LOOK: City of Joburg remembers heroes of Soweto 1976 uprising on Youth Day
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Johannesburg - The City of Joburg on Wednesday held a ceremony commemorating the 1976 Soweto uprising.
The city participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the iconic Hector Pieterson memorial museum in Orlando West in Soweto.
It has been 45 years since the tragic events took place leading to hundreds of youth being killed amid protesting against a system that sought to strip them of their identity, and break their spirit.
As the country celebrated Youth Day, the family of Mbuyisa Makhubu are still in the dark over his whereabouts and said they need closure.
Makhubu is remembered running in agony holding the badly injured 12-year-old Pieterson who was shot by the apartheid police.
Working with other partners in the spirit of cooperative governance, the City of Johannesburg hosts the Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Hector Pieterson Memorial in Orlando West, Soweto.— City of Joburg (@CityofJoburgZA) June 16, 2021
#JoburgYouth #16June2021 #YouthMonth2021 ^LM pic.twitter.com/prWccMnrP6
Speaking to a local TV news channel on Tuesday morning, the Makhubu family said he fled South Africa to neighbouring Botswana and later moved to Nigeria where he enrolled in a college to further his studies.
The family said he used to write letter and send photos until 1978. After this, they never heard from him again.
They said the last they heard was that he was in Canada but that was not officially confirmed and expressed the need for closure.
Zongezile Makhubu, the nephew of the courageous Mbuyisa, said the family was still asking the question 45 years after his mystery disappearance.
“The irony to the story is that four to five years ago, there were reports that Mbuyisa was arrested in in Canada. We’ve been waiting for the government to come back to us or try to get him back home.
The commemoration of June 16 saw black school children take to the streets of Soweto and surrounding black townships to protest the government’s plan to impose the Afrikaans language as a medium of instruction in black schools across the country. #JoburgYouth #16June2021 ^LM pic.twitter.com/VvG5hFuniq— City of Joburg (@CityofJoburgZA) June 16, 2021
“Initially my mother wanted to go there physically so that she can see him rather than government doing fingerprints and blood tests, we are still asking this question 45 years later,” said Makhubu.
There were reports that Makhubu was incarcerated in Canada on immigration charges; the government tried to get involved and did DNA test but the results were inconclusive.
“They did do the DNA test but the first one was contaminated and they had to do a second one; it was inconclusive that is why my mother suggested going to Canada to make sure it was him. Honestly, from our point of view, as the family, we strongly believe it’s him because he looked like him besides the fact that he lost a bit of weight, but he looked like him,” he said.
The nephew said shortly after the heroic act by his uncle his life was made a misery, he suffered.
“He wrote a letter to my grandmother in 1978 saying he was he had malaria and was not feeling safe in Nigeria any more. At the end of the letter, he said he was thinking of walking to Jamaica to meet Bob Marley; my grandfather felt like he was losing his mind,” said Makhubu.
He said the family wanted to raise funds so his mother can go to Canada to try to verify if it is him.
City of Joburg mayor Geoffrey Makhubo said that unemployment was a huge problem and led to other social ills such as substance abuse, criminality and other issues, which make the youth feel dejected and hopeless in dealing with their future.
The wreath-laying ceremony begins, and dignitaries along with family representatives lay down flowers in remembrance of the youth of June 16. #JoburgYouth #16June2021 #YouthMonth2021 ^LM pic.twitter.com/VEiGu3O0kb— City of Joburg (@CityofJoburgZA) June 16, 2021
“If we can tackle unemployment, especially youth unemployment. The majority of our youth are aged 16 and 34 that’s 70% of our residents. We are working on tackling the issues of unemployment and we are dealing with other problems that are as a result of youth unemployment,” said Makhubo.
According to the 2016 community survey, more than half of the youth in Joburg were unemployed and most lived in informal settlements.
“We want to move the youth to formality, but the shrinking economy and Covid19 have made it worse and we had hit a technical recession. Young people need to move to formal employment,” Makhubo said.