Antoinette Sithole and Mbuyisa Makhubo carrying 12-year-old Hector Pieterson moments after he was shot by South African police during a peaceful student demonstration in Soweto, South Africa
June 1976 Hector Petersen. Photograph by Sam Nzima/South Photographs.

On June 16th 1976, thousands of students marched peacefully to demonstrate and protest against the apartheid government. In 1974, the government issued a directive that Afrikaans and English was to be compulsory as the medium of teaching in schools, prompting more student action and momentum.

The march was meant to end in a rally at Orlando Stadium, Soweto, however en route armed police fired teargas and then live ammunition on demonstrating students. This horrific crime resulted in a widespread revolt which spread across the country and continued until the following year.

This crime against humanity will forever be a scar on the soul of South Africa. The country did come together, thanks to the indomitable spirit of the late and great Nelson Mandela and all those alongside him, of all races, who stood bravely against the apartheid regime.

27 years of freedom has done little for the future of the youth

Today, 27 years after the end of apartheid, the hopes and dreams of South Africans are dimmed by lack of opportunities, lack of trust, lack of motivation and lack of hope.

74.7% of South African youth are currently unemployed, counting those who have given up seeking employment. This is astonishing. Combine this with one of the highest crime rates in the world and the hopelessness and apathy is tragically understandable.

In his speech, DA Leader John Steenhuisen said “You, the young people of South Africa, may be the generation facing the biggest challenges right now but, as my young colleague Luyolo said a few minutes ago, you’re also the generation with the power to actually do something about it.”

He added a vitally important point which many South Africans seem to forget: “You need to realise the power you hold in this relationship between government and the people. As long as our democracy works – and I assure you, it does still work – then all the power lies with you.” He said what many hope the youth will begin to focus on: “The hard part is delivering on your word. And that’s what you should be looking at. Not ‘what does this party say?’ but ‘what does this party do?’

DA Leader John Steenhuisen addresses the nation together with DA Youth Leader, Luyolo Mphithi, and DA Youth Western Cape Metro Regional Chairperson, Tami Jackson.

Today, President Ramaphosa launched SA Youth – “the National Pathway Management Network, to make it easier for young people to access opportunities for learning and earning.”

It remains to be seen if this will yield results. One of the worst things to happen to the people of South Africa in recent years, is the stripping away of hope as government makes promises and time and again fails to deliver on those promises, leaving growth only in apathy.

Hope, inner strength and self esteem will be the driving forces here. The youth of South Africa will end up having to choose how to be with the deep disappointment, apathy and / or resentment. Governments aren’t there to control and give and be the parents. Governments should be there to govern the basics only. It will end up being the people who must heal themselves collectively, so we may rise up to be the country worthy of the horrific sacrifices made.

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