Remarks By Ambassador Malefane at the Centre for Africa Strategic Studies, 16 June 2017

REMARKS BY AMBASSADOR PULE MALEFANE AT THE CENTRE FOR AFRICA STRATEGIC STUDIES ON THE OCCASION OF COMMEMORATING THE HISTORY OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN YOUTH

The Leadership of AFSAM
Fellow academics
Ladies and Gentleman

I am humbled and privileged to be part of this commemoration event that is benchmarked with South Africa’s June 16 student uprisings of 1976.Your theme provokes discussion and debate and allows for a reflection on where we come from as a human race and where do we want the world to be. The issues confronting the Youth of today of inequality, unemployment, under-development, poverty and injustice are issues that are close to my heart and mind. These are issues that characterised the history of a South African child and shaped their thought of a future they want.

Allow me to also congratulate the leadership of AFSAM to come up with a significant theme concerning the Youth related issues in the context of the African vision for development. It is important to state the obvious that a South African child is an African child. The challenges that have always been faced by the South African youth are integral to the challenges faced by an African child elsewhere in the continent.

Ladies and Gentleman
On the morning of June 16th 1976 thousands of African students went on a protest rally from their schools to Orlando Stadium in Soweto. This monumental day has been dubbed ‘Soweto Student Uprising’ and it reflects on the fierce spirit of the Youth of that time.

These students were protesting against an official order from the Nationalist Party government of the time prohibiting the usage of local languages such as Zulu,Sotho,Xhosa in Bantu school by imposing a law that imposed Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in all public schools; this became known as Bantu Education Act. This law was to serve the interests of white supremacy and provide an inferior type of education to a black child and the white child to receive a superior one. White children were allowed to learn Maths and Science and a Black child was only taught woodwork and biblical studies thus the policy deepened racial inequality and racial segregation.

The Rally was intended to be a peaceful protest, simply to request that government not make Afrikaans compulsory in schools as it would have dire consequences on the future of non-white students. Students gathered in their thousands with posters and placards and demonstrated peacefully in all the streets of Soweto to Orlando Stadium. Chanting together in unison subconsciously brought a sense of camaraderie and unity among the students. Being involved in something together was better than standing alone. The mood on the day was telling that the country was going somewhere even though you did not know where, but also you would not have imagined that it was going towards liberation.

As the crowds grew to more than 10 000 students, approximately 50 policemen stopped the students and tried to turn them back. Tear gas and warning shots were fired at the unarmed students in order to disperse them to no avail. Policemen then fired directly into the crowd of peaceful demonstrators. Many of the protestors ran for shelter but others refused to stand down for what they believed in and went on to pelt the officers with stones. Hell broke loose and there was pandemonium which led to deaths and injuries. In the chaos it was established that a 12 year old Hector Pieterson was among those that lost their lives as a result of a police officer who shot directly at him.

This year marks the 41st anniversary of the tragic but heroic events of June 16, 1976. Therefore this date remains meaningful in the South African official calendar. As we commemorate the sterling and bravery of the South African youth to preserve their rights, we also acknowledge their significant contribution towards freedom under the democratic society which we live in. This was a sad and painful moment in the history of South Africa, but fortunately through the hard work of our freedom stalwart Oliver Tambo, we managed to grab the attention of the world in this light that our domestic and foreign policy champions human rights, non-sexist and non-racial approach.

Ladies and Gentleman
The emerging driver of socio-economic and political discourse in any society is the youth. The realisation of a successful fourth industrial revolution and the success of the future international order lie in the hands of the youth. Let us equip the youth of the world with the necessary tools to make the world a better place to live in. The effort of AFSAM in providing valuable international perspectives to the youth in Turkey and should be appreciated. It is very important that the current Youth defines their destiny and mission, but emulate the courageous Youth of 1976.The 1976 Brigade liberated South Africa using education as a tool to mobilise society to stand up and fight for its liberation. They followed the words of Nelson Mandela when he said, ‘Young people must take it upon themselves to ensure that they receive the highest education possible so that they can represent us well as future leaders’. May the Dreams of the Youth be the reality of their future.

Tesekular