The heroes of
June 16 1976
are ordinary people we see on a daily basis. Now without giving you a history
lesson, the point of departure for the youth of 1976 was the blatant refusal to
comply with an order that made Afrikaans the medium of instruction in their
schools. The aftermath that followed remains entrenched in our memories; and as
young people we continuously search deep within and around us, trying to
imagine what it was like for those young people who found themselves in the
midst of all the action of June 16 and the days that followed.
Perhaps one thing that we overlook about the youth of 1976 is that a lot of them are still alive. Some of these answers we seek can be given by the people who were alive during that time. They are our parents, our uncles and aunts or our older brothers and sisters. They are everywhere around us. Take my neighbour, Indod’enkulu, as we affectionately call him. He is approaching his fifties and unemployed. He is too young to be a beneficiary of the old-age grant, 'too old' to be employed, and to make matters worse he has no post school qualification.
He tells me that he was in standard 8 (grade 10 in today’s system) when the riots broke out in
His words leave a bitter taste in my mouth. Thoughts of our current situation as young people confirm the need for us to do something real for our people to give them hope. But hope alone is not enough; it certainly won’t put food on Indod’enkulu’s table. I contemplate silently that he could turn to crime as an option. He would be confirming the stereotype if he did. I am grateful that he has not opted for this route and this gives me hope. After some enquiries I learned that he has a piece job in the neighbourhood.