As Soweto yesterday woke up to the wintry sun, the mood of many residents were not celebratory of 16 June, 1976, when pupils waged a successful struggle against the use of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction.
Except for a group that gathered to pay respects to the student heroes at the Hector Pieterson Memorial in Orlando West and Pan Africanist Congress supporters marching down Mncube Street in Dube, communities went about with their usual business – shopping, braaing, car-washing and selling along the main roads.
But in Zola township’s Mbatha Street, locals witnessed a different tribute: the Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation offered food parcels to the needy, with former first lady Gugu Motlanthe using the day to shine the spotlight on gender-based violence (GBV).
With banners and supported by young girls who sang and danced, residents were all ears.
Said Motlanthe: “We encourage Amatshitshi [young girls], inspired by Maya Angelou to ‘dance like they’ve got diamonds at the meeting of their thighs’ and to shake what mama gave them.
“We need a mind shift on what a woman is supposed to be. “They say women talk too much, but they forget we solve the world’s problems – breeding ideas and confidence.
“Today is another day to tell SA, we love each other and we are here for each other to connect, make new friends and talk about the things that bother us.”
She said GBV was on a continuous upward trajectory and “a constant point of shame for the country’s national conscience”.
“GBV starts in the home, because good-for-nothing males and uncles take out their frustration on women in the house – instead of fighting with other men.”
Motlanthe said the foundation would continue with its mentoring of young women.