14 June 2020
Themba J Nkosi
Opportune time to learn from ’76 youth
“Mother look at the sea, that’s where your son died. Father look at the mountains, that is where your daughter vanished. Brother look at the river, can’t you see your pain flowing?”
Had Ray Phiri, the founder, lead vocalist and songwriter of Stimela, still been around, one would have asked him what prompted the composition of these lyrics from their song,
Trouble in the land of plenty.
The youth of South Africa should feel joy in their hearts and humbled in their souls that the efforts and toils, and milestones of those who walked before them are recognised.
June 16 should not be a day of dancing and singing. It’s a moment that affords young people an opportunity to pause, take a retrospective and introspective journey with their conscience. It is a day to challenge themselves with deep and thought-provoking questions. Is there any connection between the 1976 youth generation and me? What can I do to take their legacy a step further? How did they survive in the midst of human-made obstacles created by the then Nationalist Party regime?
Young people should not allow party politics to divide them and dictate their life. They should also dare not allow politicians to rob them of their youth by gambling with their lives. They should enjoy being young but act responsibly because youth comes once in life. Once it is gone it does not come back.
Many a time people forget easily and begin to take things for granted. There were pools of blood on this day and young bodies were lying like logs in the streets. Young people should encourage themselves to become big dreamers and see themselves through their minds’ eyes conquering the world.
They should tell themselves that one day they will become leaders and take this country to another level. This does not happen automatically. They need to learn to respect their parents, peers, teachers and everyone else.
One thing that was notable about the youth of the 1970s was their culture of self-respect and respect for others. This was drizzled in their lifestyle. They were ashamed to misbehave and treated those older than them like their own parents.
Nowadays, the youth need to disagree with respect and humility with peers and parents. They should see themselves in adults. One day they will be parents. Would they want their children to embarrass them by indulging in drugs and dragging their family names in the mud? Would they like to see their children not prioritise their studies? Would they applaud them for taking every shortcut in the road of life?
Young people need to be grateful that those who had gone before them removed all the obstacles that would have deprived them of any opportunity to be respected and recognised as human beings, children and youth.
It is their responsibility to consolidate their efforts and share thoughts on
improving their lives and arm themselves for the future.
One way of doing that is conducting continuous research on what happened on June 16 1976. This journey, among other activities, should include reading books based on what happened. What about inviting and interviewing journalists, student leaders, parents and community leaders who witnessed the events of that day?
This will open their ears and eyes and make them think broadly and take informed decisions. They would witness tears of painful joy when realising that freedom was not handed on a platter, but some young people were detained and tortured, went missing, and were wiped off the face of the earth. Others paid an exorbitant price through their lives.
Young people, write your own chapter. The earlier quoted song by Stimela continues: “Father, your daughter will someday come home. Mother, don’t weep no more, your son is coming home. Did you know history is no past time but a reality?”
- Themba J Nkosi is a freelance journalist and writer based in Durban.