Thursday, June 16, 2016

40 years ago today . . .

. . . South Africa changed forever, and my life changed with it.  The Soweto Uprising broke out on June 16th, 1976.  About 20,000 school pupils in Soweto revolted against being forced to learn in Afrikaans, a language most of them could not speak or understand.  The police reacted savagely.

This video clip, featuring many of those who took part in the uprising, will be difficult for many Americans to follow, because the accents are heavy.  Nevertheless, it's worth the effort if you're interested in learning what can drive a people to despair, and from despair to defiance, and from defiance to open revolt.

Soweto was crucial in that it was the first time that the leaders on both sides lost control of their followers.  The leaders of the African resistance movements could not control the youth, who acted in defiance of their parents and leaders and went wild for the next few years.  The white politicians who thought themselves masters of South Africa's destiny found out the hard way that they could push people so far . . . but no further.  On June 16th, 1976, for the first time, they lost control - and they were never again to fully regain it.

Hundreds died on that day.  Thousands, and then tens of thousands, would die between 1976 and 1994, when democracy finally came to South Africa.  The human cost was immense.  The total of those who died will never be known.  My best guess (which is, let me add, a pretty well-informed estimate) is that it was approximately 100,000, give or take ten thousand or so.  The death toll was so immense that it traumatized the entire nation.  It left our collective psyche deeply scarred.  How else do you explain this song's (and its parent album's) popularity on the local hit parade in 1983?  I remember kids singing its lyrics in the streets . . . kids.  Schoolkids.  They were living this reality every day.

I remember those years all too well.  I remember Soweto in 1976.  I can never forget it.  It changed my life, and its echoes reverberate within me still.



raven said...

Peter, you could write a very interesting and informative biography.
There are a lot of readers here who would probably be interested.

Anonymous said...

I agree. You should give it serious consideration Peter.


Quartermaster said...

It would be interesting. A question to answer is, are you satisfied with the results?

A South African woman attends my church part of the year and she has been working to get her kids and their families out of South Africa. She finally got them to Oz last year, but she herself seems stuck there for now. She hoped to get them here, but, alas, we have a maladminstration that hates white people. She may end up in Oz herself, if she can get there.