AFRICANGLOBE – Millions of South Africans are on Thursday commemorating the 40th anniversary of the youth uprisings in Soweto in 1976, where an estimated 600 school children and young people were massacred by the white apartheid government.
Now a public holiday, the day is commemorated as Youth Day and encourages the participation of young people in all facets of the country’s politics and economic development.
In Soweto, where the massacres occurred, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa laid a special wreath at the Hector Pietersen memorial.
June 16 is seen as one of the country’s most significant political moments in the evolution of South Africa’s political system – a day when African students from all walks of life, raised their voices and demanded to be heard.
The student uprising marked a turning point in the country’s history, as students marched against the use of Afrikaans as the language of instruction and served as a spark that ignited the intensification of hostilities that ultimately led to the end of apartheid, a system of racial segregation.
But as the southern African country celebrates Youth Day, this comes against the backdrop of rising youth unemployment and growing disaffection with the ruling ANC.
Young people aged between 15 to 34 constitute at least two-thirds of the unemployed of the unemployed. According to Statistics South Africa, the youth population grew from 18.5 million to 19.6 million between 2009 and 2014.
In 2015 the working-age population stood at 35.8 million of which 19.7 million were youth.
Buti Manamela, the Deputy Minister in the Presidency in charge of youth affairs, said young people must be given opportunities to deal with the high levels of unemployment.
“The first plan to deal with unemployment is empowering individual young people to do something about whatever situation that they find themselves in, to open up the doors of education and ensure they are skilled,” he said.
President Jacob Zuma will use the 40th commemoration of the June 16 student uprisings to urge young people to keep the legacy of the class of 1976 alive by embracing socio-economic benefits of the new democratic dispensation.
By: Crystal Orderson