South Africa: 40 Years After Soweto Uprising | Independent Newspapers Limited
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South Africa: 40 Years After Soweto Uprising

Denja Yaqub
Posted: Jul 12, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


By Denja Yaqub
It has been forty years since protesting students were murdered in their youth by armed apartheid policemen in Soweto, a popular township near Johannesburg, South Africa during the apartheid era; an era of one of the world’s most oppressive systems, abhorred by all of humanity across the globe.

The 16th June 1976 protests by students from numerous schools across the township were ignited by one of the most anti academic laws which sought to downgrade the education of blacks by insisting they must be taught in Afrikaans in subjects such as mathematics, arithmetic and social studies while general sciences and practical subjects were to be taught in English. Indigenous languages were to be used for religious studies, music and physical culture.

The apartheid regime had earlier in 1974 passed the Afrikaans Medium Decree which compelled all black schools to mix up Afrikaans with English to teach students in all black high schools with effect from 1st January 1975.
Afrikaans, a low Franconian West Germanic language with Dutch descent was adopted in 1925 to replace English and Dutch, which the 1909 Union of South Africa Act recognised as official languages for South Africans.

The ultimate intent and purpose was for blacks never to get anywhere beyond the farms and factories as factory hands for the usurpers of their natural belongings. The uprisings assumed global prominence, especially coming at a period the apartheid regime was fast losing international friendships as the dominant forces in the global space had started urging the regime to embark on transformations; though the content of such transformation would not have translated to freedom for the people, especially the over 90% black populace who have been contending with the excruciating pangs of the overbearing dominance of the tiny but powerful white minority.

The contributions of those young lads who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of their country from excruciating dominance of a tiny minority of just about 9% of the entire population has continually been dimmed by neo liberal agents who seized power after the demise of apartheid.

The new political class entrenched socio economic adversity of the majority and today, more than two decades after freedom, blacks are still strangulated under harsh conditions, perhaps of no significant difference from their experience under apartheid.

The South African population comprise of about 90% blacks, 9% whites, 9% coloured, and 2% of Indians or Asian extractions. The inequalities that characterised the apartheid regime are largely yet to be corrected, outside of political leadership now under the control of the majority.
Under the leadership of the ANC, and despite rising GDP, unemployment, income inequality, poverty, life expectancy, access to quality life, poor housing, educational disadvantages, lack of economic empowerment and much more; the black majority are nowhere near true liberation. And this has increased violence and restiveness among the youths who should have been a major consideration of any popular government, especially South Africa whose struggles for liberation were mainly orchestrated and fired to victory by the blood of young people.

Indeed, the country still groans under socio economic racism as evident in its income distribution, one of the most unequal in the world. About 60% of the population earns below $7,000 per annum, while 2.2% of the population earns an income far above $50,000 per annum. The black population is in the 60% while other races that are in the very tiny minority are in the 2.2%.

Perhaps, if the Freedom Charter that was adopted by popular votes conducted in Kliptown on 26th June, 1955 had been the driving policy direction of the post apartheid government, South Africans would have been better, happier and satisfied with the liberation. But now they have been entrapped in a tripartite contraption that is clearly under the grip of neo liberalism, which rubbishes the soul of the Freedom Charter in building strong public institutions to deliver quality services accessible to all South Africans, regardless of race.

By the tripartite arrangement, involving the ruling party, ANC, Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party, the mass of the people have been stripped of the cord which tied them with these organisations; organisations that were major driving forces  of the struggle. Rather than staying with the people to ensure the implementation of the Freedom Charter, these organisations opted to carry out instructions of global neo liberal institutions who found in Thabo Mbeki, an unrepentant neo liberalist and advocate of privatisation, a trusted representive of neo liberal interests in Africa. And the state is doing everything possible to implement, protect and advance these interests, even with the blood of the citizenry.

South Africa is a country of so much hope for the African continent, given the nature of its liberation struggle but our collective hope is obviously left in illusions as the country is conveniently seated among those acting the script to perpetually underdevelop the continent.

Yaqub writes from Abuja