(Personally I think that the media generally are misrepresenting the true importance of this horrid event, and for the most part the Herald does a better job than the majority of media outlets....in general, I would suggest that the African media take on the job of helping our people better understand the contemporary reflection of historical antecedents so that resistance becomes the precedent for the entire African world...in fact, a lot of the coverage is trying to position the "new" South Africa as the glorious gift to the African people and there is this unseemly attempt to juxtaposition the historical facts of this terrible massacre of young innocents, or perhaps the better word would be transform, the history of the massacre into yet another salute to the largely meaningless soccer tournament as a symbol of progress since that day of state terror against unarmed, non-violent children.-- whose only offense was the desire to have education that would be meaningful and beneficial ....
June 16th is not about the ridiculous concept of a new South Africa, the only thing new about South Africa is the degree of change from settler colonial powered imperialism to an imperialism with a neo-colonialist foundation. This is what we should be talking about on this sacred day. Not lies about racial harmony and how wonderful it is that the World Cup is in still racist and imperialist South Africa.... Roy)
Remembering Soweto massacre
By Tendai Hildegarde Manzvanzvike
THIS is a special tribute to Hector Pietersen and the children of Orlando West in the black suburb of Soweto, South Africa (Mzansi) who, on June 16 1976 stood up against the apartheid system’s heinous education programme.
The Soweto massacres have since become a continental event commemorated every June 16 by all member-states of the African Union under what is now called the Day of the African Child.
The 2010 commemorations coincide with the opening of the 18th Session of the Children’s Parliament, under the theme, "Planning and budgeting for the well-being of the child — a collective responsibility".
They are also held against the backdrop of the Fifa World Cup tournament in South Africa, a football showcase where many African "young people" are competing with the world.
On that fateful day, June 16, 1976, thousands of defenceless black schoolchildren took to the streets, in a march more than half a mile long, to protest against the inferior quality of their education and to demand their right to be taught in their own languages.
Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot down; and in the following fortnight of protest, more than a hundred people were killed and more than a thousand injured.
This was one of the worst incidents after the Sharpville massacre of March 21 1960, when South African police opened fire against defenceless black people.
Lest we forget, these children were protesting against the sub-standard "Bantu education", and more specifically, the mandatory imposition of Afrikaans, as the medium of instruction.
They were also children demanding that their rights to a better future through education be considered by the government of the day.
On that day, 34 years ago today, just like in other countries where the liberation struggle was waged, countless children perished.
These would have been among millions of South Africans celebrating that independent South Africa had made tremendous strides since Nelson Mandela’s release from 27 years of incarceration at Robben Island.
Strides, that have enabled South Africa, now dubbed a rainbow nation to stage the first ever Fifa World Cup tournament on the African continent.
Their children or grandchildren would either be part of the Bafana Bafana outfit, or they would just be part of the history "waka-wakaing" the vuvuzela, which has become the trademark of the 2010 World Cup series.
Now, as Shakira sings "Waka Waka", the World Cup theme song, it is as if it was that simple, and also a given that South Africa would showcase such a humongous extravaganza.
For, South Africa was the last bastion of foreign strongholds ruled by the evil apartheid system that had parceled out the country, with the best of land being owned by the Boers, while the rest was divided into the following "bantustans" (homelands): Bophuthtswana; Qwa-Qwa; Lebowa; KwaNdebele; Venda; Gazankulu; Kangwane; Kwazulu; Transkei and Ciskei.
Black people needed passes (identification papers) to enter the forbidden territories occupied by Boers. One of the country’s great poets, Oswald Mtshali captures this in ‘Always a suspect’, in his compilations "Sounds of a cowhide drum."
I get up in the morning
And dress up like a gentleman
A white shirt, a tie and a suit
I walk into the street
To be met by a man
Who tells me to ‘produce’
I show him
The document of my existence
To be scrutinised and given the nod…
As the month-long event goes on, transforming lives, and also transforming South Africa and the whole continent, it is not too much to ask that Africa, particularly on this Day of the African child remembers the child heroes and heroines who stood their ground, sacrificing arm and limb to ensure that educational opportunities for Africans would not be compromised with.
How did the June 16, 1976 events become the deciding factor in the direction in which South Africa’s liberation struggle would be waged? A summation of the country’s education system suffices?
According to one source, educational provisions for black South Africans were segregated and inadequate. The inequalities were reinforced in the 1950s when the government introduced separate "Bantu" education for Africans who were then termed "Bantu" by the government.
At the time, Hendrik Verwood one of apartheid’s architects said, "I will reform it (native education) so that natives will be taught from childhood that equality with Europeans is not for them.’
"The schools were strictly segregated, with very few exceptions, and education for the different ‘population groups’ was run by separate government departments.
"There was a shortage of school places for African children, particularly at secondary level. In addition, many children could not afford uniforms, stationery and books.
"Children of farm labourers were frequently employed as part of the labour force, especially at harvest time. Their education was at the discretion of individual white farmers who had the power to decide whether there was to be a school in the area. For white children, education was compulsory between the ages of 5 and 16 years, and facilities were of a high standard. Only a small number of black students got the opportunity to go to university."
Today the dinning noise from the vuvuzelas cannot in any way be compared to the cries of death after the Soweto massacre as children defied authorities and said "No" to Afrikaans and "No" to Bantu education, and "No, No, No" to apartheid.
It is not that we want to stay in the past, but today as we commemorate the Day of the African Child, watching soccer in a seemingly "free" Africa, we also take time to reflect and ask ourselves the difficult questions that led these children to be so defiant.
For much as the vuvuzelas are being blown out, they would never drown those children’s cries, 34 years on.
Hector Pietersen and his fellow child comrades cannot be wished away. What they fought for as children has reaped benefits, but it also places a major task facing not only South Africa, but also the African continent.
The timeless image of a young man, holding the lifeless body of Hector Pietersen, mourning and running, and a girl beside him will live forever, as a reminder about our responsibility to the future of Africa through major investments in children.
When the picture captured on camera hit international news wires, it was an image that paraphrased the South African story. It was a also picture that spoke volumes about the apartheid system.
In today’s world, where satellite television and the Internet through social networks like Facebook or Twitter drive news-on-demand, it was an image that could have set the world on fire.
So powerful was the image that it changed the face of South Africa’s socio-political and economic landscape, until Nelson Mandela emerged out of prison in 1991.
Looking back on this day does June 16 mean anything for South African youths? Does it mean anything when cadres who are being trained to take over the reins of power are once again not allowed to freely express themselves through historical events? When the likes of Julius Malema (ANC Youth League chairperson) are rail-roaded for remembering history?
As one analyst argued, if songs could really do what they are blamed to do, Africa would never have used guerrilla warfare to fight. Africa’s liberation struggles could have been won without a single shot being fired, for music and the struggle were inseparable.
In fact, if the arguments against the likes of Malema were scientifically true, what it would mean is that Bafana Bafana would lift the World Cup trophy come July 1, just through the merriment that has gripped South Africa, through the vuvuzelas in particular.
Thirty-four years on, South Africa and the continent have moved on, but does development on the ground show that it is a region that bequeathing its youths, through education in particular?
Business generated by the World Cup in South Africa has been phenomenal, but the key question is whether it has benefited young people, and whether the proceeds will be ploughed back for the development of the youths.
Apart from being cheerleaders, after July 11, how much profit will the young people of South Africa be counting?
Is it business that will continue to profit the minority white world, which has always been the norm? Are Africans fronts for big corporations from within South Africa and outside, who are working towards the development of children from those areas?
As the vuvuzelas are blown out endlessly, what does that mood mean for South Africa’s youths and the future? When the likes of Hector Pietersen became the point persons because they refused to learn Afrikaans under a system that had already condemned them to Bantu education which could not take them anywhere, what does it mean?
It is also noteworthy that as South Africa hosts the world, it is reminded that xenophobia should be a thing of the past, just as much as they want "hate" language to be a thing of the past.
As an anti-apartheid activist of yester-years this writer who has been boggled by how Malema was being silenced gives below snippets of the Soweto massacres from the play, ‘Katshaa!: the sound the AK 47 rifle’, a play taken to different parts of Zimbabwe and the region:
Narrator: The people armed. Soweto seeds bring powerful fruit. Yesterday’s children, today’s guerillas.
Freedom fighter: Yes, guerillas. I grew up in Orlando West, Soweto. In 1976 our school was one of the first to march against Afrikaans.
Narrator: O, yes when the children of Soweto rose up Bantu Education and the oppressor’s language as a medium of instruction.
Soweto schoolchildren in class on the 16th June 1976, discussing Afrikaans.
1st child: Ayi, we don’t want this Afrikaans.
2nd child: What can you do with Afrikaans?
3rd child: We had to learn English so we could study. Now they want us to learn Afrikaans to study.
4th child: Nee, man, they’re trying to fail us.
5th child: Anyway, what’s the point of even passing? There are no jobs.
1st child: Even then, you can’t say you’re educated when you finish. You’re just Bantu-educated.
All: We don’t want Afrikaans! Asifun’ isiBhunu! Ha re bahle Afrikaans . . . Asifun’ isiBhunu! Asifun’ isiBhunu!
IsiBhunu —the oppressor’s language!
Suddenly, they find themselves confronted by police with guns.
1st child: Don’t shoot!
2nd child: This is a peaceful demonstration.
They run out of the classroom into the street and start the demonstration that leads to the tragic shooting of Hector Pietersen and hundreds of other young people, in Soweto and black townships all over South Africa.
Narrator: Hector Pietersen, first victim of the Soweto massacre.
Hundreds of unarmed children slaughtered.
However, today, as a totally different image is shown to the world; an image of order and happiness; an image of a South Africa united with the rest of the world, Africa knows that although tragic, it was probably not in vain that the first country to agitate against colonialism, became the last one to gain its independence.
Like all the others, the major task it faces is youth empowerment through an education system that can compete against the rest, just like the soccer is doing.