Hundreds of South Africans, including former apartheid white conscripts, gathered at a stadium in Soweto, on Saturday, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Soweto uprising, a turning point in the anti-apartheid struggle.
40th anniversary of Soweto Uprising marked at #NAF16. We have always been challenged by youth, and young artists are still refocusing us.— National Arts Fest (@artsfestival) April 6, 2016
On June 16, 1976, security forces opened fire on black youngsters protesting in Soweto township against a government order that schools could only teach in the Afrikaans language used by whites.
Over the following three days, at least 170 people were killed, with some estimates putting the death toll at several hundreds over one month, in violence that brought the injustices of the apartheid regime to the world’s attention.
The Soweto uprising was one of the defining moments of the anti-apartheid struggle which culminated in the election of Nelson Mandela as South Africa’s first black president in 1994.
At least 400 people – almost evenly divided between blacks and whites – convened at Orlando Stadium in Soweto township for the commemoration.
Saturday’s event was organised by civic and religious groups ahead of the main government-led commemorations to be led by President Jacob Zuma on Thursday
For the first time former white conscripts – now old and greying – but who were not deployed to Soweto in 1976, joined the event.
Former police officers who did take part in the crackdown however declined to be part of the ceremony.