Picture: Antoine de Ras/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Antoine de Ras/African News Agency (ANA)

LOOK: How the 1976 Soweto Uprising inspired students in the Western Cape

By Crispin Adriaanse Time of article published Jun 16, 2020

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Cape Town - The Western Cape is often overlooked when one thinks of the South African student uprising of June 16, 1976, as the locus of the movement was widely documented to be Soweto, near Johannesburg. 

However, the uprising in Soweto inspired a similar movement in the Western Cape, with all communities of colour on Africa’s southern tip mobilising in solidarity with their inland counterparts.

South African History Online details the uprising, which began in Soweto in 1976 with the rise of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) and the emergence of the South African Students Organisation (SASO), mobilising students to stand against the unjust Bantu Education Act of 1953 and the compulsory use of Afrikaans and English languages for learning implemented in 1974.

Between 3 000 and 10 000 students marched on that day in 1976, to peacefully demonstrate their anger about the system that was depriving millions of South Africans of colour an equal education as opposed to their white counterparts. 

On their way to Orlando Stadium, Soweto, the students were ambushed by apartheid police, who tear-gassed and then fired live ammunition into the crowd.

A timeline of events in the Western Cape in 1976, inspired by the Soweto Uprising. Graphic: Crispin Adriaanse/African News Agency (ANA)

The peaceful demonstration disintegrated into an uprising against the apartheid government, images of which led to an international outcry, exposing the apartheid government exactly for what it was. 

The events of Soweto in 1976, and the bravery of its students, ignited and inspired the rest of South Africa’s youth to stand in solidarity.

The Western Cape was part of that, and from June 16 a number of events transpired. 

From June to September, students across the Western Cape stood together to fight the injustice as black and coloured communities took the fight to the apartheid government. From Athlone to Gugulethu, Nyanga to Bellville, and Bonteheuwel to Worcester, they marched and fought despite the apartheid police targeting their schools to try too break their spirit.

However, it did not and never could break their spirit, and by September 3 the apartheid police could no longer force the youth off the streets. 

Forty-four years later, the entire country salutes the fallen heroes who made selfless sacrifices for the benefit of all.

African News Agency/ANA

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