June 16, 40 years after: Part 1 – The Introduction

Looking back through the years and reflecting on how far SA has come since June 16, 1976. We are now closing off what is famously known as ‘Youth Month’ in our country and we can’t help but ask ourselves: ‘40 years later. What now?’

That special, but extremely sad date in history is undoubtedly one of the proudest moments of our beautiful nation. It represents a time when being a South African meant bravery, resilience and unity. Never has the world witnessed a youth so remarkably powerful and liberated. In fact it took another 39 years for our youth to have enough guts to say; ‘Enough is enough’ when we witnessed the #FeesMustFall Movement.

Hector Pieterson
Iconic Sam Nzima photo of Hector Pieterson in June 16, 1976.

We had lost all hope in Generation X’s ability to stand up for themselves. New Millennials (as they are fondly called) have – up until #FeesMustFall – been notoriously labeled as the lazy youth. We have been told that we do not know or understand what struggle is. That we are only harvesting the fruits that were sowed by oppressed South Africans in the apartheid days.

Personally I never understood what people actually meant by ‘not knowing what struggle is’. Do they mean physical or mental struggle? There is nothing that makes me more proud than the fight against white domination in SA back in the day. But times have changed and we are no longer being chased by casspir’s or being randomly ambushed by AK-47’s. So exactly what are we expected to do to be recognized as struggling? Again I do not believe that we have won our freedom nor have we completely overcome the adversities that black people had to face each day. We are now fighting a mental, economic and political war. Tanks are not going to win it. But wisdom, liberated youth and intelligence can put us at a better advantage. That is why the #FeesMustFall Movement is probably one of the most important events of South Africa’s Generation X. It embraced some of the qualities that enabled the youth of June 1976 to be brave enough to stand up against men with rifles on their hands, when they were only armed with stones and bricks.

Fees must fall
Very powerful message by one of the student protestors.

Our country has come a long way since oppression. ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ as our beloved Madiba would call it. His release from prison gave South African’s new hope: No more violence; equal rights for all; and most importantly, the right to vote. The right to choose who we want to govern us in our country. South Africans were truly filled with a deep sense of euphoria. A happy and hopeful time it was. The war had been won. But had it? Are we honestly free?

With so many rife instances of racism that just creep out of nowhere – with the likes of Penny Sparrow. Makes you wonder just exactly how many other white South Africans share her sentiments. Recently I saw a picture of pre-scholars doing something as simple as eating cupcakes. Simple, but sinister. All the pretty white kids had been given cupcakes but the poor little black child was made to sit on his own with nothing in his hand. All these racial events keep happening around our social media, schools, work environments, etc. Some undercover and others excruciatingly blatant.

FeesMustFall_Fashion Show
So powerful was the #FeesMustFall Movement that it even made it’s debut at the SA Fashion Week.

Indeed #FeesMustFall was a great movement. But why, after the youth of June 1976 had fought against institutionalized racism in black schools, are we still fighting for something as basic as education? So let’s ask ourselves, 40 years after, have we actually made any difference or has history made a complete 360 and just repeated itself and took a different angle? Are we the ideal nation our predecessors fought for, or are we still a work in progress? I don’t know. TBC…





Header Image: by Kasi Insta Walk ( watch out for a full profile on who they are and what they do in the next post).

Other Images: Instagram








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