforth, workers, community and student formed a united front that would eventually topple the Apartheid regime.
AMANDLA! POWER! JUNE 16TH 1976's BATTLE CRY
The number of pupils in African schools had increased by over 150 per cent in the period in the period 1955-69, but the number of school leavers who were literate was low. The same effect schools had among Africans when it was introduced and denied finance during Sir George Grey's era, was still prevalent, on the eve and during the 1976 Rebellion. A government estimate based on figures taken from the 1970's census, claimed that 49.5 per cent of Africans aged 15 years and over were literate according to the United Nations definition of the term.
Even this figure was higher than would be expected from schools where the drop-out rate was 55 per cent in the first four years. Of the children enrolled in African schools in 1969, 25 per cent were in the first year (Sub-standard A), and a further 45 per cent were enrolled in the next three standards (sub-standard B, and standards 1 and 2. In 1969 only 4.33 per cent pupils were in Secondary School (SRRSA, 1970), and very few completed the fifth(and final form successfully). In 1969, only 869 obtained a pass mark which would entitle them to proceed to a degree course at a university.
Not all would proceed to higher education, but even if they did, 869 would represent only a tiny fraction of the total South African university enrollment of over 83,000 in 1970 (Mercurius No. 10, 1970, UNISA) It is obvious that the government of South Africa from the 1700's to 1976 and beyond, never had the intention to make any alterations in the school system, and the Department of Bantu Education refused to allow any private corporations or individuals to donate money or equipment for African education.
The Apartheid government, building up on the racist policies of the past South African government gave White children a head-start that when they reached advanced years in their endeavors, decided to allow Africans to be at the starting line, and to try and catch-up to their near the finish-line White peers. The underdevelopment of Africans and their Education under the banner of Bantu Education in apartheid-run South Africa, has given all White people an unfair advantage over Africans.
Even today, White people still have the arrogance that they are better than Africans, who are backwards and incapable of learning, after having been given all the right and secure tools for them to be more advanced more than Africans, and by design, made into a protocol and rigidly perpetrated through draconian fiat and, harsh control through police/security(BOSS - Bureau of State Security) enforcement.
There is some evidence that BOSS was aware of the possibility of the 1976 situation being explosive, and even giving rise to concerted student action. Any way, no one was in a better position to know better than South Africa's BOSS(Bureau Of State Security), that in the end, they will have to face the wrath of their subjects, and in this particular case, the African people of South Africa, led by African students.. One can read "Inside BOSS."
The Gathering Revolutionary Clouds And Storm
The Minister of Education announced that the proposed changes in the language of instruction would commence in 1976. One half of all subjects were to be taught in Afrikaans, the others in English, in standard 5 and Form I(Standard Seven) The government(Bantu Education Department) had eliminated Standard six, so that students would pass from standard 5 to From I.
It was also stipulated that arithmetic and mathematics(the subjects with the highest failure rate) together with social studies(history and geography) would in future be taught in Afrikaans. There was an immediate protest by the teachers, because all African Teacher Training Colleges, were conducted in the English-language medium of instruction, and most African teachers were not proficient in Afrikaans.
The teachers refused to teach in the Afrikaans medium. But the government made it clear that they would countenance no changes in the regulations, and that both social studies and mathematics had to be taught in Afrikaans. No explanation was offered for this intransigence, and no explanation given for the need to teach mathematics(in particular) in Afrikaans.
One document shows the connection between the new regulation and labor need of the South Africa: The Apartheid regime had decidedly lowered the standards of education among Africans, and with a Booming 1970's economy, the need for manpower was sorely need, thus the decision to teach Africans in Afrikaans in all the science courses and History was seen as a watershed in many areas of society.
On 20 January 1976, the Board of the Meadowlands Tswana School Board(Soweto), was given an explanation for the new language regulations by a circuit inspector, and after telling them that all tax contributions by Africans were used to pay for education in the homelands, the inspector went on to say: "In urban areas the education of an African child is being paid for by the White population, that is English - and Afrikaans-speaking groups. Therefore, the Secretary for Bantu Education had the responsibility towards satisfying the English - and Afrikaans-speaking people."(SRRSA, 1976)
There were to be no exemptions, except for a few schools for one, because the needs of the White population(Afrikaans-speaking in this case) had to be satisfied(which was more labor power, and subjugation of the African people), through the implementation of Afrikaans in over fifty per cent of the subjects taught in African schools.
In 1970, at least two years before SAS/BPC and BCP had organized any school pupils, senior students from three secondary schools in Soweto (Orlando West High, Diepkloof High School and Orlando High School) had met to found the African Students Movement. In 1972 they met with students from the Cape and the Eastern Transvaal and called themselves the South African Student Movement(SASM). The students in SASM belonged to youth clubs in the townships, and informal groups within the Townships. In an interview, Tebello Motapanyane, Secretary General of the SASM in 1976, described the situation as the students saw it:
"We were, of course, very alive and aware to the fact that we as African people were being oppressed. The students especially were quite sensitive and we were all the time trying to find a way of doing something about it. It was just unfortunate that we were not so clear about how to show our anger and resentment in a clear an political way. But we certainly expressed ourselves indirectly in things like poetry reading and so on."
The informal sector of the students gathering were listening to ANC's Radio Freedom broadcasting from Maputo(and incorporated into their language 'Aluta Kontinua", egging themselves on to continue with their struggles and in solidarity with Zimbabwe, held talks in Shebeens(today known as Taverns), in soccer matches, in parties and gigs, discussing the ways and means of attacking the 'system' , as it was commonly called.
Motapanyane explained and clarified that SASM was not an offshoot of SASO, and maintained that the student movement was formed independently and was autonomous, but both bodies had the same and common ideas, and stated that Black Consciousness was a philosophy both groups had propagated. Even if its true that SASM was autonomous, it did have direct links with the movements that formed SASO-BPC-BCP organizations. Black Review, 1972, reported: "The main aim of SASM is to co-ordinate activities of high school students. Their other main areas of operation are their informative programs concerning injustice in society and in schools and their campaign to preach Black Consciousness."(Reality, 1974)
Even though SASM was chased into exile, it did have some connections with the ANC. There were students who were friends with members of SASM, but they were still in high school, yet at the same time they were very radical. SASM had been in existence for seven years and it had never really taken off. By early 1976, its prestige stood at a low ebb. It was banned in many schools by headmasters, and had no really striking achievements to its credit(Z, Vol. 2, No. 5).
The activities of SASM were not different to that of BCP sponsored groups and consisted of projects to assist senior school students to: prepare for fifth form examinations: improve study techniques; bridge the Junior Certificate*third Form)-matriculation gap; bridge the matriculation-university gap; helped students choose the right career or profession(Black Review, 1973)
What was extremely important was the fact that SASM continued to exist, openly or clandestinely throughout and agitating against the new regulations in the schools in 1976, and had the personnel to take the decision that led to the demonstration of June 16. Up to the first confrontation with the police, it was the members of SASM that provided what leadership there seemed to be in Soweto - That is, from June 16th, 1976, and beyond, The SRC took over the reigns of leadership under Tsietsi Mashinini, in 1976, when SASM was run out of the country into exile.
Soweto June 16th 1976 and its Domino Effect
When W.C. Ackerman, director of Bantu Education in the southern Transvaal region which included Soweto, issued a directive late in 1974,compelling principals of school boards, who administered schools, to use Afrikaans as medium instruction from the beginning of the 1975 school term, he could not have realized that he was stirring an hornet's nest.
He could never have thought there would be any resistance against his ruling. His predecessor, Dr. Jacobus Bernandus de Vaal, had after all successfully introduced ethnic school boards in Soweto in 1972, despite the opposition from the community. The parents of Soweto pupils told Dr. de Vaal that tribal school boards would not be in the interest of the people of Soweto.
Almost to a man, the school board representatives voiced their disquiet, but he implemented his policy, anyway; a policy which was that of the Bantu Education Department generally and in particular of the South African Apartheid Government. And before that the government had, again, through Dr. de Vaal, implemented 'tribal schools', making sure that African children from various ethnic groups were no longer educated side by side. Each group (or the 9 African South African groups), had to have its own schools and, subsequently, its own administrators.(Thus, The road To The Bantustan Apartheid Policies and Creations)
The government's rigid 'divide-and-rule tactic, obviously aimed at frustrating any growth of a "national spirit" among the African people, was now complete. Now that everything had been done, not only to separate Africans from whites, but also Africans from Africans along 'tribal' lines, and the master's language had to be rammed down the African child's throat. Soweto was shaken and in the end of it all, The Whole Townships Woke Up.
Parents and teachers were wondering as to how could African school children expected to learn through three languages? Was English and the other-tongues not sufficient handicaps? Now it must also be Afrikaans, no matter how badly qualified teachers were to handle other subjects in that language.
It should then be remembered that the Department of Bantu Education, through Michel C. Botha, reinforced what this Hub has been talking about in the historical narrative part above, that , the fact that they were not prepared to help subsidize and improve African schools, they were prepared to make it harder for Africans to learn anything, anyway-this is what was hard-core Apartheid in another of its many manifestations.
Pretoria, like the earlier governments in the 18th and 19th century governments, shirked its responsibility of providing for African schools in the midst of the crippling shortages and fluctuating economy. Africans parents, as already noted above, were ignored, not heard and dismissed as if they were children, and the regime did as it pleased, anyhow.
The government had also turned-down a comprehensive teacher training institution for the Ghetto inhabitants, which was an attempt to alleviate the woeful problem of teacher shortage and inexperience, by the Parents of the students of Soweto. Leading up to the 1976 revolt, the classroom were crammed reaching the ration of 1 is to 90 per class. Most pupils did not even have text books because their parents could not afford them.
No one was able to shake the government into action at any time throughout the school strikes over the decades to change its approach, and the situation was just hopeless and heart-rending. The situation began to deteriorate and the Government officials arrogantly ignored the protestation and signs of the dark clouds of hostility that were gathering in the the horizon and in the midst of the African population (especially in Soweto).
The Soweto Students and Residents Push Back
The directive that was issued specifically affected the students who were now on the boil regarding school matters because this meant that they were to study Mathematics and history and geography in Afrikaans; general science and practical subjects (homecraft, needlework, metalwork, arts and crafts) as well as agriculture in the former two in Afrikaans and and latter lot in English.
The mother tongue would be used to teach religious education, music and physical education. What a burden! The Boers looked upon the Africans as slaves who were to be told what to do, and how to do it, and when to do it. The parents and school principals as well as the 'tribal' school boards saw the injunction as the brain-child of a political, not educational motive.
This was the last straw and consequently they stirred, resisted and begun to organize and support those teacher who were suspended. They formed the Federal Council of Transvaal School Boards under the chairmanship of Cornelius Marivate, a Pretoria teacher with considerable standing with the community.
When Ackerman failed to brow-beat the parents and school boards, he threatened the teachers that they would not be considered for senior posts and their will be no salary increase for them. Mr. Joseph Peele and Abmer Letlape were dismissed and Peele was demoted and Letlape inserted by the Department of Bantu Education. But the replaced man, he too refused to implement the language ruling In one of the meetings, and these leaders were threatened with violence by the students and community, if they accepted the places of those who resigned or were fired.
A crisis had developed. The Soweto community, was disillusioned and anger and bitterness was rife. The parents instructed and warned teachers not to teach their children in Afrikaans. The youth was becoming agitated and restless, bitter and angry. They saw their parents losing the battle with the officials of the Department of Education, and most of them did not want to accept defeat, at any cost.
The widespread opposition to the new regulation which brought together conservatives and radicals, teachers, workers and students, indicated that many strands of opposition - based on very different premises - were uniting against something more than an instruction over language. In 1976 the united stand against Afrikaans, was only an external manifestation of the deep resentment inside the township against the entire administration(Apartheid, if you like).
Moreover, the language predominantly used by the police, prison warders, pass-office officials, Township administrators and the entire bureaucracy was Afrikaans. And all these officials in these areas of administration were hated by the African people for the way they abused their power and totally disliked the use of Afrikaans and regarded it as the language of the oppressor.
Active student opposition seems to have commenced with the students at Belle Primary school who went on strike around early or February 1976. This was followed up by the students at Thomas Mofolo Secondary School and their Principal over the introduction of Afrikaans on 24th February 1976. The secretary of the African Teachers Association of South Africa stated the teachers case in this manner:
"To say that the Africans are opposed to the study of Afrikaans is a gross understatement ... In strict terms what we oppose now is the manner in which this is being done without regard to the interests of the children concerned. An if this trend continues without being checked, then the education of the African will no longer matter (Weekend World, 1975)
Motapanyane related as to how the 1976 Rebellion began: "As early as March 1976, Thomas Mofolo was the first school to have Afrikaans imposed on it, and immediately there was a student protest. In March 1976, the principal called in the police to cool the students and force them to accept Afrikaans. Some students, from my school, Naledi High School, went there to Investigate their problems. We also visited schools in Meadowlands.
"We found that these students also felt bitter about what the government was doing. They immediately stopped attending classes because they felt as we did that what was needed was positive reaction. The Naledi High School SASM branch also went to Orlando West Junior Secondary School.... The students there agreed with us and started destroying their books and refused to attend classes.
"And this was the first effective protest started in Soweto ... because the students there were quite clear about what they wanted. Despite the threat by the Bantu Education inspector that the school would be closed ... they remained very firm ... we went on to other schools ... By May 1976, the protest actions were quite general in many schools throughout Soweto." (SRRSA, 1976)
By now a large number of schools in Soweto were in an uproar. Normal lessons were replaced by debates on current affairs or the shape of things to come. Teachers joined pupils in these discussions; the students discussed The US Policy, the role of Black Consciousness, Martin Luther, Frelimo, Guinea Bissau, Frantz Fannon, Biko, Che and Castro(the Cuban Revolution), Nkrumah, the martyred brothers and sisters in the hands of BOSS and the police troupes and Death Squads romping/roaming throughout the country; and usually these discussion were saluted with the "Aluta Kontinua!" 'the "Struggle Continues!" shouts.
Samora Machel, Amilcar Cabral, Augostino Neto, Fanon, Biko and Ben Bella and many others, were recognized and held up as Africa's leaders. They were talked about, also, and on how the country could change to majority rule, and at times only a few and unnoticed nor unknown few were talking about revolution-and everyone else sensed and knew that was the ultimate goal: Revolution.
To the students of Soweto, these were some of the leaders and the struggles they were involved in that they would be the further discussed as the students walked home with their different crews and delivered the information to those in the community, streets and homes.
Some schools were more politically astute and inclined than others, and the discussions that were now taking place varied from one school to the next. Many of the Schools like Orlando High, Orlando West and Naledi high and Morris Isaacson High were developing a very strong and conscious leadership in the months to come. At this time, more people were conscious as communities more than they were as belonging to any particular organization.
By May 17, 1,600 pupils had withdrawn from Orlando West Junior Secondary School, and over 500 pupils at the Phefeni Junior Secondary School refused to attend classes and stoned the principal's office.
The following day two further schools closed and the children congregated in the school grounds, playing and skipping, standing in circles of debate and discussion about issues in other schools and their parents attempts to coral them into classrooms; meanwhile, the teachers idly stood by, or participated, but neither interfered with the students behavior.(Black Review)
The students left classes in droves, although they sometimes drifted back, but they never heeded the threats made by the Department of Bantu Education, instead they grew bolder and more fearless...
The first overt violence was reported on 27th May, when a teacher of Afrikaans at Pimville, pupils at the Belle Higher primary School stoned children who had returned to classes during an apparent lull in the boycotts Higher Primary school, and one was stabbed with a screwdriver. The police who arrived to arrest the offending pupil were stoned.
The stoning were henceforth a regular feature of the violence that was evident everywhere. On 5 June, pupils at the Belle Secondary School stoned children who had returned to classes during an apparent lull in the the boycotts.
"Early in June the police sent their men to collect one of our colleagues ... They arrested one student but he was later released. Then on the 8th they came again. Hey, it was unfortunate for them to be seen by the students; they were beaten and their car was burnt. On that day, they were coming to arrest our local secretary of SASM at our school ... in connection with the student protests..."(Rand Daily Mail, May 1976; SRRSA, 1976)
Hell broke loose, and the students vented their anger onto the police, and the revolt went into full swing revolutionary mode
When the Afrikaans language problem hit Soweto at the beginning of 1975, representatives of the two bodies attended parents' meetings. They kept students adequately informed about developments.
For a whole year parents and school boards had appealed in vain to have the Afrikaans ruling rescinded. And after the state of the 1976 school year, the Bantu Education regional office went out of its way to see that policy was carried-out by all schools.
Some teachers at some schools began teaching stipulated subjects in Afrikaans as ordered by the regional director. Then the students at Phefeni Junior Secondary School decided to boycott classes on May 17th 1976. By the beginning of the next moth(June 1976) four other schools had joined the boycott.
Without talking too much at this point about the Afrikaans language issue, as had already been pointed-out at the start of the Hub, African education had for decades and centuries been circumscribed. Since its inception in 1955, Bantu Education, it had been badly or not financed at all.
The financing of African schools was pegged at 13 million per year. Teachers were badly paid, making the profession unattractive.(Mashabela) The schools had few libraries and laboratories, if there were any. this has shown to be an ongoing theme of separate development and underdevelopment of Africans in South Africa-and has been partly addressed above in a historical timeline.
The books were old and not on par with the needs of the students, and the laboratory equipment was terribly poor or non-existent. The classes were congested, and two sessions had to be used, and in high schools some students were encouraged to miss class so that the teachers are able to balance the numbers, since in many instances there were about 90 students per class; at certain times they had to use double classes that had a panel partition in order to accommodate the many students in attendance.
No free stationery and free textbooks were available in spite of the agonizing and grinding poverty facing the African parents and their household-their poverty-stricken families provided for them. The quality of African education was not only poor, but the African experience also showed that good education for a black man was in many ways a liability. It was never an asset if one were to recall the words of Dr. Verwoerd above.
Often Africans were said to be too educated to get employment even in industry. And even where jobs were available, rewards were minimal. In fact, African talents were not supposed to be developed to the full, nor their skills used adequately. Racial discrimination held sway all round. But education authorities still remained adamant and would not yield to the children's demands. After all they had beaten and shut down their parents to go along with it.
The **ish Hit The Fan
Black People's Convention(BPC) suggested to the leadership of SASM, the High School movement, to show solidarity with those higher primary and Junior Secondary schools who were boycotting classes. The suggestion was accepted and a decision to hold a protest march involving all high school children in their individual capacity as students and not as members of South African Student's Movement(SASM), was taken. This is why most of us came into the movement, not as part of an organization, but amorphous mass of Revolutionaries.
That way, it was felt, the march would involve even those students who were not SASM members. The plan for the march then began with Tsietsi Mashinini(Of The Students Representative Council-SRC) at the helm. Student meetings were held at various High Schools throughout Soweto. There was support for the proposed protest march every where and finally, Wednesday June 16th, was chosen as D-day/ or as the talking points of today would frame it: "Ground Zero Day..
Wednesday, June 16th 1976
A woman colunist,Lucy Gough Berger of the Star was caught up in the crowds around "Beverley Hills, in Soweto, and later wrote:
"I couldn't get over their size. The boys bulked out of their clothes; the girls,legs like sturdy tree trunks beneath their gyms, squarely stood their ground... One look at the sullen expression of a group of hefty girls put paid to my idea of talking to them. A teacher from the school came to us: 'Get that car out of here - they're coming!' he urged. On the brow of the hill, in a great dusty whirlwind, a phalanx of High School kids chanting surged down the road in thousands. Below us, pupils from Phefeni began running to meet them.
"'Hurry!' cried the teacher. Timothy, the driver, turned into the deserted long drive of Orlando West High School. The river of placard and stick-waving pupils outside the school's meshed fence converged like two rivers of protest in an emotional embrace. That was the moment they saw me snapping away from behind a tree. A black youth of about fifteen years, with a two meters long saw blade, thrust his face close to mine.
"Another pinioned me against the car. 'What do you want?' they screamed. I mouthed something, but nobody heard. All round were menacing clenched fists and shouts of "Black Power"! Get out of this ground now,' roared a youth waving a whopping big stick. 'This is Black property. Get out, get out white woman,' they chanted. It was the driver Timothy - cool, wise Timothy - whose words in that split second, while the mob hesiated, saved me
."'Leave her alone!. She's from a newspaper, she is not from the Department of Bantu Education,' he pleaded. 'Alright Daddy, take your car and take her out of here!' The youth with the saw blade cleared the way like a cop while the pupils fell back a few centimeters and continued thumping on the windows of the hemmed-in car. At the gate, the escort ceased."
Few, if any, of the pupils gathered together on 13 June could have envisaged their proposed demonstration as a 'rehearsal for revolution'(Some of us knew it was a Revolution). It was nevertheless a rehearsal of revolutionary awareness that had grown out of the increasing tempo of clashes in the preceding months.
The number of youth that gathered for the demonstration at 7.00 a.m. on the morning of the 16th of June was an indication of the intensity of feeling in the schools, centered emotionally on the issue of Afrikaans.
Fifteen thousand or more youth, ranging from 7 to 25 years, were ready to march off, bearing slogans written on cardboard torn from packing cases or on the stiff overs of old exercise books. The banners were all makeshift and bore signs of rapid construction, and the slogans were simple and to the point"
- Down With Afrikaans!
- Afrikaans is Oppressors Language!
- Abolish Afrikaans!
- Blacks are not Dustbins - Afrikaans Stinks!
- Afrikaans is Tribal Language-To Hell With it!
- 50-50 Afrikaans and 50-50-Zulu For Vorster!
The animated massive crowd crammed Vilakazi Street opposite both Phefeni Junior Secondary and Orlando West alongside sedate 'Beverly Hills''. Standing almost half a mile deep down the road, the huge crowd blocked the entire street. Exuberant, and buoyant, they sang and waved their placards. Five white officer in blue uniforms stood side by side in the middle of the road about fifteen paces away faced the sea of black faces below-with the bridge behind them.
Behind them more and more uniformed police, most of them black, and riot squad men, armed with rifles and accompanied by howling dogs, alighted from police trucks. They strode down the tarred road towards the officers, and the amassed pupils. They joked among themselves as they moved on. Several women, some with babies strapped on their backs, watched in groups from the roadside. Eeriness hung in the air...
'Are you going to kill our children?', a woman in the group asked an African police sergeant as he strode past. 'No, there'll be no shooting,' said the officer calmly. 'The children are not fighting anybody; they're only demonstrating...' he was still talking when the White officer on the extreme right quickly stepped to the side, stooped down and picked a stone. Then he hurled the object into the huge crowd.
Before the aforementioned incident of a rock throwing policeman, some early incidents foreshadowed the police reactions that was to be unleashed an hour or two later. A car carrying four plain clothes policemen from the direction of Jabulani police station raced after them. As the car stopped and its occupants got our, the two students saw them and fled. One policeman drew a pistol, fired two shots into the air and then a third at the young boy with the placard that read '50-50 Afrikaans and 50-50 for Vorster'.
The policeman missed and the boy disappeared from view. Near Dube Vocational College a teargas canister was thrown from a car into a contingent of marching pupils. The car sped off and the crowd retaliated with stones. Several Black police attempted to halt another contingent of marchers and were chased-off by hundreds of pupils who shouted: "You black policemen go and stay with your Whites in town!" (Star, 1976)
By the time several thousands of pupils had converged near Orlando West Junior Secondary School, as discussed above, there had been several brushes with units of the police. The atmosphere was tense and expectant, but the students continued to sing. Shortly before 9 a.m., a senior pupil and one of the leaders called for quiet and addressed the crowd:
"Brothers and sisters, I appeal to you - keep clam and cool. We have just received a report that the police are coming. Don't taunt them, don't do anything to them. Be cool and calm. We are not fighting. All we want is that the department and officials must listen to the grievances of our brothers and sisters in the [higher] and lower schools" (Cape Times, 1976; Sophie Tema, 1976)
As the hundreds of students arched towards Orlando East, about 50 police emerged from the vehicles spread out in an arc facing facing the pupils. Despite the tense atmosphere, the huge crowd remained calm and well ordered. The pupils were singing the African national anthem in Sotho: "Morena Boloka Sechaba sa heso" (God save our nation)
After the white cop threw a stone, and the school children retaliated by throwing back a barrage of bricks, stones and bottles, another White policeman suddenly threw a teargas canister into the front crowd. Pupils ran out of the smoke dazed and coughing. The crowd of students retreated slightly out of range of the teargas smoke, but remained facing the police, waving placards and singing.
Motapanyane pointed out to the fact that when the June 16th 1976 demonstration was planned, the objective was to be peaceful. - but the police used violence and the students were resolved to defend themselves and,if possible, to retaliate. The overall plan was for students to converge at the Orlando West Junior Secondary School, and from there march to Orlando Stadium and hold a rally there.
The column as it wound their way to the bridge leading to the stadium, were jovial, singing happily, pumping fists in the air, they raised clenched fists and greeted motorists with shouts of Amandla!(Power!)
When Sophie Tema and Willie Bokala saw the police throw a teargas canister and a stone at the crowd of students, Some reporters of the Rand Daily Mail students wrote:
"I did not hear the police give any order to disperse before they threw teargas canisters into the crowd of singing school children.
The children scattered in all directions. As the throng broke up an headed in all directions, and instantly the kid picked up stones, and then hurriedly surged back into the streets. P-O-W-E-R! POWER! they screamed, and advanced towards the police.
The pupils then regrouped and when the police charged again, they threw stones at the police. The police then fired a few shots, some in the air, the others into the crowd. I saw four school children fall to the ground. (T. Motapanyane quoted by SRRSA, 1976)
On June 16th, the school students stayed firm and threw stones. It was an unequal battle - stones against bullets. Bang!, a shot rang out: then another and yet another... In rapid succession - Some fled, others fell, but those behind stepped-in and closed ranks. Observers commented on the fact that the youth seemed oblivious to the danger. They kept advancing on the police and pelting them with any object at hand. It was a slaughter.
As the police were shooting rapidly now, the throng broke up with pupils fleeing in all imaginable directions: to the rugged small mountain-like ridge behind the two schools(Orlando West Junior Secondary and Orlando West High Schools), into alleyways, side streets, and in nearby homes.
Some collapsed in their tracks as they fled, some ran on, and some apparently petrified, others remained in the middle of the street. The police paid no attention to them. Or so it seemed. They started at those running away. A police dog charged at the diminishing group in the street and the group of students stoned it dead. Police fire stopped just as suddenly. A kid and a man lay dead with several others wounded or dying.
Everybody was terribly shaken, but much more so the pupils themselves. They were baffled, sullen, grim. It was a "Sad Day, It was a Bad Day." They had not expected it. Dumbfounded, they stood in groups all over the area while the wounded/dying lay groaning on the ground. Even the onlookers, who had seen the singing and placard waving jovial students, were now watching this bloody spectacle and seemed petrified with fright. The peaceful protest march had turned sour. It was a war...
In a devastatingly cruel sort of way, the police showed an unprovoked show of power. While the children stood, almost in a trance, the police climbed onto their vehicles. they drove away and camped on an open field or ground across the Klip River, which runs and forms a dividing line between Orlando East and Orlando West Townships. And for a while, the scattered and bewildered students remained immobile. Then they regrouped, returning to the street, and they were helped by motorists and reporters, who took the away from the scene and some to the local clinics and hospitals.
By 10 a.m. youth were surging through Soweto, taking what revenge they could for the massacre of their fellows. They stoned passing cars(burning those that belonged to the administrative officials), set up barricades and stopped delivery vans and hi-jacked PUTCO buses and burned them; they burnt down major administrative buildings, and attacked beer halls, bottle stores(liquor stores) were gutted and destroyed - emptied of their stock. The slogans attacking drinking appeared on the walls and some placards. Two White officials, one caught in the administrative center, and the others' skull pierced with a pick ax, were killed.
For the day of June 16, police and all administrative officials lost control of Soweto, and the students were fighting and destroying everything that was governmental; also, the businesses of all those who were suspected to be working for the government, were burnt, gutted and razed to the ground. Even though they did not have the power to take over the area permanently, they dramatized their situation by destroying all existing symbols of power within Soweto.
When the workers came home from work in the evening, the whole Township of Soweto had many plumes of smoke, burning cars and buildings; police had gas canisters and guns and batons drawn and were also forming roadblocks. Thick Black smoke and tear gas fumes clogged the air on that day... and all the days that followed
When the residents returned that night, unaware of the event of the day, on entering the Townships, they found themselves in the midst of a battleground. The police, in trying to intimidate and destroy the student's movement, believed that with one salvo would end the entire protest.
The police, in the morning, when attacking the students who were protesting, made a mistake and failed because they did not understand the depth of the frustration and depth of anger the people of Soweto were feeling up to that time.
They miscalculated again that evening with the workers, instead of turning tail, responded as the youth had done in the morning. They hurled bricks and stones at the police and joined the youth in the streets and were in the fray themselves. When the buses returned from the city with full loads, they were commandeered by the students and the workers and destroyed.
Soweto Shops, beer halls, liquor stores and official buildings, and cars burnt through the night leaving only charred walls and scribbled slogans, and smoke, fire plumes and burning wooden embers, rising from the burning cars, trucks, buses, building and blockades erected by the students and the people of Soweto.
When the workers came back to the Township from work in Johannesburg city and its outlying suburbs, the rebellion was intensifying ferociously. Smoke from buildings and vehicles obscured the heavens above. Like a cloud, it hung darkly in a pall of smoke over of the Ghetto of Soweto. Below, the vehicles and government buildings , smoldered.
Band of roving and chanting youths, armed with home-made petrol bombs, marauded in the streets shouting POWER!/AMANDLA! at the top of their angry voices. Thousands of workers were streaming home after they alighted from the trains, buses and taxis, where they found the youth milling in-and-out of the streets and the Township burning... As stated above, many of these workers joined in the fight that night and throughout the following weeks.
Some people like the photographer Len Khumalo was seen trying to sneak some photograph, they caught him, called him a sellout, and destroyed his camera. They told him that if he was a brother, he'd better smash one of the windows in some government building in Soweto. Scared to death, he picked up a stone and hurled it, then the youth then petrol bombed it. All the time, some young children kept an angry eye at him and he was scared to ask them to let him go.
The youths then ordered him to go with them to Phomolong rail station. When they got to Phomolong station, the mob stormed into the Phomolong beer hall. They hurled insults at old people who were drinking inside. The students chased them out, ransacked and broke all the liquor bottles, and admonished the patrons to stop gulping the liquor and come and join them... They then opened the taps and spilled the beer to the floor.
Not far from the morning shooting areas, students were burning a municipal truck, while thousands roamed Vilakazi Street. setting up roadblocks with derelict cars and sewerage concrete blocks and fires. In Vilakazi Street student attacked a milk delivery truck, and some students grabbed themselves crates of milk before driving the vehicle away to burn it. Another vehicle a company car, was set alight; a trailer sped away recklessly down the street amid shouts of Amandla! Amandla! Power! Power!
In The Revolutionary Mix And Tilt
There were several helicopters hovering in the air, dropping teargas can and shooting form the above at the students below. Rioting, rebelling, looting and burning was in full swing and in earnest. Confusion and anger reigned everywhere. These were the bad times and they were good times too because the students felt like they were now able to fight back, by any means necessary.
The police remained across the river, with more reinforcements from the Black and White riot squads and the white army reservists being called to duty in the Soweto Ghetto. At Central Western Jabavu, just below Morris Isaacson High School, a mob of angry children shouting Power! Power! attacked the administration offices after they had chased a white man into the building. They smashed the windows, then dragged Dr. Melville Edelstein, a social welfare officer, out of the building and stoned him dead and the stones they threw at him accumulated into a a huge mound burying his body underneath; the building was gutted. African workers watched in horror as the kids, using rocks, crushed and flattened his head. 'It was a bad and sad day indeed, some by-standers said.
The Kids directed their venom at the police, Whites, Commercial vehicles, administration vehicles, buildings and virtually anything connected to the government. To the students and the Township youth, everything connected with or symbolizing authority had to be destroyed. Africans who did not raise their fist in response to the students call for POWER!, were badly beaten. They had their private personal vehicles/property damaged/destroyed too. A raised clenched fist, the Black Power Salute and Shout, had become a passport to safety.
A van belonging to the West Rand Administration Board (WRAB), the notorious regional authority governing Soweto was put on Fire. Pupils had set it alight. P-o-w-e-r!, their voices roared in an eerie shrill for the millionth time for the day. The streets were full of young and old people, cavorting; some buildings like the Entokozweni Center were spared. The Bantu Council Chamber was a massive concrete structure built in 1968, as a parliament of some sort, controlled by Apartheid, the students managed to shatter the windows.
By three o' clock in the morning, the students were attempting to burn Naledi Hall, but seemed to have run out of petrol. This incidence repeated itself many times in the chaotic rebellion in Soweto, on this day of June 16th 1976-right through the night in the next day and weeks.
The next morning was more frightening than even the shootings earlier yesterday. Soweto was utterly on the binge now with residents, most of them young, staggering up and down the streets, still looting bottle stores and attacking cars indiscriminately. The Police were working overtime, shooting, mauling and beating and killing the youth senselessly throughout the night into the morning onto the next day.
Lots and lots of properties had been pillaged during the night. Damage included more than hundred administration offices, a hundred liquor store outlets, a hundred or so Putco Buses, more than two hundred vehicles and scores of houses burned(belonging to the police families), and those houses in which buses had crushed into trying to escape the marauding youth.
Thousands of school children and workers were missing, and the Township lore asserts that most of them were buried at night in mass graves using helicopters to throw them in ready-made holes in local cemeteries. By the end of the day, thousands of school children, babies and workers were dead; hundreds and thousands of them shot by the police with live ammunition and bird-pellet bullets; rubber bullets, maced and hit with gun butts, kicked, punched and beaten severely tortured and murdered. (G.M. Nkondo)
This was a full-scale revolt and a serious revolution that had taken hold. The number of the dead on this this one day, June 16th 1976, will really never be known.
When the para-military police poured into Soweto on June 16th 1976, their effectiveness was insured by the ease with which they could move through the main roads in their 'Hippo' armored cars and ability to direct their firepower between the houses and from the helicopters. They shot at random and shot to kill. Any person suspected of being a 'leader' was pursued and shots often found a target. Other youth were considered fair game and if sighted on the streets were instant targets.
The Number that died on 16 June, or in the days to come, is not known-I reiterate because this is important. Some sources said that the death toll on the first day was very high-in the hundreds of thousands, whilst some state in tens thousands. Nobody knew, and the police took every step to prevent a full list being compiled.
Journalists were warned to keep away from from piles of bodies, on the grounds that it was none of their business! Baragwanath hospital, in Soweto, became an armed camp and was closed to the public-effectively preventing the wounded from going there, because once they came, they were arrested.
Trucks arrived and they took away corpses, and many were never accounted for then, nor later. Death at the hands of the police had become commonplace. The ever rising toll of persons killed due to police action has had many families not knowing what had happened to their children, brothers, sisters, uncles, grand parents and fathers, to this day.
Because of the nature of Apartheid, some groups throughout the other parts of the the region outside Soweto were isolated. The very next day, on the 17th June 1976, 400 white students expressed their solidarity with the pupils of Soweto in a march near their campus. The were joined by African spectators who marched with them.
Police and a group of Whites(most of whom were plain-clothes policemen), wielding chains and staves broke up the demonstration. When the students regrouped later, they were again attacked by this mixed group of policemen. This was the only overt action attempted by White students in the north, and after this initial action(for which they were castigated by university authorities), they played no further part in the revolt.
In Soweto, the Action Committee soon styled itself into what came to be known as the Soweto Students Representative Council(SSRC), and was supported by the students of Soweto. After June 16th, there ceased to be a leadership in overall control of events in the township; henceforth, these were decided by individual initiatives and or, by small groupings assuming local leadership. The SSRC regained the initiative from the 17th right through to the end of June, and morphed into other groups and within other regions in Mzantsi..
On June 17th, PUTCO (Public Utility Company/Corporation) suspended its bus service, and the workers from Soweto were forced to miss their workday and stayed at home. They joined the student who were back on the streets and erected roadblocks, and were involved with a running war with the police. In the 'no-go' areas, which were controlled by the students and residents.
Police patrols faced ambushes from stone-throwing and petrol-bomb hurling youth, and visibility was reduced by burning buildings, form burning cars, vans, trucks and PUTCO buses which were overturned and had been set alight, and the smoldering embers of the revolutionary fires foretold the coming of the student rebellions nationally.
By then, scores of people had died in Soweto since June 16, according to press reports. Thousands of children had fled from the area to neighboring Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Maputo and further on to other African countries. Thousands were detained along with Winnie Mandela and Dr. Matlhare(The BPA [Black Parents Association leaders]. A strange virus had also hit Soweto. Numerous people were developing sore, itchy eyes-known as Pink Eyes-like. Some were becoming blind, some semi blind. Most were children and those in their the teens.
Some were taken to the St. John's Eye Hospital at the bottom of Baragwanath Hospital(called Chris Hani Hospital,today). But others simply suffered from within the confines of their homes. Too many people were detained and dying in detention. As to the mystery of the eye disease, no one was talking, including doctors. The children had never suffered eyesight before. But they had one thing in common - they had all been shot at.
Some were shot in the clashes between police and students, some had been shot as they walked home after school or as they romped about on pavements and in open spaces within the Townships. Soweto had become the "Killing Fields" for the South African Defense Force, along with its Spooks(BOSS), and many other factions and goons/death squads of the military.
Lena Monamodi, a nine-year-old girl, was completely blind when she was taken to St. John's where she underwent four operations. The little girl had been walking in the street when a policeman allegedly shot her in the face. She collapsed and the car sped away. She has lost her left sight.
Longsdale Kananda, aged 14 years, was on the they way home from school with several other children when police in a truck fired at them, hitting him in the eye. He has had the eye removed. Joseph Norexe, another 14-year-old boy, was also hit in the face. He has been completely blinded.(You could read more about the Killing Of Children in 1985 Apartheid era-in my Blog/Hub listings)
Yet another schoolboy, Reginald Mkhize, aged 18, became victim of the blinding shots too. Although he can still see, he's partially paralyzed. But Johannes Dube, aged 17-years-old, totally lost his sight after police allegedly peppered him with the pellets. A Pupil at Dr. Vilakazi Secondary School in Zola, Johannes was with a friend when they were attacked during school break. They were walking towards the Taxi rank, when a police car, Lime Green(which became known as the "Green Car" - (Chev 4100), stopped near them.
The children were ordered to stop, and they obeyed. But one of the policemen pulled out a gun. He fired at Thomas Malaza and his friend. He hit Malaza in the Leg. Johannes, frightened, began to run and was screaming. More shots rang out. He was hit on the head, on the side of his body and in the eye.
These events would not have come to light had an 'unnamed' doctor in St. John's Hospital who was obviously disgusted by the callousness of the police dealing with children, not spoken out. The doctor said that he had treated several thousand African children blinded by bird shorts during the disturbances. The average age of the children was 12 years.
Some had permanently injured eyesight. The trouble with birdshot, he explained, was that it sprayed and that was where the danger of blinding came in. He felt that some of the children could have been bystanders, watching whatever was going on, at the time they were shot.
The most frightening thing, however, was not so much what the doctor revealed, but rather the attempt by authorities to hush things up-they worked very hard to hide and obfuscate the truth and facts. But we got to know about these, albeit past the events of 1976.
Injuries, Mass burials and Deaths
From the start the authorities conspired to suppress the extent of death and injury. In one sense they were certainly successful. It is likely that the true numbers of those killed will never ever be known, but through some, the reports of leaked to the press and the information gleaned from that suggests that the scope of the killings and horror of police brutality extended further than even the chilling accounts that have so far been suggested.
Throughout 1976 the casualty figures released by the police were contradicted by eyewitness and press accounts. In this sphere, some South African and foreign journalists played a valuable role, although they could only report what they themselves saw or heard evidence of, what the police released and in some cases what the hospital staff told them.
Those whose deaths were not witnessed or which witnesses were too frightened to report remained concealed. The official death toll on 16 June was at first put at six and then 23, of whom 21 were African and two White.
But press reports of the casualties during the first three days gave much higher figures: 97 dead(including two Whites), and 1,005 injured (including 11 policemen). By 21 June, When Mr. Kruger gave the following figures in parliament, the authorities had been obliged to revise upwards their own casualty statistics: A. Persons Killed: 130, of whom 128 Black and two White. B. Persons injured: 1,118, of whom 1,12 African and six White. C. Police injured: 22.
Even these figures are staggering, representing 10 casualties an hour, night and day, over a period of five days. In fact most of these casualties took place in the first three days where the equivalent figure would be almost 16+ casualties an hour.
Nevertheless,these figures have been strongly disputed by both organizations and individuals. Tsietsi Mashinini, Soweto SRC(Soweto Representative Council) leader in July, told a press conference in London that the official death toll was a "blatant lie": "We went to the mortuary each day and managed to read the numbers going up to 353 and that was after the first three days of the shooting." (Guardian, 1976)
Giving evidence to the Cillie Commission,Colonel Swanepoel claimed that a number of dead and injured had disappeared after police shootings. This was, he alleged, the result of "an old Bantu custom to remove the dead and injured from the battlefield." (Rand Daily Mail, 1976) What battlefield, or did he mean the "killing streets?" What custom from which battle up to till the time they were slaughtering Africans in 1976?" Absurd...
Some of those with less serious wounds did try to to avoid the hospitals and clinics(and some private doctors) because it was known that the police were arresting people with bullet wounds, or those that have some blue ink sprayed upon them and it was hard to remove. The truth is that the police were removing the bodies themselves and arrested the injured.
Swanepoel's absurd explanation for the disappearance for some of the dead and injured was no doubt intended to cover the police when it became clear that people were missing. The following eyewitness accounts fit together to provide another picture.
A 19-year-old student,Shadrack Kaunsel, suffered an ordeal which indicates that the police removed a large number of casualties themselves, not to the hospitals, but to various buildings in Soweto, where they were later 'sorted'. He was kept locked in such a 'clearing' house for over eight hours together with hundreds of corpses and badly injured 'prisoners'. No attempt was made to give medical attention to these people, as he later told a journalist:
"There was blood everywhere. I saw bodies of small children with gaping bullet wounds and I even saw grannies lying dead on the floor. Some of the injured were groaning and covered in blood, but the police who came into the room just laughed and kicked those who were lying on the floor.(Observer - London, 1976)
This evidence was separately corroborated by two young girls who were also kept 'prisoner' in a building filled with the dead and wounded. At some stage many, and perhaps all, of these people were taken to /Orlando Police Station, in Soweto, which as well as being a police operational headquarters in Soweto during the uprising served as a depot for those casualties which the police had collected.
Ms. Oshadi Phakathi, president of the Young Women's Christian Association(YWCA) and Transvaal director of the Christian Institute, was arrested on 16 June and kept at Orlando Police Station for two days. Whilst there, she was told by policeman that she "personally collected and counted 176 corpses in one section of Soweto alone". (Sunday Times[London], 1977)
A Black Priest who visited the police Station on June 17 described what he saw:
"On the 17th June I went to Orlando Police Station as a priest. Then came a big truck. I couldn't see what was inside. I just heard people crying in deep pain. I went inside the police State where I saw people who were injured. Some of them you could see were in great pain, but the police seemed not to bother about them.
"There was no medical attention given to them. There were about 80 dead people. Injured people it was over 100, I should say. In the evening more bodies kept coming in. I found among the corpses there was a person, an elderly person. He was not dead by that time. You could see the person struggling among corpses. I heard one White policeman coming in and saying that other should come and see 'Black Power resurrecting'.
"Everything was just humorous to them. Later on when I went out that person was dead. Corpses were taken away in government mortuary vans. They were thrown in just like bags of potatoes." It shows how life has become cheap in our Country, especially when you are Black(African) - my addition), you are nothing.(Independent Television in London, 1977)
There were other people who also saw what was happening in Orlando Police Station. That very same night a young Rand Daily Mail journalist saw young people being forced to load corpses into trucks. They were brought out of the police station after midnight and were beaten and threatened as they carried the corpses.
One policeman shouted shouted at a young boy as he clubbed him, "This is Black Power!" This report was confirmed by another eyewitness who spent four hours outside the police state during which he counted 150 corpses,many of them young children."(International Union of Students: Solidarity Mission to South Africa , 1976)
This is what Ms. Phakathi saw from inside the Police Station of Orlando East:
"... you could clearly hear screaming in the cells around us as the police assaulted the students who were fighting back. Then you would hear a shot and the screaming stopped Soon afterwards voice would shout in Zulu saying, 'Come and take him out. He is dead, you killed him.' A door would open and close. Then it started somewhere else."(Sunday Times(London), 1977).
The two girls mentioned earlier in this Hub confirmed that the police were deliberately killing the injured inside the police station: "... the corpses were put on one side in the police station and the injured made to lie on their tummies with their hands outstretched. Then policemen, black and white, jumped on them to kill them."(Sunday Times,[London], 1977)
From the first day , 16 June, people were complaining about unprovoked shooting in the townships, not to respond to crowds or demonstrators. Any kid who was wearing uniform, was shot. In most cases it was not the school kid in uniform, but the skin color of the person that attracted police gunfire. One eyewitness explained an incident in Soweto on 17 June like this:
"I saw a man who was from a bus that was from town; which means that that person was from work. I saw that man being shot in the back of his head. He was from a bus going home, still wearing his working clothes. He had not done anything. He had not thrown a stone. He had not said anything. He was shot and he died instantly and a big hole was left in the back of his head."(London Times, 1977)
Young children, one could say 'babies' who did not know what was happening, were also shot down as they played in the dusty streets. On 1 September an 11-year-old Colored girl from Athlone, Sandra Peters, was shot through the head on her way to the butcher to buy meat for her grandmother.
When her mother went to the police station to inquire about Sandra, she was arrested and thrown into a cell. In the meantime doctors were desperately trying to find a relative to sign consent papers so they could operate on Sandra. By 3 September she was dead(Counter Information Services, 1977)
Tsietsi Mashinini described a shooting incident in Soweto 16 June: "An eight year old girl was standing there not knowing what this Hippo was all about. As it passed, this kid raised her fist in the Black Power Salute. The Hippo stopped and opened fire on that child. On the Saturday we went to the mortuary and found the body of the little girl ... riddled with bullets"(Guardian, 1976) Of the 163 official deaths in the Transvaal where the ages were established, 12 were children under the age of 10.(Rand Daily Mail, 1977)
In 1976, the police had a penchant of attacking groups of children not involved in the demonstrations. The Weekend World(Black newspaper, banned and shut down), in September 1976, reported that a 12 year-old-boy Gladwin Mkhwanazi, was seriously injured with several bullet wounds in his back, and a number of other children were shot when the police opened fire of a street soccer game.
In Cape Town police attacked a group of young children who were burying a dead dog in a field, and beat a 9-year-old, Kenneth Mfobo unconscious. An African social worker intervened and took the child to hospital when he was treated for head injuries and broken ribs(Cape Times, 1976)
Tsietsi Mashinini who was now on the run, saw the importance of school children returning to classes, but his interest was to be able to organize and marshal them to go on another protest. The school children once again streamed back into the streets on Wednesday August, 1976. chanting 'What have we done to deserve al this?'. "Release Detainees!'. 'We are marching not fighting!,' and they were marching from various parts of the Township of Soweto, heading towards Johannesburg city.
Their objective was to march in the city of Johannesburg and demand the release of their detained leadership. There was a sprinkling of adults among them(Winnie Mandela was there and with other parents they all joined the ranks of the marching students).A rand Daily Mail reporter, Jan Tugwana described the scene the next morning:
"At 11 am yesterday the main column of demonstrators marched along the Soweto freeway singing freedom songs. A roadblock manned by seven black policemen carrying revolvers allowed them to pass. But the column - about 20,000-strong - had walked only two kilometers when it came face-to-face with an armored police landrovers and trucks under the railway bridge gap between new Canada Railway Station and Mzimhlophe Township.
Only about two hundred continued, shouting 'Peace!, we're not fighting but marching!'. Police in camouflage uniforms jumped down and formed a cordon across the road. A police officer addressed the marchers through an interpreter: 'I want to assure you that, we, the police, are not against your march,' he said. 'But do it the right way. You must first throw away all the bottles and stones in your hands and keep out of the road to allow traffic easy passage. Then you'll be allowed to pass.'
The protesters, largely students, complied and marched-on. they had walked barely 200 meters when a police 'Hippo' truck approached. Teargas canisters were thrown. Students scattered. They re-assembled five minutes later, but had not walked more than 50 meters when another 'Hippo' approached them near the Colored people's Noordgesig Township traffic lights. The remaining protesters dispersed. The Orlando Bottle store near Noordgesig was set on fire. Ten minutes later, police were on the scene. In another ten minutes a fire engine arrived. It was manned by a black crew.
Onlookers jeered at the firemen. They were ordered to leave immediately. At 12.10, onlookers jeered a policeman guarding the scene of the fire. He opened fire at what looked like a machine gun. Firing just above the heads of the onlookers. No one was injured. A helicopter hovering above the crowd, ordered all police to reinforce the New Canada Bridge beyond Noordgesig where students had assembled. At 1.40, the students started making their way through the mine dumps in an attempt to reach John Vorster Square."
Those who made it to the top of these mine dumps/or man-made mountains, they were shot at by snipers already positioned there, and down below, the 'Hippos' were driven into the veld and students driven back with tear gas, and most of them shot in the back with live R1 rifle bullets, along with rubber bullets and bird or round and black pellets which entered the skin and stayed there..
But while the police focused attention on the marchers, a band of students led by by Tsietsi Mashinini, moved quietly within Soweto, burning police homes. They singled out security police sergeants Caswell Mokgoro, BenjaminLetlake and a CID policeman known as Hlubi (hated throughout the Ghetto).. lived in Rockville. Their homes were set alight with petrol after family members had been cleared out. Mokgoro and Letlake who worked at John Vorster Square, had to move totally out of Soweto with everything they had.
That day ended with five persons dead and thirteen wounded-according to the police-but we knew better. A train was set ablaze at Westgate station: all the coaches were gutted.; a rail signal box at Mzimhlophe damaged and a Johannesburg-bound train from Naledi stoned, windows smashed and the driver was saved by the mesh grill covering the cabin. The police advertised a ransom of R500.00 for information about the whereabouts of Tsietsi Mashinini.
The denizens of Soweto ridiculed the police offer and told them to start dealing with the blood-shed and murder they were carrying out against the unarmed civilians. Tsietsi Mashini eventually skipped the boarder and went to Gaborone, and the cops could not catch him. Kgotso Seatlholo took over the leadership of the SRC. Tsietsi Mashinini died (or was he killed?) in exile)-This is another part of the story that needs to be researched and clariifed for now, so far, it is not
Mass Burials of Murdered Peoples
In the Townships,there was a widespread belief that people were being secretly buried by the authorities to conceal the extent and extant of the killing. Rumors of secret mass burials were rife in Soweto, but it seemed that no-one had actually witnessed these, and there was no conclusive proof. We know, however, that at least, two secret burials took place in Soweto; the first at the Avalon cemetery where on the night of 24th October, police secretly buried an unknown number of people.
One of the people who were able to narrate and corroborate this story, was the night watchman of the Cemetery in Avalon. He goes on to state: "I was sitting at the entrance of the cemetery when I saw a car approaching. It was about quarter to eleven. When it came near enough, I realized that it was a police vehicle. I became scared when they got out as it was the first time the police came to my place of work. They had guns with them. They came to my cabin and looked around; one of them told me they are coming to keep me company for some hours.
"On hearing this,my tension became less afraid. In half an hour's time three of them (one white and two blacks), asked me where the grave digging tractors were kept. Then they left us in the cabin. After a while, I heard the tractor moving and not long after it was digging. I could not understand what was happening. I was even scared to ask the remaining four(policemen).My heart was now pumping very fast. Later I heard the noise of a helicopter and I went out to see what was happening.
"Outside I was joined by the four. The three who who were busy in the dark had torches with them. The helicopter landed. With fear and curiosity I decided to go and see what was to take place. One black policeman remained at the gate while others followed me. As I was approaching the helicopter, I could see something heavy being off-loaded and when I coming nearer I could see that they were black plastic. To my amazement,I was met by two large graves.
One White policeman said in Afrikaans, "Maak julle gou"(Hurry up!) Several Bags were thrown in. I thought that these were paupers, but why are they buried at night? While still solving these questions, I heard a faint voice coming from one of the bags, asking for some water in Zulu: 'Baba ngicela amanzii(' Father, please give me some water'). I became sick on hearing this. A policeman turned to me and asked me what the voice had said.
"I told him what was she said and he threatened me with death should I dare to open my mouth to say what I have seen. After they filled the graves, the helicopter flew off. I expected them to go away, but they stayed with me till early in the morning when I had to go home".
A similar form of narrative took place in Doornkop at the after the Funeral of Jacky Mashabane(Whose story had not yet been fully told-he was killed in the police station when they were about to begin to torture him and others that were arrested with him. He jumped on top of the table and made his intention clear that he was going to fight. Fight he did-valiantly-but was murdered mercilessly in that torture room))At his funeral there was shooting, and later on, families and friends and relatives came back to tidy-up.
The Informant, M. Modiakgotla, said: "They were admitted by a rather reluctant old man was the gatekeeper. They discovered to their surprise that the grave next to Mashabane, which had been dug in readiness and left open, was now filled in. The earth had been packed down and sticking our of it was the end of a school girl's girdle. Somebody tugged at it but it wouldn't come away.
They were surprised because Mashabane's funeral had been the last scheduled funeral for the day. They approached the gatekeeper who eventually admitted that the police had returned at night. Mr. Modiakgotla, from Soweto, gave evidence on torture by the South African Security Police to the United Nations Human Rights Commission sitting in London. Mr. Modiakgotla was detained in January 1977 and held at John Vorster /Square for eighteen months before being transferred to Modder Bee Prison, where he was eventually released in December 1978.
He told the Commission that to induce him to talk, the police took him to Avalon cemetery "to be shown where the dead bodies they had killed were dumped.." He continued with his statement: "I was taken there in the middle of the night. At the cemetery I was blindfolded by a hood and later dropped to the ground and beaten. I was told many times that stubborn persons like myself were killed and dumped into empty graves without the knowledge of the next of kin." (UN Human Rights Commission hearing in London, 1979)
The pass laws were used very often and extravagantly by the police as a means of arresting and intimidating the township residents during periods of widespread protest. Sheena Duncan of Black Sash stated the following: "The 'pass' was have much wider implications than the control of the movement and residence of Black people in the prescribed areas. They can be used for the political control of the whole Black population and give the police force the ability to arrest people for pass law offenses when there is no other charge which can possibly be brought against them(Rand Daily Mail, 1977).
We estimate that between June and December 1976, at least 10,000 people were arrested during the revolt. The actual figure may be 15,000 or even 20,000 or more. Of the people arrested, 1,200 people had already been tried and 3,000 were still facing charges By the end of 1976, 1,556 people had been convicted on charges related to the disturbances.
Of these, 1,122 were juveniles under the age of eighteen, of whom 562 were caned, 540 fined or given suspended sentences, and 20 faced terms of imprisonment. The large number of juveniles reflected the predominance of the youth in the struggles of this period. Some of those sentenced were very young indeed. A special court in Port Elizabeth sentenced an eight year-old boy to five cuts.(FOCUS No. 10)
Between July 1976 and June 1977, the staggering figure of 21,534 persons were prosecuted for one or other of the following offenses: public violence, unlawful or riotous assembly, sabotage, inciting or promoting racial hostility, arson and malicious damage to property. Of these, 4,604 were under the age of 18. The number convicted was 13,553(of whom 3,038 were under 18)(SAIRR, 1977)
During the funerals of Anna Mkhwanazi, who had died from gunshot wounds when the police bushwhacked about 5,000 funeral goers on the Weekend of 23/24 October, the police had begun to adopt other ways of killing Africans. Because, on the 24th of October, about 5,000 people had gathered at Doornkop Cemetery to bury Jacob Mashabane who had died in detention and had fought back against his tormentors in captivity, and they had to kill him in the cells.
The mood at the funeral was militant with the singing of freedom songs and chanting of slogans. 'Jacky' Mashabane, who had died in detention was the sixth known detainee to have died in custody in less than five months and his death came four months after the bitterest conflict between the police and the Citizens of Soweto. the slogan that emerged," "Don't Mourn - Mobilize", characterized the mood of the citizens of the Ghetto of Soweto, and the police were intent on crushing this defiance.
A student who was still in the university gave the events of the day in a nutshell as follows: "By the time the funeral was underway with songs and speeches they had entered the cemetery and advanced fully armed. There was a large crowd and when a policeman used a loud-speaker, nobody could possibly hear him, with all the noise and singing.
"Suddenly on the edge of the crowd a shot was fired, and a young teacher 'Schoolboy' Nhlapo fell down dead. Pandemonium broke out; everybody fled in different directions, tripping over graves, falling into open graves, dodging and colliding. The police had a field day - they just aimed and shot at anybody who was running. Some who were wounded just fell into open graves. It was a massacre."(Rand Daily Mail and The World, 1976)
In the case above, the police claimed that they fired in self defense after being stoned, but there were thousands of witnesses and a number of journalists present, all of whom reported that the shooting was entirely not provoked by the mourners.
This type of behavior was happening all the time on different occasions in all types of situations throughout the country. The police had banned all open air gatherings, and public meetings, demonstrations and funerals represented one of the few types of legal-and open air gatherings. But these were made more dangerous by the police who came in and fired at the mourners.
Police War-ware in 1976
Some senior police officers provided summaries of the their actions, and these were the most comprehensive figures availed; and, as to their accuracy, one can only speculate. Nevertheless, they represented a chilling statistic of the police response to the demonstrations: Soweto (16 June to 30 August): Police fired 16,433 rounds of ammunition (made up of 8,702 rounds from R1 automatic Rifles, 732 rounds from .38 revolvers, 1,750 from .32 caliber weapons, 2,650 from 9 mm parabellums and 2,529 from shotguns). Police reported the casualties as 292 killed (of which they accepted responsibility for 1,493). In addition, police reported 135 incidents in which they opened fire but were unable to determine the casualties. (Rand Daily Mail, 1976)
East Rand ( 18 June to 24 September): Police fired 17,000 rounds of ammunition. 40 people were killed (of which police accepted responsibility for 20) and 91 were wounded(of which the police accepted responsibility for 53). (Rand Daily Mail, 1976)
Mamelodi (21 June to September): Police fired 2,815 rounds of ammunition killing 23 people and wounding 27. (World, 1976)
Western Cape (18 June to 24 September); Police fired 4,522 rounds of ammunition (made up of 540 rounds from R1 automatic rifles, 301 rounds from .38 revolvers, 123 from .32 caliber weapons, 747 from 9 mm parabellums and 2,811 from shotguns). Casualties were reported as 97 killed (of which police accepted responsibility for 92) and 417 wounded (of which the police accepted responsibility for 387. (Cape Times, 1976)
By 1977 the Institute of Race relations had ascertained the deaths of 618 people, 559 of whom they were able to name.(SAIRR, 1977) For a careful analysis of the omissions in the SAIRR's list, see John Kane-Berman: Soweto: Black Revolt, White Reaction.
By early September Press estimates had reached 1,500, and this was substantially lower than the evidence suggested, and the authorities once again refused to issue comprehensive figures. The first three days figures could not be disguised by the police because they were caught unaware; however, by the third day they had begun to plug all the leaks. Hospitals were ordered not to issue casualty figures, although some members of staff tipped the press. The press had to battle with the mounting toll, and they were doing so with a hostile and non-co-operative official hostility.
Some investigations show that the death toll from June to December 1976 was probably over 1,000, and many have been even more than that. The number of injured is in fact more that 10,000. But what is certain is that the Apartheid government perpetrated a massacre of unprecedented proportion, even in South Africa's bloody history, and then made every effort to conceal it. This had been the government's modus operandi and noted earlier-on within the Hub above.
Minister Kruger was intent on denying African leadership, and the unknown leaders of SASM took him by surprise, as they were picking up on the black figures known to them rather than the actual organizers. As the detentions were taking place, these were thrust upon the shoulders of the youth who took it on with great vigor, gusto, determination and skill. These detentions were aimed at black journalists, because of their consistent coverage of the events inside the townships. Unlike their White counterparts, they were able to see for themselves what was happening inside the townships, and able to interview some of the leaders of the student movement and report the demands of the black community.
Black journalists worked for the white-owned press and publication and overseas and some were writing for various black South African journals. Kruger wanted to suppress the Black community and conceal news of events, thus he went about detaining reporters. Some of those detained at that time were:
Thenjiwe Mtintso; Peter Magubane, Rand Daily Mail photographer; Joe Thloloe, Drum Reporter and president of the Union of Black Journalists; Duma Ndlovu, World Reporter; Jan Tugwana, Rand Daily Mail reporter; Willie Nkosi, Rand Daily Mail photographer; Willie Bokala, World reporter; Goodwin Mohlomi, World news editor; Zulu Boy Molefe, World labor correspondent; Don Mattera, Star sub-editor, banned; Moffat Zungu, World photographer; George Sithole, Challenge (a Black consciousness publication) editorial board member; Norman Dubizane, Challenge , editorial board member; Thoko Mbanjwa, Black Review (Published by BCP) editor; Alistair Maxengwana, Abasebenzi (Workers Newspaper) editor.
The largest number of detentions took place under investigative detention laws, the Terrorism Act an General Laws Amendment Act. Those that were arrested by the police under this act, made the police not to be required to report to the families. And the police were seeking out those that were involved in the organization of protests and demonstrations, who when caught were detained and murdered in the cells
Torture and Death
Torture of political detainees and also of criminal suspects was not a new phenomenon in South Africa. Well documented evidence which is substantiated by deaths in custody of 23 detainees between 1963 and March 1976 can be found in many articles and books. (Between 1974 and 1977 the authorities reported the deaths of 337 additional people in normal police custody).
What is clear is that after 16 June, this practice was stepped up considerably and it was applied indiscriminately all over the country, with the threefold purposes of intimidation, investigation and recruitment of informers . The most revealing are the statements of young people who were randomly arrested and tortured at police stations in Soweto, particularly at Protea Police Station, where the police had erected tents for this purpose. (Hilda Bernstein, [IDAF], 1977)
The increase in torture and violence against detainees had a predictable result - a sharp increase in the number of death of political prisoners. Between June 1976 and October 1977, more political detainees died in custody than in the preceding thirteen years during which indefinite detention without trial had been in force. The second half of 1976 illustrates the new pattern of violent deaths and the transparent cover-up by the authorities:
On 25 June, William Tshwane , arrested on 25 June 25 and allegedly shot dead during an escape attempt. Police only informed the family of his death on 14 October when they claimed the body had already been buried.
on 5 August, Mapetla Mohapi (29), former general secretary of SASO, banned and at the time of his death administrator of the Zimele Trust which assisted released political prisoners. Police claimed Mohapi had hung himself with a pair of jeans. The inquest found that death was caused by anoxia and suffocation, but that "no-one was to blame".
On 2 September, Luke Mazwembe (32), a staff member of the Western Province Workers Advice Bureau in Cape Town. Police claimed he hanged himself with blanket strips within two hours of his arrest.
On 25 September, Dumisani Isaac Mbatha (16) a Soweto school boy arrested during the Johannesburg city center demonstration on 23 September. Police claimed that he 'became ill' in prison and being taken to hospital, died. The family had no news of his death until the Prisons Department released his body for burial giving their version of his death. His funeral on 17 October was attended by 15,000 people.
On 28 September, Fenuel Mogatus i (22),a Soweto schoolboy arrested in July. Police claimed "that he died from epileptic fit", but his sister who saw him the day before his death said he was healthy and had never had an epileptic fit in his life.
On 5 October, Zungwane Jacob Mashabane (22), a university student. Police claimed he hanged himself with a shirt. At his funeral on 24th October, police opened fire on the crowd of 5,000 killing and wounding 51 people.
On 9 October, Edward Mzolo (40), the third person to die in detention at Johannesburg Fort Prison within two weeks. Cause of death was not disclosed.
On 18 November, Ernest Mamasila (35), according to the police committed 'suicide by hanging himself' whilst detained under the Terrorism Act.
On 25 November, Thabo Mosala (over 60), a leader of the Sotho people living in the Transkei who were strongly opposed to the 'independence' of the Transkei. Police claimed that he died of 'internal bleeding' from a gastric ulcer.
On 11 December, Wellington Tshazibane (30), a former Fort Hare University student expelled during unrest in 1968 and who held an honors degree from Oxford University. Police claimed that he hanged himself with a blanket.
On 15 December, George Botha (30), a Colored biology teacher from Port Elizabeth, whom the police claimed that he was an underground ANC activist and the he had jumped to his death, down a staircase well next to the lift as he was taken up to the Security Police Office. The post-morterm revealed at least four wounds which had been inflicted before death but the inquest found that no blame could be attached to the Security police for these or his subsequent death. South Africa[African National Congress, 1977)
In 1977, these deaths in detention continued at an alarming rate:
January - Naboath Ntshuntsha, Lawrence Ndzanga and Elmon Malele;
February - Mathews Mabelane and Samuel Malinga
March - Aaron Khoza
July - Phakamile Mabija
August - Elijah Loza, Dar. Hossen Haffejee and Byempin Mzizi;
September - Steve Biko
October - Bonaventura Malaza
From Local Ripples to A National Revolutionary Tsunami
A Summary from 19th June - 31 December 1976
Transvaal- Orange Free State- The Cape- Natal
Saturday 19 June: In Soweto the Tense Atmosphere with incidents of youth attempting to prevent commercial vehicles from entering the township. At Sebenza(Colored Township near Edenvale in the East Rand) a school and some shops are burnt down;
Sunday 20 June: At Hebron Training Institution in Bophutatwana (41 km, north of Pretoria) 1,300 school sudents sent home after a school hall is burnt down. In Evaton the Sephothemba Secondary School is destroyed by fire.
Monday 21 June: Renewed Protest and and demonstration spread in the Townships near Pretoria. UBC offices at Atteridgeville and Mamelodi are burnt down after large demonstrations, and threatened to spill-over into White Areas. In clashes with the police, demonstrators torched a shopping center and several bottlestores. A dozen buses are fire-bombed in violent clashes between police and the demonstrators who blocked the ) Pretoria-Mamelodi road. Many workers stayed away from work. Police shot and killed a 13-year-old boy in Mabopane. At nearby Rietgat a crowd of about 300 attack a White farmstead, burnt it down and slaughtered the farmers livestock. Offices of BAAB were burnt in Hammerskraal, Pietersburg, Potgietersrus, Duduza, Daveyton and Kwa Thema, Orange Free State; also in the Bantustans, at Thaba Nchu, Witzieshoek in Qwaqwa unrest is reported.
Tuesday 22 June: Mamelodi continues the fight even though some township were more quiet. 1,200 Chrysler workers went on strike. Police open fire on demonstrations and are reported to have killed at least six people.
Wednesday 23 June: At Witbank strikes loom; sporadic incidents of violence are reported. At Daveyton, Randfontein and Kwa Thema bottle stores, schools and offices are burnt. In Jouberton, near Klerksdorp a secondary school is burnt. Kwanyamazane township in Nelspruit vehicles are stoned and buildings burnt.
Thursday 24 June: As Soweto Parents plan for a mass funeral the official death toll is given as 176. A further, 1,139 have reportedly been reported injured and 1,298 arrested during the Unrest. In northern Transvaal a church at Thilidzini destroyed by fire. In the Cape in Langa Police riot squads move in into Langa Township after BAAB officials were stoned.
Tuesday 6 July: African school students stone buses traveling from Randfontein to Westonaria. Mr. M.C. Botha climbs down on the the use of Afrikaans in schools; principals were given the go-ahead to make their own choice regarding the medium of instruction.
Monday 12 July: In the Orange Free State, at St. Helena Gold Mine in Welkom, police are called to deal with workers' unrest
Thursday/Friday 15 & 16 July: Minister Kruger invokes the detention clause of the Internal Security Act and announces that African schools in the Witwatersrand-Vaal areas are to remained closed. In Soweto a government vehicle is stoned and the White driver is injured. In Krugersdorp one BAAB official is killed and another injured in a gunfight with two armed blacks A crowd confronted 3 detectives in their car, shots rang our and one man was injured and the crowd dispersed.
Thrusday 22 July to Sunday 25 July : Other Transvaal schools re-open but are met with a solid boycott in African Schools. Schools are attacked and stoned or burnt in several areas incuding Soweto, Kwanyamazane(Nelspruit), Sharpeville(Vereeniging), Ventersdorp(W. Transvaal), and Stilfontein. In the Cape Lovedale Teachers Training College at Alice is closed following unrest. In Natal, a primary school near Eshowe in KwaZulu Bantustan is gutted by fire. The school boycott was solid in the Transvaal. Police report an explosion in the principal's office at Tsakane Township near Brakpan. The Education minister of the Venda Bantustan reports widespread unrest in Venda Schools. Ten arson attempts on schools are reported from Montshiwa (near Mafeking and part of Bophutaswana). In the orange Free State school buildings at Thaba Nchu on Bophutatswana are burnt.
Sunday 1 August: In the Transvaal, the UBC(Urban Bantu Council) received Kruger's permission, hold an open air meeting in Soweto. Only 3,000 people attended and many of the heckle the speakers who claim to have presented the following demands to Mr. Kruger: 1. To Keep police Hippos away from schools; 2. Equal pay for all teachers irrespective of race; To remove the imposition of Bantustan citizenship from urban Africans; 4. To allow African workers to form Trade Unions.
Thursday 5 August: In Soweto students were trying to march to Johannesburg and they were 5,000 strong when the police used automatic rifles and teargas to break-up the demonstration, and killed one person and injuring scores. Students continue to use pickets imploring workers to stay at home. At Mamelodi a bus taking workers to Pretoria is stoned. In Lynville(Witbank) police are called when a crowd attacked a vehicle driven by the White Township supervisor. At Katlehong(Germiston) trucks and a beer hall are set on fire and the Township is sealed-off by the Police. In Tembisa, Kempton Park a crowd of over 1,000 is dispersed by the police after a bottle store, beer hall, buses, trains and school were damaged. Workers oin students in protest march at Boksburg.
Wednesday 25 August : The stay-at-home continues and is successful. Police open fire in White City, Jabavu, Naledi, Tladi, Moletsane, Mapetla, Mofolo, Molapo and Rockville(All these are part of the other townships that form what is called SOWETO). In the Cape police attack a peaceful demonstration and a young boy is killed. In Mdantsane(East London) students attack and damage a school. The University of Fort Hare is closed again and this time for the rest of the year. This was prompted several arson attacks on the campus.
Thursday 26 August: The fighting between some African migrant workers and Soweto Residents continued. At least 31 people had been killed in three days(police admit to causing 10 deaths) and hundreds have been injured. Anger was high and British newspaper reports: "Residents also turned against the police whom they suspect of inciting the hostel-dwellers. A police spokesman said that this was the first time residents had attacked the police directly, using every conceivable weapon available(Guardian, 1976)
Thursday 23 September: Late at night in Alexander Township, prolonged gunfire was heard but no official explanation was available.
Tuesday 26 October : In Soweto SSRC launches a clean-up operation ti clear the streets of accumulated liter following the breakdown of the West Rand African Board- i.e., its offices burned-out throughout Soweto. Tuesday 16 November: Large numbers of young people are reported to be fleeing South Africa towards the neighboring independent countries. Police and the army are out in force to stem this flow.
Thursday 15 December: Inside Cape Town pamphlet bombs explode showering the streets with pamphlets. The pamphlets, commemorating the formation of Umkhonto We Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC urged the people to organize themselves to continue the struggle.
The fighting continued right up to midnight of December 31 when Prim Minister Vorster delivered hi New Year's Message that called on to White South Africans to fasten their belts, and anticipated that the storm had not yet struck, and that these are the whirlwinds that come and go before it.
The summaries above had been shortened to avoid making this Hub longer than it need be. But the effects and After-effects and Affects of the revolt of 1976, went on to beyond the present rule of the ANC can claim they accomplished. This is a story that still needs to be retold, and many aspects of it will be developed and incorporated into the story in the coming months or years. The consistency with which the Apartheid government kept up its repression of African people, the educational history of Africans only but captures the one angle of its multifaceted repression and oppression mode, and how it has had an impact.
Today the struggle continues, and in my Hub called "South Africa and the 2010 World Cup: In the Eye of the Storm", I have begun to line-up the argument that the mode of oppression being carried out by the ANC, is akin to that of the past Apartheid regime. Only in this case, there is a large majority of poor Whites(who are a minority) who are feeling it like the poor African Majorities. In the words and spirit of the June 16th 1976, the spirit of "No retreat: or "Forward Ever, Backward never". The students of 1976 were the Products of Bantu Education and they in turn overthrew the Bantu Education System along with the Apartheid regime. The country begun to experience not being governed. The people shall ultimately rule. Aluta Kontinua! Amandla! Power!.....
Remembering/Commemorating the June 16th 1976 Students: So-called "Youth Day"; Running Away From Contemporary African History
On June 16th 2011, on a Thursday, African South African will be commemorating and remembering the day when the Apartheid regime begun to experience and face a push-back from the youth's oppressed African population. Much has been written about this day, and many pictures of the spectacle are now swirling in the virtual world than in any medium heretofore.
It is also important to remember the The Revolution and how it took place, and how it grew from attendance of funeral ceremonies, the questions from the students among themselves as to whether to go back to school or not; study and rewrite the marches that took place in Johannesburg all the way to a nation-wide response to the the events of June 16th 1976; to the time when it was openly asserted that the "Coloreds are Black, too"; to the formation of a full-scale Cape Revolt - both in the Eastern and Western Cape, that some of this points need to be revisited time and again whenever we begin each year in the 21st celebrating and commemorating June 16th 1976.
The African people should also celebrate the strategies that were implemented in changing the opposition to the Apartheid regime. This was the part where people changed from 'reaction' to taking up an offensive revolutionary posture by the students. This was when they said "Azikhwelwa Madoda"(We are not riding the buses to work, men)! Grappling with the issues and question as to whether students should go back to school or not; Those matters that are considered illegal and the illegality issues pertaining to Soweto and all the African townships by the Apartheid goons.
In the commanding and coercing of workers to stay at home or go to work, the students had to find ways and means to deal with the problems brought about by the Political strikes; The students were also debating and trying to re-create a different spirit for Christmas Season on issues like abstaining from alcoholism and general bad behavior of members of the society; the were heated debates about whether they should embrace Pan Africanism, Black Consciousness or the Freedom Charter, or basic Africanism.
They were also locking horns with the opportunistic African Bourgeoisie, both urban and rural- also, the poor massed in both sectors and were involved in the discussions, too. When June 16th 1976 exploded with a loud Big Bang, the students had to address the issues tabulated in the paragraph above.
They also had to deal with the changes that were taking place in Africa: Algeria, Angola, Mozambique(Maputo), Zimbabwe, the Apartheid Homeland issues, the strikes in Namibia in 1971; detentions and arrests of people of all stripes, Natal Worker's strikes in 1973; harsh state repression from 1974; the Bus Boycotts in 1975-1976; the inner-real-politics and contradictions of the African Family.
These were some of the realities facing the students of 1976 in their revolt against the Apartheid state-and these were hotly debated, disputed and some implemented per agreement among the students and their parents and communities.
We should remember and know that: Young women and men were drawn into the vortex of politics and learnt, within the space of weeks, what might otherwise have remained outside their experience and purview for a lifetime. Daniel Sechaba Montsisi, fourth president of SASM, told the World in an intensive interview on 27th February 1977, noted that, until he joined SASM, he knew nothing of the ANC or the PAC. Which is true many who were losing and fighting against Apartheid in 1976. Others did, but not that many.. And this too can be made into a Hub of its own
Thousands of others could have made similar remarks. But, in the grassroots level, 'underground', ANC and PAC were known, the Radio Freedom was a daily feature caught up in some AM transistor and stereos throughout the townships. By May 17, 1,600 pupils had withdrawn from Orlando West Junior Secondary School-on their own accord. And over 500 pupils at the Phefeni Junior secondary school refused to attend classes and stoned the principal's office-through their own actions and decisions.
The following day two further schools closed at the children congregated in the school grounds, playing, skipping and standing around in groups, all this time, the teachers were standing around and not willing to interfere. they could not, because the 'whole' student boy was highly conscientized and radically politicized
At this stage there was no clear direction from any organization; children left the classrooms and in many cases drifted back. None of them, however, took any heed of threats - either of expulsion or that schools would closed down and teachers transferred. The first overt violence was reported on May 27, 1976, when a teacher of 'Afrikaans in Pimville Higher Primary school was stabbed with a screwdriver'.
The police who arrived to arrest the offending pupil were stoned. The stoning henceforth became a regular feature of the violence that was evident everywhere. On the June 5, 1976, pupils at Belle Higher Primary school stoned children who had returned to classes during an apparent lull in the boycotts. To this, Motapanyane adds:
"Early in June the police sent their men to collect one of our colleagues ...They arrested one student but he was later released. Then on the 8th they came again. They were beaten and their car was burnt. On that day they were coming to arrest our local secretary of SASM at our school ... in connection with the student protests .... The students resolved not to write the exams, and in Naledi High School they swore to demonstrate around June 16th, and they stressed that it was to be peaceful - but that if the police used violence they were resolved to defend themselves and, if possible, retaliate.
The rest, on that fateful day of June 1976, came to be known as the "June 16th Massacre" and the carnage continued and carried on for years afterwards.
Remembering the students of 1976, today, the younger generation who are now their grand and great-grandchildren would do best to learn more about the history of the events of this dreadful day when people, as young or younger than they were, set out to eliminate a regime which was tormenting them and their parents and families for the past 48 years.
This cudgel needs to be picked up by the youngsters of today who should set out to eliminate the scourge of poverty and helplessness experienced by the majority of the African society, families, friends and African people as a whole and in general. Those who fought for the liberation of all today, do not accept the getting away from history and calling this horrible day "Youth Day". They find it abhorrent, disingenuous and ahistorical: in a word, a complete and total 'sell out'...
Today, the remnants of the students of 1976 have grown older and mostly are in the early, and mid 50s to the late sixties-that is, those who have managed to survive to this day. They watch in awe and are perplexed by the actions of the youth of today who respect no one or the culture nor community of Africans in South Africa. Biko was right, the missionaries had managed to turn the children of Africans of the day against their elders, cultures and communities.
In this case, history does indeed revolve/evolve and in a strange way, keeps repeating itself, constantly. This means that the Apartheidizers did a very good job in breaking down the African family, society and nation. We have not yet seen any signs of recovery from this social miasma among the Africans of South Africa. It seems that there needs to be a repeat on educating the African peoples of South Africa, and this can be found in my Hub, "Criticism and Self-Criticism: Telling The Truth to The poor South Africans Is In Their Interest - African Zeitgeist."
In this Hub I have updated the conditions and suffering of Africans during the rule of the ANC-led government. In this hub I have just mentioned, I have begin the same way we educated ourselves about local, regional and International issues, whilst in the same breath, informing the world as to what is happening to the poor African South Africa, and the poor Whites, too.
This is important that his message gets out there, and we need such articles, as this one about the students revolt, and the one about the need to inform African people in order to move the struggle further, and much more forward. Below then, is an update as the contemporary events about education and student have evolved since the ANC came to power 20 years ago, and how the events have turned out since 1976 to 2014 and beyond... ALUTA!
Dysfunctional Schools and Useless Underdeveloping And Dumbing Down Education
June 16th, 1976 - Sad Day; Revolution In Perspective: POWER!
In Sum: Personal Ruminations...
Apartheid was at its height, very arrogant and deadly. I was in high school at that time, and we were fed up with being oppressed. During that year, the small school of Thomas Mofolo, Naledi High school, Orlando West Junior High School and Belle rose against the Apartheid decree that all subjects, except English, were going to be taught in Afrikaans, But, that was not only the issue fixated upon on the Wednesday of June 16th, 1976, It was the Apartheid rule and regime that we were prepared to deal with.
There was no Social Media; no Internet, neither did we have TV as it is today. It was in fact the beginnings of TV broadcast in South Africa, with commercials every 30 minutes. A confluence of abuses by Apartheid came to a head, and the school of Thomas Mofolo, Naledi High School, Orlando West Junior Secondary School and Primary school in Belle set the whole revolution into motion. These were followed by Naledi High and Orlando West Junior Secondary. The Roots Of Our Revolution were firmly anchored.
Bantu Education, implemented by Verwoerd and his minions, was our battle cry-we really rejected it, and in the end, Bantu Education did the Apartheid system in..
There have been sporadic revolts by different students since the 1700s under Sir George Grey(As has already been noted above in the Hub). These went on throughout the years, pre-and post world War Two. In fact, reading up on these struggles should be a matter of importance for today's people of Mzantsi.
Nonetheless, from the 70s onwards, to date, schools have never stopped rebelling,and there have been dire consequences on the students and their parents in all these epochs(See the recently published Hubs on these subjects).
These 'troubles' I would like to pick up from reorganization of African secondary schools entrance with the conditions bordering on chaos-(During the Apartheid era). This is part of of what led to the June 1976 story that few know about.
In December 1974, all pupils in the sixth grade who obtained 40% would qualify for entrance to secondary schools. It was averred that this would double the number of high school entrants in Form 1. This was later reported to prove to be disastrous.
Kwa-Mashu, then with a population of 22,000 families, contained one secondary school and it was already overcrowded. After the 1974 December examinations Parents were informed that "Hundreds of standard six pupils who passed their standard six exams in 1974, were required to repeat standard six in 1975, because of shortage of classes."(The Star)
In fact, in my High School in Soweto, when I was doing my Form three, we were 95 in our class that most of our teachers encouraged us to miss classes for lack of sitting space and class space. From 1972, there were strikes all the way to 1976, there were school strikes reported in Parliament of Apartheid; there was violence, damage to property in at least five schools in 1972, 296 students were arrested and 37 convicted.
There was in 1973 widespread strikes and demonstrations in the two years following the World War II. By then, at least six schools or training colleges in Lebowa, Northern Transvaal, Two schools in the Transkei, and one each in the Ciskei and Kwazulu, in which over 600 students one 472 convicted by the courts.
In 1973 at Cofimvaba High School in the Transkei, pupils stoned the principal's house, overturned a police car and looted the school shop. One hundred and thirty were arrested, and 116 convicted, either fired from school or sentenced to be lashed by cane.
Nine schools in the Transkei, in 1975, including five primary schools in Mariannhill near Durban, Hammanskraaal near Pretoria, the Moroka High School at Thaba Nchu in the Free State, and a school in the Ciskei, were all reported to have had some scenes of violence.
Over 2,000 pupils were sent home, some to re-apply for admission, hundreds were expelled, and large scale arrests were made.. One would find the similar strikes, violence and property destruction throughout the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s and beyond..
One has to bear in mind that from 1972-1975 all the principals and teachers were Africans of Mzantsi, and they were working, all of them, under the system of Apartheid. This was part of what happened in a boarding school in High school I attended at one time, and when we went on strike, we were expelled, and I received my school report with a Big Red "NR"(No Return), and I went back to the high schools in the Townships.
So that, when June 1976 hit the fan, I had been expelled from my boarding school in 1972, and belonged to the large cadre of vocal students about the conditions in our Townships schools.
I really never joined any party whatsoever, although there were many to go into. I belonged to the loose and independent students who were with any and all action that mattered to us students. There were various student bodies, SASM, SASO, BCM, later in 1976 SSRC. I was never a member of such groups, but was part and parcel of the armies of students who did some damage to Apartheid in many ways than one.
By the time Belle revolted, those of us who have had the experience of fighting as students, at least, we had the whole Township to operate within, unlike in the Boarding School's hostels and campuses, to which we were confined in 1972, when we struck and were expelled from our boarding schools. Soweto was a perfect situation for one to cut ones Revolutionary teeth in.
This time, were were let loose into the Townships, wherein a lot of discussions and planning took place, with no organization to influence the events, and the action independent of any organization's interest and fighting Apartheid. Some people say it was spontaneous, but I reiterate, it was well planned, and even when the bullets were flying, there was a lot of damaging action that took place in the government infrastructures and their related assets.
Our Township consciousness was raised, in our midst, by events in Africa regarding liberation of African States, by the Literature we were able to read, beside the mind-numbing and dumbing material from Apartheid's Bantu Education. For some of us, this has been happening for the past fifty years, and has not stopped, even today.
For us to understand this Historic day, we are going to have to seriously read and link the story and history of African students in South Africa From 1700 to 1976 ad beyond to really have a holistic view of this important day: June 16th, 1976 on a Wednesday of Power!...
The day on Wednesday June 16th dawned like any other normal school day. This had been preceded over the months by debates, arguments, and towards June, teachers were sidelined, and we the students had control of schools, which became total on June 16th 1976 henceforth.
We were miffed by then after the campaigns to Stop Afrikaans As Medium of Instruction sullied and went awry. These instructions were issued from the Office of Bantu Education Department that half the subjects in standard five and Form 1 be in Afrikaans. This was immediately rejected by us the students and our parents.
This opposition grew during the closing most of 1975. By early 1976 there were demonstrations in some schools against Afrikaans, and we refused to let the instruction be done in Afrikaans within our curriculum.
This widespread opposition to these draconian regulations brought together conservatives and radicals, teachers and students, and these differentiated strands revolted based on different premises, but united against more than an instruction over Afrikaans. It was patently a revolting Revolution against Apartheid
1976 Students revolution had a much deeper manifestation of the deep resentment inside the Townships against the entire administration. Afrikaans was regarded as the oppressors language and predominantly used by the hated SAP police goons, warders, pass-office officials, township administrators and the entire Apartheid Bureaucracy.
Bantu Education was so inferior that the education we were given under this system was so low that a Junior Certificate(Form 3) was the equivalent of standard six. The Apartheid Godfather(Verwoerd) had no intentions of improving this education, one can only read what Verwoerd had to say about the Education of African children and what it should be like and mean: slavery.
As early as March 1976, Thomas Mofolo was the first school to have Afrikaans imposed on it, and immediately there was a student protest. In March 1976, the the Principal was told to cool the students by the Apartheid authorities, and force them to accept Afrikaans. Some students from Naledi High School went there to investigate the problem.
Some of these students visited some schools in Meadowlands. They found out that the students were bitter about what the government was doing. They immediately stopped attending classes, and saw a need for a positive reaction.
The Naledi High SASM branch also went to Orlando West Junior Secondary... The students there agreed with them and started destroying their text books and refused to attend classes. This was the first effective protest started in Soweto .... Because we, the students, were quite clear and adamant about what we wanted.... Despite the threat by Bantu Education Inspector that the schools will be closed..
We remained firm ... And by May 1976, the school children's protest actions was common in many schools.
In my school, there were constant discussions, debates and arguments, and classes were interrupted consistently, and no learning was not taking place, except that there were plans needed to stop this hideous idea of learning in Afrikaans.
We then began to see more and more Lower Primary schools, High schools closing down and students refusing to go into classes, but coming to schools for meeting and talks, arguments and discussions. It was lively and highly charged meetings, and no organization was in charge or in control, strictly speaking.
By now, large swaths of students in many schools throughout Soweto were in an uproar. Some teachers joined in these students discussions and debates. Everything political, locally and internationally, was discussed, fully..
Change within South Africa was discussed; there was a lot of revolutionary talk from any meeting in schools throughout Soweto.We were there, I saw and heard/were part of these talks amongst us as students, since we were part of the Soweto Students Body politic and revolutionary fervor.
The first overt violence was reported on May 27, since the Orlando West Secondary School students , about 1,600 of them had withdrawn from school. Some students in many schools, like mine, tried to return to classes, and they were severely beaten-Some even stoned the principal's office.
That was when the Shit started hitting the fan on May 27th 1976
A teacher at Pimville High School(Musi) was stabbed with a screw-driver. When the police arrived to arrest the student, they were stoned by the students. The stoning became a trade-mark of the student's revolution, henceforth.
On June 5, pupils at Belle Higher Primary stoned children who had returned to classes during an apparent lull in the boycotts.
About this event:
Early in June the police sent their men to collect one of our colleagues(SASM's) They arrested one student, but he was later released. Then on the 8th they came again. They were beaten and their car was burnt. On that day, they had to come to arrest the secretary of the local SASM in Naledi High...They(Cops) said this was in connection with the student's protest.
After having been informed that we would not write the year-end exams, on June 13 SASM called a meeting to discuss the entire issue.
There were about 400-500 of us students present who then decided to call on a huge demonstration, and this was the body that was renamed Soweto Students Representative Council(SSRC) after June 16th, and it led many of the events and not all of the events that were taking place in June 16th 1976.[although I was not a member of SASM nor SSRC, we participated nonetheless.
It was planned that, by hundreds of thousands of students, who marched , bearing placards and banners, all makeshift, which bore slogans simple to the point:
"Down With Afrikaans,"
"Afrikaans is Oppressors language,"
"Blacks are not dustbins - Afrikaans Stinks."..
To go and congregate in Orlando Stadium, and hold a rally there.
We had planned, throughout Soweto, by word of mouth, it was transmitted that we were to all converge Orlando Stadium, from Deep Soweto, To Orlando West Junior Secondary school, and on the way, we raised fists and shouted, "Amandla!/Power!"
As the columns of students wound though from Deep Soweto, to Orlando West, there were the police blocking the road leading to the bridge over the railway road, but Sophia Tema reported that she saw a policeman throw a tear gas canister into the crowd. Willie Bokala a journalist, said he saw a white policeman pick up a stone and hurl it into the crowd.
That was when we and some some children scattered, and some children retaliated by picking stone and hurling them back at the police. One reporter put it this way:
"I did not see the police give any order to disperse before they threw tear gas canisters into the crowd of singing school children. The children scattered in all directions.. The pupils then regrouped and when the policed charged again, they threw stones at the police. the police then fired many shots, a few in the air, mostly into the crowd. They kept advancing on the police-the police kept on shooting now into the crowd more"
More students were killed on that day and time and this is rarely spoken nor written about. This was the form and pattern that the fight between the police and the students took for the whole day on June 16th 1976 and beyond. But we knew on that day that the police instigated us, students.
The fight spread into the outlying streets of the Townships throughout Soweto. There were running battles with cops who were shooting rubber bullets, so-called iron pellets, pistol shots, R1 gunshots and submachine gun from the helicopters. There was black smoke plumes and teargas dotting the landscape.
There were burnt-out offices of the West Rand Board, and other institutions of the like. Some stores of considered sell-outs were burnt, very few schools were burnt. Administration cars were burnt and gutted.
We were running all day from the cops, nailing those we caught in strategic areas; children to the elderly were shot and maimed. Many were killed in the police stations and hospitals; unknown numbers were buried in mass graves, dead and alive. Beer halls and bottle stores burnt and liquor spilled to the ground.
Yes, there were those who drank, and many paid for it in various ways too many to discuss here. Baragwanath hospital was like a total war zone. Many died there too and in the outlying clinics and homes. Funerals became risky business for many were shot there too and died running into empty graves from the police volley of shots.
Many were murdered and tortured in the secluded cells of BOSS(Bureau of State Security) and such like deadly murder squads. Two white administrative officials, one caught in the administrative center, were killed(the last one killed by being dragged from his car, , and brutally murdered, and covered with a pile of stones).
Some of these White officials were trying to work for the interests of Africans, but it was a very bad time for them. Putco buses were used to transport students from one venue to the other and later burnt and gutted; Those in cars who did not raise their fists to shouts of Power!! their were cars stoned.
June 16th Revolution was not about getting drunk and burning buildings. It was a build up, as I have shown in the beginning, of decades old struggle between the students and the Apartheid Educational and social system. This time, for some of us, it was no longer a matter of the 'strike' in the Boarding schools, but it became a fully fledged revolution in the Soweto open terrain.
As the struggle continued, we quickly learnt that when organizing a march towards confrontation, it was essential to begin in 'home' territory, and march out, so that there is somewhere for people to stream back to if this proves necessary.
I can recollect such a march to the city by Way of Canada route, and just beyond Noordgesig, we were blocked by several Hippos, and eventually teargassed. and driven to the White-man-made mountains, where-upon, those who ran to the top, they were waylaid by R1 riflemen who tore them to shreds.
POWER! sent the chills down the spines of the system managers and puppets alike. The day when we were shouting for Power! in 1976, it resonated and meant just that.. Amandla!/Power! This was the day that changed South Africa, not to be what it is today, but gave Africans a breathing space from the Jackboot of apartheid on our backs and throats for 48 years-unceasingly.
This is our story, our history, and although I would have liked to delve even much more deeper than I have above, I hope the historical and the part actual account will receiving favorability and attention of many of the readers here on the Social Media.
I have used a few citations because one could not have been all places at once, also to knead and weave our narrative so that it remains prime and important in our psyches, minds, bodies and souls and spirits.
I have written a lot of pieces, and have published an even much more in-depth article on the Soweto Students Revolution. This article is to mainly flesh out some points that are not necessarily the schtick of the 40th anniversary of this event.
I also want to make the younger and also the older readers aware of the fact that we can write our own stories and history, and we can do so with due diligence and deft articulation
The war on June 16th 1976, was against the Apartheid System and everything it stood for and as understood by its victims: Africans of South Africa.