Bendie: Youth Sparked Soweto Uprising in SA



The Centre for Political and Development Studies (CPDS), Gaza organized a lecture on Wednesday, May 16 on ‘The Role of Youth in the Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa’, delivered by Talgha Bendie, South African activist, who is visiting Gaza currently. The lecturer discussed the role of youth in the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) in South Africa (SA), particularly the Soweto Uprising of 1976.

“The Soweto Uprising was a series of high school student-led protests in South Africa that began on the morning of June 16, 1976. Students from numerous Sowetan schools began to protest in the streets in response to the introduction of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in local schools. An estimated 20,000 students took part in the protests, and about 176 people were killed,” said Bendie, who wore a t-shirt in solidarity with Palestinian hunger-strikers with Palestine’s flag on it.

As in the current situation Palestine, discrimination was a state-sponsored crime in SA. Black and colored people were discriminated against, as the international community remained silent.

“Punt Janson, the Deputy Minister of Bantu Education at the time, was quoted as saying: “A Black man may be trained to work on a farm or in a factory. He may work for an employer who is either English-speaking or Afrikaans-speaking and the man who has to give him instructions may be either English-speaking or Afrikaans-speaking,” added the SA activist.

Mohammed Al-Durra, Eman Hijo, Al-Samouni kids, Mohammed Al-Buraee and thousands of other children were martyred in Palestine at the hands of the Israeli armed-to-the-teeth apartheid regime’s soldiers. The SA regime did it first.

“One of the first students to be shot dead was 13-year-old Hector Pieterson. He was shot at Orlando West High School and became the symbol of the Soweto uprising,” noted Bendie.

 

Hiding Truth

“The accounts of how many people died vary from 200 to 600. The original government figure claimed only 23 students were killed. The number of wounded was estimated to be over a thousand men, women, and children,” stressed the activist.

“The Soweto Uprising was a turning point in the liberation struggle in South Africa.”

 

Some white activists supported the struggle of the indigenous people of SA, after the crackdown led by the white-dominated apartheid regime in Soweto. However he noted that a white doctor who had dedicated his life to working in the townships was killed by a mob, making others reluctant to join the struggle.

International reaction

“The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 392 strongly condemning the incident and the apartheid regime. Henry Kissinger, then United States Secretary of State, was about to visit South Africa at the time of the riot, and said that the uprisings cast a negative light on the entire country. African National Congress (ANC) exiles called for international action and more economic sanctions against South Africa,” clarified Bendie.

Observers emphasized the importance of media and fair reporting in exposing the crimes committed against oppressed and occupied populations. Media play an important role in both SA and Palestine, despite the blackout imposed by mainstream media in the West.

“Images of the riots spread all over the world, shocking millions. The photograph of Hector Pieterson’s dead body, as captured by photo-journalist Sam Nzima, caused outrage and brought down international condemnation on the Apartheid government,” added Talgha.

“We had prisons in South Africa. In Palestine, there are prisons too. One of the biggest prisons was in Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held captive for over 28 years. Later, he became the first elected-black president of SA,” he observed.

The lecturer asked Palestinian youth to become involved in the struggle against the Israeli occupation. “Youth in Palestine can unite to bring down Israel’s apartheid regime in the same way as in SA.”

This lecture is the 20th CPDS has held since the beginning of this year aimed at shedding light on issues related to the Palestinian situation. The South African struggle is being focused on for its richness of significance to Palestine.

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