Soweto ’76 helped kick-start real change. We can – and we must – do it again.
A Black Lives Matter picket on Rivonia Road in Sandton, 16 June 2020. Picture: Neil McCartney
Every year, at this time, the politicians roll out clichés and platitudes about the sacrifices of “the Youth”, cynically referencing the June 1976 uprising, which began in Soweto but spread around the country.
Throughout the year, too, political and other leaders will, as yet another atrocity unfolds, declare themselves horrified at gender-based violence (GBV) and use many similar sounding platitudes and clichés to commit themselves to ending this scourge.
And yet, in both cases, what changes? Nothing much.
While it is true that young black people have many more opportunities now than they ever did at the height of apartheid, they are still more likely to be poverty-stricken, educationally deprived and job-seeking than any other group of people in this country.
And as far as GBV is concerned, it is almost unnecessary to point out that all the fine words are falling on deaf ears and the promises are not being kept.
What links the two issues together is the fact that it is young, black women who are by far the biggest targets of sexual violence.
So, it is time to ask, yet again: what can be done? Can we learn any lessons from the 1976 revolution?
We can think about the courage of the school children who faced down police armed with rifles to make their point that they would not be taught in Afrikaans. It’s the kind of courage people need – to use their votes to tell the politicians this life is not acceptable; it is the courage needed to break habits of years and, if you can, employ young black people; it is the courage to admit that as a man, you are part of the problem and that your silence is consent to brutality.
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