SAHO Commemorates 40 Years since Soweto Uprising: Intergenerational Dialogue by Thenjiwe Mswane

Dear Students Movements of 1976,

Imagine if the 16th of June 2016, looked like this.
Like this cold winters morning in Johannesburg, except across the country.
Imagine if the day started with a little drizzle, a cold harsh breeze.
And then,
Then begin to pour as South Afrikans become consumed with filling stadiums.
Imagine if it hailed. Heavy storms.
Imagine if the wails of our foremothers and ansisters parted the clouds, and their tears poured onto this unforgiving occupied land.
Imagine of the 16th of June 2016 forced us to stay behind closed doors, and mourn.
Imagine if we mourned?
The black womxn whose names have never touched our lips?
Her, The black womxn who stood at the picket lines, caught a bullet hungry for a victim.
Died.
On those dusty streets.

Imagine if we mourned the womxn whose voice found no sound that night?

When they told her, her child had died. At the hands of a disgustingly cruel man.
Imagine if we mourned the womxn whose child’s murderer would apologise one day.
Having never asked, how did you wake up the next day?
When did it stop hurting?
Did it stop?
How do you breathe now?
Has your wail turned into a silent mourn, found its way to the treasure chest of black womxn whose cries have never been heard?

 

Dear Youth of ‘76
No.

Dear black womxn of “76
I have chosen to remember you today, to write to you.
Like a child seeking refuge,
I have looked to find you to tell you that it hurts.
40years later, it hurts; that they many will never know your name.
They erased you.
When oppressor, met oppressor together they erased you.
Those you fought against found a new ally. 
The black man,
The power hungry black man.
The man who stood next to you have worked fearlessly in erasing you. 
I think you thought your “comrades” like you, were fighting against oppression.
It breaks my heart to tell you that they were not.
They were fighting to occupy the seats of the master,
Oh the black condition.

But I (and many who look like me) chose to remember you, to mourn you.
To scream your names into existence again
You,
Princess Mbeki  - Police fired at crowd in Sekotlane High school, Soweto. 17.6.76
Mantombi Mnculwane
Lili Mithi
Lindiwe Mkhwanazi
Virginia Nodada, 17 – Shot in stomach from front
Martha Seleke – Shot in abdomen, 9 months pregnant
Elizabeth Sihlangu
Tshabalala Sarah
Vuyisile Zondani

They claim small victories now. These “freedom fighters”, like filling up stadiums. Oh Azania is not free.

I wish you hadn’t died that day, or the days after, or the days before.
I wish you’d have stayed to whisper words of wisdom to us who have no place to turn.
The black men have shown us that they can erase us, as easily as their forefathers erased you.
I don’t know where to turn oh Mbokodo, I don’t know where to go.
Does Azania ever win? Bathini abadala basendulo?
I am a tired black womxn, send me strength before I perish.
But remember today, I mourned you.
PS: There was no victory against the Afrikaans language, as there was no victory against the English language. As there has been no victory for those who look like us.

Thenjiwe Mswane graduated from Rhodes University with degrees in Anthropology and Human Rights Laws. Since highschool, Thenjiwe has been active in community upliftment and activism, with a special focus on gender-based violence and the youth. In 2014, Thenjiwe was an organiser for the Annual Silent Protest held at Rhodes to protest rape and sexual violence. In 2015 and 2016, Thenjiwe took part in the national FeesMustFall movement and has been involved in important developments of the national student movements.