Day 172-A Day in South African History

Johannesburg

[Mandela’s house in Soweto]

One way to learn about the culture and history of a country is to understand the significance behind it’s public holidays, whether it’s to do with tradition, celebration, or commemoration. As a visitor in a foreign country, it’s important to do a little bit of research in order to gain knowledge towards a day of importance. Today is a public holiday in South Africa known as Youth Day, which commemorates the uprising of the Soweto youth on June 16, 1976.

A very short and brief overview..

Led by thousands of students from the township of Soweto, children and youth gathered to protest against the government’s introduction of Afrikaans as a compulsory medium of instruction in black township schools across the nation. Regarded as a language that symbolized white supremacy, Afrikaans was viewed as the “language of the oppressor” during Apartheid. While marching from the high school to Orlando Soccer Stadium just outside of Johannesburg, the demonstrating youth were met by heavily armed police. As ammunition was fired, violence and retaliation caused riots and chaos.This sparked an uprising that spread throughout South Africa, which resulted in thousands of injuries, hundreds of deaths, and profound impact on the anti-apartheid movement.

Originally known as Soweto Day amongst the African National Congress (ANC), Youth Day was officially made a public holiday in 1994 when Nelson Mandela became president.

“The pain of losing him was there and it dates with time but already you can see that a lot has been done in such a short space of time.. Those who passed away their lives (including my son’s) were not lost in vain.”-Eliot Nolovo Hastings father

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