Lerato Maimela
3 minute read
11 Jun 2021
3:04 pm

Commemorate Soweto’s June 16 uprising this Youth Day

Lerato Maimela

The Youth Day public holiday commemorates the Soweto uprising on 16 June 1976.

The Hector Pietersen memorial in Soweto on Youth Day, 16 June 2020. Picture: Neil McCartney

The Youth Day public holiday commemorates the Soweto youth uprising on 16 June 1976.

A little background about June 16

In 1975 students in African schools started to protest after a directive from the then Bantu Education Department decided that Afrikaans had to be used on an equal basis with the English language as a language of instruction in secondary schools.

The word Bantu in Bantu Education has derogatory connotations and is highly charged.

Students in Soweto decided that enough was enough and began to mobilise themselves, as they felt that they would not be forced to be taught in Afrikaans, “the language of the oppressors”. The uprising began in Soweto and soon spread countrywide.

On the morning of 16 June 1976, political activist Tsietsi Mashinini led 3,000 to 10,000 students on a peaceful protest march against the government’s language directive. During their protests the students were met with fierce police brutality and hundreds of students were shot and killed.

How you can celebrate Youth Day this year

Soweto is the hub where change was made for the youth who were educated during the Bantu Education era. Most historic and iconic landmarks related to the Soweto uprising can be found in Soweto and these historic places are open to visitorss usually all year round.

  • Visit the Hector Pieterson memorial and museum

Hector Pieterson was the boy in the famous and powerful photograph taken by Sam Nzima who was shot and killed by police during the uprising. At the museum you will be able to see photographs, testimonies and footage from the protests.

  • Take a walk from the Hector Pieterson memorial and museum to the Mandela House on Vilakazi street 

Take a guided tour from the Hector Pieterson memorial and museum to Mandela House, while being informed by your tour guide about what happened during the uprising. Tourists can also find information boards along the route.

  • Pop into Walter Sisulu Square 

The Walter Sisulu square in situated in Kliptown and is home to the Freedom Charter monument, which is the foundation of the South African Constitution.

  • Visit the Apartheid Museum

The museum shows in detail when the apartheid era began and how the minority whites used their power to oppress the majority of the population in South Africa. The museum also shows how the Soweto uprising played a part in the downfall of the the racist regime.

  • Constitutional Hill

The Constitutional Hill was once a prison that held many anti-apartheid activists and during 1990 it was chosen and changed as the place for the new Constitutional Court. Tourists can explore the old jail cells and visit the iconic Constitutional Court.

ALSO READ: Youth Day doccie featuring Siya Kolisi set to air with lively debate

Events taking place this Youth Day

Free Youth Day concert from the comfort of your home

Wednesday, 16 June, 9am

Listen to up and coming artists, recite poetry and sing along at the Afrikaans Language Museum and Monument. Catch Nosipho H, Bianca Goosen, RJay and LKay on the livestream concert on Facebook.

Livestream via ATM’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Learn to dance this Youth Day

Wednesday, 16 June, 10am – 3.30pm

M&M Music and Performing Arts Academy award-winning hip hop teachers will lead a hip hop dance class, graffiti dance sketch and a breaking and locking class for kids. Tickets are R400 per person from webtickets.co.za

Visit the Iziko Museum for free 

Wednesday, 16 June, 10am – 2pm

For one day only, visit the Iziko Museums for free. The museums have a number of fascinating exhibitions, such as early Sapiens behaviour at the South Africa Museum. Don’t miss the ocean and picturesque landscape paintings at the South African National Gallery, at the V&A Waterfront and Bo Kaap.