June 16th, 1976 commemorates
the day when over 10,000 youth marched to protest the Government’s
ruling that Afrikaans be used with English as the medium of instruction in
teaching the major subjects of mathematics, history and geography.
30" x 40"
The violence began when
the police threw tear gas at high school pupils and one hundred and four
youth under the age of sixteen were killed. The uprising and the
resistance spread to other parts of the country where nearly 600 died
throughout South Africa in associated riots. Brigadier Swanepoel
was the man who gave the orders to open fire on the Soweto protestors who
were lead by Tsietsi Mashinini. The first victim was Hector
Petersen and the picture of him being carried in the arms of his
anguished friend was seen around the world.
Black youth, specifically school children, joined the War of Liberation
by challenging authority and disputing the legitimacy of the State.
Children became agents of social change with the goal of dismantling
Apartheid and thus also became targets of the regime. The
State used various means to suppress dissent including arrests and
detentions to remove opponents from the political arena. Student and
youth organizations and the possession and distribution of their
literature were banned in the 1980’s. From 1976-1990, all outdoor
political gatherings were outlawed by the government and from 1986 there
was a blanket ban on indoor gatherings that promoted work stoppages,
stayaways or educational boycotts thus effectively preventing all forms of
open student protest. During the 1985 State of Emergency over
500 Congress of South African Students (COSAS) members were
arrested and detained throughout the country.
Children identified as troublesome were often hunted down by the security
police who then worked to develop a network of informers. This had
dire consequences for the youth organizations. The TRC were witness
to many stories about how detained children were transferred to
‘rehabilitation camps’ where they were trained to participate in
counter-mobilization and other state security projects.
“Our friends were made to spy on us ... be it girlfriends or
boyfriends, were forcibly turned to spy on us for the benefit of the
monster.” (Testimony by Mr.
Mzimasi Majojo at the Eastern Cape hearing.)