June 16th 1976  



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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"   Mixed Media    (2000)                                    $2100


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.)






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