South Africa in the 1970s
South African Students Movement (SASM)
In 1970, senior students from Orlando West High, Dieplkloof High and Orlando High, three secondary schools in Soweto formed the African Students Movement. After forging ties with schools in the Eastern Cape and the Eastern Transvaal, the South African Students Movement was formed in March 1972. SASM concentrated it efforts on the students it represented, by way of preparations for exams, improving study techniques, bridging the matric-university gap, yet its members were continually harassed by the security forces, so much so that in 1973 some of its leaders left the country to escape the police and in 1974 and 1975, a number of its members were arrested and tried under the Suppression of Communism Act and the Terrorism Act.
Continuous police harassment had ensured that the organization did not really take off. This was not surprising, as its member had been on banning lists, forced into exile or had been arrested. Further SASM had been banned by most school principals. However when Afrikaans medium lessons were enforced, SASM branches at Naledi High and Orlando West Secondary met and agreed that they would destroy their books and refused to attend classes. Protest and refusal to attend classes spread to other schools in SOWETO. On the 8th of June 1976, police were stoned and their car burnt by students as they tried to arrest a SASM local secretary. On 13 June, between 300 and 400 students, SASM members, met to discuss their issue and it was decided that they would embark on a mass demonstration. An Action Committee was formed with two representatives from each school in Soweto. This committee was later renamed the Soweto Students Representative Council. Their demonstration planned for June 16 was to be peaceful it had been agreed that if police were to use violence then the students would defend themselves and if possible retaliate.