Tshing – South Africa’s youth on Friday paid tribute to their counterparts of 1976 who fought against a brutal apartheid system and played a major role in the country’s liberation.
“Youth Day is important to me in that it’s a day we commemorate the youth of 1976. They died for us, the youth of today. We as the youth of today must pick up where they left off and look after the freedom that we enjoy today,” said 18-year old Naomi Mabele, a pupil from Matlosana Secondary School.
Mabele’s thoughts were shared by Thato Pupunyane from Koster in the North West province who called on the youth to honour those who fought for freedom for all.
“I’m here to today to honour those who fought for our freedom. All that we have today is because of the sacrifices they made for us. We will remember heroes like Hector Peterson and we celebrate their spirit and the rights that we enjoy today,” said the 27-year-old.
This, as South Africa on Friday marked 41 years since the historic Soweto June 16, 1976 uprisings which saw hundreds of lives lost when police opened fire on protesters.
Speaking at the national commemoration of the events of 1976 held in Tshing Extension 2 Township in the North West province, President Jacob Zuma said Youth Day is a significant day in the country’s history.
“Youth Day is significant in our country as it acknowledges the heroism of the youth of 1976 who took on the apartheid state to register their total rejection of the bantu education system at the time. They also took to the streets in order to advance the goals of the broader struggle for liberation and democracy in their country,” said President Zuma.
The President also noted that the youth of 1976 changed the course of South Africa’s history as well as the face of politics.
“We pay tribute to all who lost their lives on this tragic day, such as Hector Petersen, Hastings Ndlovu and many others in Soweto and other parts of the country, on June 16 and throughout that year. We remember the pain of the families of those who went missing such as Mbuyisa Makhubu who is depicted carrying Hector Petersen in the famous and historic June 16 picture taken by photographer Sam Nzima,” said President Zuma.
Addressing those who had gathered inside the large white marquee at the Tshing Sports Grounds in Extension 2, President Zuma also appealed to historians to record the role that women played in that historical year.
“We also acknowledge women who played a prominent role but who are left out of the mainstream June 16, 1976 historical narrative, such as Sibongile Mkhabela, Margaret Masabalala and Eunice Sithole. We urge historians to ensure the inclusion of women in our June historical records and every other key episode in the history of our struggle, as there is a tendency to focus on males when history is recorded,” he said.
The President also called on the youth to seize opportunities that are provided by government to help them establish their own businesses.
He highlighted that the in the current financial year, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) will invest R72 million in economic participation programmes. A total 18 000 young aspirant entrepreneurs will receive business support services like vouchers and mentorship among others.