Changing SA lies in your hands

Soweto/Youth Day, June 16, 2023 has come and gone. Forty-seven years since the police shot and killed 12-year-old Hector Pieterson just outside the Holy Cross Anglican Church and school in Orlando West, Soweto. It is estimated that 566 schoolchildren died in the protests that year.

For some, this day was another break during which they could catch up with their friends, crack some bottles and put some meat on the braai.

For others, it was time to go to another commemoration rally, and to shout a few slogans before returning to “normal” routines.

For others still, it was a time to reflect, gather steam and return to the war that the Class of ’76 waged, a war started by their great-grandfathers, the struggle for liberation.

During my meditations this week, I was hit by a video doing the rounds, which I hope you’ve seen… A lecturer walks into a room full of students and asks one wearing blue denims for her name. “Alexis,” she responds.

“Alexis, please leave my lecture room. I don’t want to see you in my lectures ever again.”

And the baffled student walks out with her tail between her legs.

It turns out the lecture is about why we have laws, and the answer that satisfies the bully lecturer is: “Justice”.

He then concedes he was unfair to their classmate.

“Why did you not protest when I was unfair to your classmate. Why did you not stop me? Because you yourself were not affected?”

He says he was demonstrating reactions to injustice, how to stand up against injustice and showing them the importance of their voices.

For me, the video reminded me of the true meaning of June 16 for all South Africans.

I’m tired of reading the commercial media and social media all m-o-a-n-i-n-g, c-o-m-p-l-a-i-n-i-n-g about an incompetent government that doesn’t care for the good of the country and its citizens, complaining about the greed and rapaciousness of the new political and economic elite, about how the ideals of the revolution have been betrayed.

Gloom covers the length and breadth of the country.

I’m tired sitting at meals and the main sauce at the table is the moaning about “our country”, about the ANC, about President Cyril Ramaphosa and how the vote has become meaningless.

The Class of ’76 confronted power and yes, paid a heavy price. They had not planned on dying, but on living better lives.

It will be a fitting tribute to them if our lives get better.

Their deaths will not be in vain if we again all get back to changing our world, our lives.

My tribute to the Class of ’76 will not be complete if I don’t doff my hat to journalists who told that story to the world:

Willie Bokala, who dug into the developing story of crisis in the schools, perhaps even filler paragraphs in the beginning. His home in Jabavu, the Palm Tree, became the headquarters of the student leaders.

Duma Ndlovu, Gabu Tugwana,Sophie Tema, Sam Nzima, Harry Mashabela, Peter Magubane, Joe Latakgomo, who was leading the team at the World newspaper, Aggrey Klaaste, Percy Qoboza’s loud voice on his return from a year in the US on June 16 and taking the reins back from Latakgomo in Industria, and others who took a stand on the side of justice.

As I’m writing this I get a message from a high school principal in Soweto telling me of the school’s efforts to repair our society.

The school is running a nutrition centre: “As you know the state of poverty in our township, our learners are able to get at least two proper meals a day, and that keeps them at school and not in the streets trying to fend for themselves.”

Stories like this bring tears to my eyes.

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