Pupils take to the streets to protest against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction on June 16, 1976.

Thirty-six years ago the children of Soweto and from other parts of the country took to the streets to protest against the forced use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in township schools. At the core of the protest was a call for restoration of black dignity against brutal white supremacy. There was also a call for decent housing, quality education, economic freedom, a call against corruption by the then government, demands for equitable land distribution and decent jobs for black people.

It was not by accident that when the marching children heard reports of the first shot victims of 1976, they responded by raising clenched fists and shouting “Black Power!”.

From there onward “black power” became the rallying slogan whenever and wherever people gathered to protest.

The call for “black power” was an appropriate response considering the never-ending control and subjugation of black people. White society did not only control Bantu education, but they also owned and controlled more than 80% of the land and all other resources.

They had given themselves an unchallenged monopoly and right to political decision and activity. In the process, blacks became second- class citizen in the country of their ancestors.

It is sad that the call for “Black Power” and “Black Consciousness” should be activated as the conditions that gave rise to black subjugation seem to be permeating our society again. The ANC government, with its mediocre education, corruption, poor state of health, inferior housing and infrastructure, high levels of unemployment, drug and alcohol consumption patterns in the country, grant-dependency and many other such factors, has rendered useless any hopes of what they had promised: a better life for all.

The ANC has carved a path as a reformist party, whose leaders (if what we read in the media is anything to go by) are more concerned with looting state resources than effectively running the country.

Schoolchildren are still studying under trees without text books, no stationery, let alone school libraries and laboratories. Teachers are not teaching.

All government departments see nothing wrong with outsourcing some of their core competencies to companies of politically connected individuals.

The health sector is another disaster. There is a shortage of nurses, doctors and medicines in hospitals and clinics. Some public hospitals have no linen and beds, forcing patients to bring their own bed sheets and gowns when admitted. These hospitals have collapsed because discipline has broken down. Patients die under the nose of doctors and nurses who would not even lift a finger, because they don’t care.

In this 36th anniversary of the June 16, 1976, we witness the reversal of the gains won by both workers and the students in their struggles. Our public schools, instit- utions of higher learning and communities have become battle grounds again through service delivery protests and protests against financial exclusion.

Workers are facing the scourge of privatisation, liquidation of industries, the shrinking rand and cuts in wages. The ANC’s failure to deliver to the people has created a situations of utter frustration and helplessness for them.

All these factors clearly demonstrate to us that black people must fight for real power because it is not yet Uhuru (freedom) under the ANC administration.

Thole Somdaka