Soweto 1976: Dear Class of '76 your struggle was not in vain By Buti Manamela
Think about it, 40 years ago on June 16 young men and women left their homes, some mere children, many not knowing they would never return while the rest never imagined they were making history.
They rose to change the course of the ugly destiny that apartheid had designed for them. They were energetic, militant, brave and cared more about common prosperity and shared wealth of their country.
They had no guns, owned no bombs. But they had courage and an indomitable fighting spirit.
They had a dream and vision of a country where the education system was transformed, accessible, empowering and equal - whether you were black or white.
I wonder if they knew the extent of the impact of their action on my life, on your life, on that of my daughter or your son and their children; if little Hector Pieterson understood that waking up in Soweto that day, taking action, would mean that one day our children would share a classroom irrespective of the colour of their skin.
As Tsietsi Mashinini marshalled everyone, did he comprehend that 40 years later, the doors of learning and culture shall be wide open for all to enter?
Mbuyisa Makhubo who carried the body of Hector, and carried our struggles with him. Did he know that still, 40 years later we'd be keeping the burner of struggle lit?
The spear of liberation has been picked, and we shout in demand, and action, that #FeesMustFall, #RacialBarriersMustFall, #TVETMustExpand and the ideas espoused by colonialists and architects of black oppression such as Rhodes and Verwoerd must also fall.
This is our contribution, Tsietsi. This is our way of saying Thank You, Hector. We appreciate the burden you carried at a tender age of 13 Hector. We shall continue to sing and shout your names whilst we say aluta continua.
But we want to do it differently because we are dealing with a democratically elected government, our government.
Some of us will vote for the first time on August 3 for our local leaders, and we will do so because this is what you lost your lives to.
We can chant. But we want to throw ideas and grab opportunities and not break and torch libraries, schools and universities.
We want to burn the midnight oil as we prepare to complete our Grade 12 examinations instead of torching schools and books.
We're not naive about the challenges of democracy and governance. We know that not enough has been done in the last 20 years.
But we also know that the quality of our life is far better than those of our parents. We have water. Electricity. Housing. Clinics. Schools. Roads. Playgrounds. Internet.
But a lot more needs to be done for inequality, poverty and unemployment to be completely eradicated.
We are not some lost generation who abuse alcohol and drugs; who underestimate the value of the struggle of our parents and their parents; who lack national solidarity and do not advocate for social justice.
We are the future of this country and are doing our bit to ensure that we build it and not destroy it.
Many of those who were excluded in the past are now more than 80% in universities and TVET colleges and plan to make South Africa work. Some are entrepreneurs and are creating jobs, like Bheki Kunene of Mind Trix Media. Others are innovative and have put South Africa on the map through their products like Ludwick Marishane of Headboy Industries who created DryBath.
We have faith in the National Youth Policy 2020 that calls on government to provide a hand up because we do not want handouts.
We play our part in taking further the National Development Plan Vision 2030 as our country's plan which we helped to shape.
We've seen efforts by government to provide opportunities for youth entrepreneurship.
We believe in South Africa because we all belong in it. We love and defend its flag, its constitution and the institutions that are there to keep South Africa afloat.
We know that if this ship we call Mzansi sinks, we will all sink irrespective of our race or gender.
We owe it to ourselves that we continue rowing, for tomorrow, we see rainbow and sunshine that will leave permanent smiles on our faces. That's what I would say to the Class of 1976, what would you?