The Soweto Revolt - June 1976

Chaos in the African Schools. The reorganisation of the African schools in the wake of the changes governing secondary school entrance led to conditions bordering on chaos. The first step was scheduled for December 1974 when all pupils in the sixth standard who obtained over 40 per cent would qualify for entrance to secondary school. This, it was estimated, would double the number of candidates for the first form. In one instance that has been reported, the full impact of the change proved to be disastrous.

KwaMashu, the township just north of Durban, had an official population of 22,000 families. The entire area contained only one secondary school and it was already overcrowded. After the examination results were announced in December 1974, parents were informed that: . . . hundreds of standard six pupils who passed their final examination in 1974 were required to repeat the standard in 1975 because of the shortage of schools.'' Parents were told that 'there would be confusion' if only a small number of the successful candidates entered Form One. At the end of 1975 the number of candidates requiring positions in the secondary schools would again be doubled when the sixth standard in primary school was phased out.

The situation did not, however, lead to any student action. At a time when everyone was clamouring to get into a school, there was little opportunity for any group to suggest a boycott, a demonstration, or a strike. Any such proposal would have run counter to the incessant demand for a place in the schools.

The apparent quiescence in the urban (township) schools contrasted markedly with the position in the rural areas. Since 1972 there had been reports in the press and Parliament of widespread dissatisfaction and student action. In 1972 there were reports of violence and damage to property in at least five schools. It was also reported that 296 pupils had been arrested and 37 convicted in the courts. In 1973 there were signs of widespread strikes and demonstrations, not much below the level of action in the immediate post-war years. At least six schools or training colleges in Lebowa in the northern Transvaal, two schools in the Transkei, and one each in the Ciskei and in KwaZulu experienced strikes, arson, or other student action. Over 600 pupils were arrested, and at least 472 convicted by the courts. In one case, at Cofimvaba High School in the Transkei, pupils stoned the principal's house, overturned a police car, and looted the school shop. One hundred and thirty were arrested and 116 found guilty and either fined or sentenced to cuts with the light cane.

There was little relaxation in 1975. Nine schools in the Transkei, including five primary schools, Mariannhill near Durban, Hammanskraal near Pretoria, the Moroka High School at Thaba'Nchu in the OFS, and a school in the Ciskei were all reported to have been the scenes of violence. Over 2,000 pupils were sent home, (some being told that they could re-apply for admission), hundreds were expelled, and the police made large-scale arrests. The discontents were not dissimilar to those registered in the forties and fifties. There were complaints about the food, about unnecessary restrictions on freedom in the dormitories, and general hostel conditions. The one difference in 1972-75 was that the principals and teachers were now all black and were operating a state controlled system.

The Campaign to Stop Afrikaans Medium Lessons

The instructions issued from the office of the Minister of Bantu Education that half the subjects taught in standard five and in the first form be in Afrikaans, was immediately opposed by parents, teachers and pupils. This opposition grew during the closing months of 1975, and by early 1976 there were demonstrations in some schools against the introduction of lessons in Afrikaans. As the protests increased, school after school, at least in the Soweto region, joined forces and eventually marched together in the demonstration of 16 June that sparked off the Revolt.

The widespread opposition to the new regulation, which brought together conservatives and radicals, teachers and taught, indicated that the many strands of opposition -- based on very different premises -- were uniting against something more than an instruction over language. In 1976 the united stand against Afrikaans, was only the external manifestation of the deep resentment inside the townships against the entire administration. Moreover the language predominantly used by police, prison warders, pass-office officials, township administrators and, indeed, the entire bureaucracy, was Afrikaans.

There were reasons for opposing Afrikaans, and there were reasons for preferring English. From the point of view of the educationalist, a switch to instruction in Afrikaans would be disastrous. Time and again both teachers and pupils stressed the fact that their education was inferior to that of the Whites. The view of a young African, reported in the Natal Mercury in February 1975, was not atypical: 'The education given to Africans is so low that a Junior Certificate [that is, third form pass] with us is equivalent to a standard 6 in the other racial groups.' There were no easy solutions to the problem and little chance of improvement in a system which was designed to fit youth for a subservient position, economically, socially and politically. Yet it was perceived that education conducted in Afrikaans would lead to a definite deterioration in standards. African teachers had received instruction almost exclusively in English, and many were barely able to converse in Afrikaans. They could not possibly have conducted a course of instruction in

that language, and it was inconceivable that they could ever master the technical language required for the classroom in a language they did not speak --more especially for arithmetic or mathematics.

The secretary of the African Teachers Association of South Africa (ATASA) stated the teachers' case in measured terms:

To say that the Blacks are opposed to the study of Afrikaans is a gross understatement ... In strict terms what we oppose now is the manner in which this is being done without regard to the interests of the children concerned. And if this trend continues without being checked then the education of the Black child will be seriously threatened .. .

Parents and their children and, undoubtedly, many teachers objected to the new regulations for a number of reasons which included the widely held contentions that: English was the main language of industry and commerce, and was essential for any youth who wanted to find a place inside the economy of South Africa; it was an international language and the medium through which contact could be maintained with the rest of Africa; and it was the one lingua franca which bound Blacks, at least in the urban areas, together.

For the school pupils, or at least for that section which sought to organise opposition to the system of Bantu Education, the language issue assumed importance because it bound together pupils in the primary and the secondary schools on a single issue and offered a theme around which a campaign could be built.

The first vocal protests seem to have come from the School Boards in Soweto. These were bodies' set up under the Bantu Education Act to administer Community Schools, and were considered by all anti-government groups to be instruments of the Department of Bantu Education. Nonetheless the first recorded opposition came from the Meadowlands Tswana School Board early in 1976. The Board issued a circular, under the names of Abner Letlape and Joseph Peele, countermanding the instruction that Afrikaans be used as a medium of instruction in the schools. The two men were dismissed and the dispute, between School Boards and parents and the Department, was openly acknowledged.

Active student opposition seems to have commenced with an altercation between third form pupils of the Thomas Mofolo Secondary School and their principal over the introduction of Afrikaans on 24 February 1976.9 Motapanyane, recalling the confrontation in 1977 stated:

As early as March 1976, Thomas Mofolo was the first school to have Afrikaans imposed on it, and immediately there was a student protest. In March 1976, the principal called in the police to cool the students and force them to accept Afrikaans. Some students from my school, Naledi High School, went there to investigate their problems. We also visited schools in Meadowlands. We found that these students also felt bitter about what the government was doing. They immediately stopped attending classes because they felt as we did that what was needed was a positive reaction.

The parents' committee then intervened and approached the school inspectors. But they were rebuffed. Motapanyane continued his account:

The Naledi High SASM branch also went to Orlando West Junior Secondary. . . . The students there agreed with us and started destroying their books and refused to attend classes. And this was the first effective protest started in Soweto . . . because the students there were quite clear about what they wanted. Despite the threat by the Bantu Education inspector that the schools would be closed . . . they remained very firm ... We went on to other schools ... By May 1976, the protest actions were quite general in many schools.

By now a large number of schools in Soweto were in an uproar. Normal lessons were replaced by debates on current affairs or on the shape of things to come. Essays were attempted on the shape of South Africa twenty-five years hence. Teachers joined pupils in these discussions and there were few signs of the supposed age gap between the generations. The students discussed the US, the role of the Black Power movement, and Martin Luther King (a much admired figure). They spoke of orderly change in the country leading eventually to majority rule and there was, it appears, little talk of revolutionary activity. Some schools were more aware politically than others, and the extent to which such discussions took place varied from school to school. Naledi and Orlando West (amongst others) were developing a very conscious student leadership and were to provide many of the leaders in the months to come.

Young men and women were drawn into the vortex of politics and learnt, within the space of weeks, what might otherwise have remained outside their experience. Daniel Sechaba Montsitsi, fourth president of SASM, told the World in an interview on 27 February 1977 that, until he joined SASM, he knew nothing of the ANC or the PAC. Thousands of other could undoubtedly have made similar remarks.

By May 17,1,600 pupils had withdrawn from Orlando West Junior Secondary School and over 500 pupils at the Phefeni Junior Secondary School refused to attend classes and stoned the principal's office. The following day two further schools closed and the children congregated in the school grounds, playing and skipping, while teachers stood by unwilling to interfere.

At this stage there was no clear direction from any organisation; children left the classrooms and in many cases drifted back. None of them, however, took any heed of threats - either of expulsion or that schools would be closed down and teachers transferred.

The first overt violence was reported on 27 May, when a teacher of Afrikaans at Pimville Higher Primary School was stabbed with a screwdriver. The police who arrived to arrest the offending pupil were stoned. The stonings were henceforth a regular feature of the violence that was evident everywhere. On 5 June, pupils at the Belle Higher Primary School stoned children who had returned to classes during an apparent lull in the boycotts. Motopanyane adds from his own recollections:

Early in June the police sent their men to collect one of our colleagues . . . They arrested one student but he was later released. Then on the 8th they came again. Hey, it was unfortunate for them to be seen by the students. They were beaten and their car was burnt. On that day they were coming, to arrest our local secretary of SASM at our school... in connection with the student protests . . ,

Thereafter, said Motopanyane, the students informed the staff that they would not write the half yearly examination. On 13 June, the Naledi branch of SASM called a meeting to discuss the entire issue. Between 300 and 400 students were present and they decided on a mass demonstration. An Action Committee of SASM, composed of two delegates from each school in Soweto, was placed in charge of the demonstration, and it was this body, renamed the Soweto Students Representative Council (SSRC) after 16 June, that henceforth assumed the leadership of many of the events of 1976. Tebello Motopanyane was the first chairman of the Action Committee and was secretary-general of SASM.

Motopanyane also stated that the demonstration, planned for 16 June, was to be peaceful -- but that if the police used violence they were resolved to defend themselves and, if possible, to retaliate.

The Demonstration of June 16, 1976

In calling the demonstration for June 16, SASM took the struggle on to the streets, and publicly challenged the government to revoke its language regulations. It is evident from other sources that the students were aware of the need for solidarity and discipline. Pupils at schools which were not thought to be wholeheartedly against the regulations were excluded. It is not clear, however, from Motopanyane's account how the students meant to defend themselves from police violence or how they thought they would be able to 'hit back'. The realisation that their demonstration could lead to violence was realistic. It is doubtful, however, whether they anticipated what was to follow.

The nature of such demonstrations generally was discussed in a seminal essay written by John Berger in 1968. People, he said, congregated in an announced public place. 'They are more or less unarmed . . . They present themselves as a target to the forces of repression serving the state authority against whose policies they are protesting.' Demonstrations, said Berger, are a trial of strength. They indicate the extent of popular support for the protesters and they reveal the intentions of the authorities. Yet presumably both these factors are known beforehand. As Berger stated:

If the state authority is open to democratic influence, the demonstration will hardly be necessary; if it is not, it is unlikely to be influenced by an empty show of force containing no real threat.

Demonstrations took place before the principle of democracy was ever nominally admitted. [The Chartist demonstrations, and the presenting of the petition to the Czar in 1905, were appeals to authority for an extension of democracy] ... In the event -- as on so many hundreds of other occasions all over Europe -- they were shot down.

If, then, the state, and particularly the state which is not amenable to The Soweto Revolt, June 1976 democratic practices, will not make any significant concessions, the demonstrations 'are rehearsals for revolution' or, more explicitly, 'rehearsals of revolutionary awareness'. But,'. . . any demonstration which lacks this element of rehearsal is better described as an officially encouraged public spectacle.'

Few, if any, of the pupils gathered together on 13 June could have envisaged their proposed demonstration as a 'rehearsal for revolution'. It was nevertheless a rehearsal of revolutionary awareness that had grown out of the increasing tempo of clashes in the preceding months. The number of youth that gathered for the demonstration at 7.0 a.m. on the morning of the 16th was an indication of the intensity of feeling in the schools, centred emotionally on the issue of Afrikaans.

Fifteen thousand youth, ranging in age from 10 to 20 years, were ready to march off, bearing slogans written on cardboard torn from packing cases or on the stiff covers of old exercise books. The banners were all makeshift and bore signs of rapid construction. The slogans were simple and to the point:

Down with Afrikaans

Afrikaans is oppressors language

Abolish Afrikaans

Blacks are not dustbins -- Afrikaans stinks

The plan was for the columns to converge at the Orlando West Junior Secondary School, and from there march to the Orlando stadium -- one of the few large open spaces in Soweto. The column that wound its way through the streets of Orlando was, by all reports, carefree and jovial. The youth greeted car drivers with raised clenched fists and shouts of Amandia (Power). Then, apparently, a message got to the leader of the column that the police were coming. Sophie Tema, veteran reporter, in recalling the event as she saw it, said that one of the leaders stopped the column and addressed the students:

Please brothers and sisters I plead with you, remain cool and calm. A report has just been received to say the police are coming. We do not know what they are after, after all we are not fighting. All we want is that the department and officials must listen to the grievances of our brothers and sisters in the lower schools.

Ms. Tema recorded her apprehension as she watched the police arriving: 'I had seen at Turfloop on 25th September 1974, how the students were attacked with batons and teargas by the police even before they showed signs of hostility.'

What happened next is not altogether certain. Ms. Tema saw a policeman throw what she thought was a tear gas canister into the crowd ; Willie Bokala, another journalist, said he saw a white police officer pick up a stone and hurl it into the crowd. The children in the front rank turned and scattered. Some reporters stated that the children retaliated by hurling stones at the police -others say that the police opened fire first. A reporter of the Rand Daily Mai wrote:

I did not hear the police give any order to disperse before they threw tear gas canisters into the crowd of singing school children. The children scattered in all directions . . . The pupils then regrouped and when the police charged again, they threw stones at the police. The police then fired a few shots, some in the air, the others into the crowd. I saw four school children fall to the ground.

On June 16, the school students stayed firm and threw stones. It was an unequal battle -- stones against bullets. Some fled, others fell, but those behind stepped in and closed the ranks. Observers commented on the fact that the youth seemed oblivious of the danger. They kept advancing on the police and pelting them with any object at hand.

The Youth Take Revenge

By 10.00 a.m. youth were surging through Soweto, taking what revenge they could for the massacre of their fellows. They stoned passing cars, set up barricades and stopped delivery vans and buses, burnt down the major administrative buildings, and attacked beerhalls, bottlestores and some shops. The beerhalls were gutted, the bottlestores destroyed, and slogans attacking drink appeared on the walls. Two white officials, one caught in the administrative centre, were killed.

There could be little doubt that the object of the attacks was to destroy all symbols of state control. The demonstrators had moved beyond the stage of congregation and had taken the next logical step -- they had shown that they could occupy the area, even if they were still far from having the power to maintain that occupancy. They could destroy the symbols of power despite their obvious inability to install their own power.

In his essay, Berger explored this aspect of mass action. Demonstrations, he said, were essentially urban phenomena, and were usually planned to take place near the symbolic centre. The action involved the 'symbolic capturing of the city', where the 'regular life of the streets' was disrupted. Berger continued: 'They "cut off these areas and, not yet having the power to occupy them permanently, they transform them into a temporary stage on which they dramatise the power they still lack.'

The demonstration in Soweto was somewhat different. The life of Soweto was disrupted or, at least, the region of Orlando was. But the demonstration was not in an urban centre such as Berger was describing. In fact, in the months to come, the youth showed their realisation of the weakness of their position and tried to enter the centre of the 'white' city. But on June 16 they operated inside the township. They certainly lacked the power to take over the area permanently, but they dramatised their situation by destroying the existing symbols of power.

There was some similarity between the separated housing areas of Johannesburg and Soweto, and the divisions between Catholic and Protestant housing in Northern Ireland; and the experience of militants in that country proved to be apposite to Soweto that day. One participant in the fighting in Ireland in the seventies stated:

We were to learn in time that when organising a march towards confrontation it is essential to begin in 'home' territory and march out, so that there is somewhere for people to stream back to if this proves necessary.

To move out of Soweto there would have had to be a different type of organisation and a different kind of demonstration. The fact was that the demonstration was in the heart of Soweto and, when police reinforcements were brought in, there was nowhere to 'stream back to'. Furthermore, when the residents returned that night, unaware of the events of the day, they were met by rows of police who confronted them with canisters of tear gas and drawn batons. Because the demonstration had not, indeed could not, move out of home territory, the returning workers found themselves in the midst of a battleground. The police attack on tired commuters was an indication of the state's determination to intimidate and destroy the student movement, and poses the question of whether the earlier shooting that day was accidental; or a deliberate act by the police, in the belief that one salvo would end the entire protest. The police failed that morning because they had not understood the depth of frustration and anger in the township. They miscalculated again that evening and the workers, instead of turning tail, responded as the youth had in the morning. They hurled bricks and stones at the police and joined the youth in the streets. When buses returned from the city with full loads, they1 were commandeered and destroyed. Soweto shops, beerhalls, liquor stores and official buildings burnt through the night leaving only charred walls and scribbled slogans.

Police Terror

The police action in Soweto on 16 June (and subsequently) also indicated the weakness of fighting in that particular kind of 'home territory'. Regulations governing the layout of townships, in force over many decades, were designed to provide the police with the maximum manoeuvrability and control in the event of any disturbance. Townships were always designed with provision for the marshalling of armoured cars at convenient vantage points, and houses were always placed in low lying areas where they could be kept under surveillance. In an interview with the city engineer of Durban in 1957, a group of you' (white) architects were told that a number of conditions had to be observed

in the layout of an African township. Three provisions which particularly struck one of the architects, Alan Lipman, at the time, were:

The width of the roadways would have to be sufficient to allow a Saracen [tank] to execute a U-turn. . . the distance between houses had to be kept above a given minimum, and the houses had to be aligned so that firing between houses would not be impeded, and so that there would be no shelter for a fugitive. The distance between the boundaries of a township and the main high- ways had to be beyond the range of a .303 rifle.

When the para-military police poured into Soweto on June 16, their effectiveness was ensured by the ease with which they could move through the main roads in their Hippo armoured cars and the ability to direct their firepower between the houses. They shot at random and they shot to kill. Any person suspected of being a 'leader' was pursued and shots often found a target. Other youth were considered fair game and if sighted on the streets were instant targets.

The number that died on 16 June, or in the days to come, is not known. Some sources said that the death toll on the first day was 25; others placed it at nearer 100. Nobody knew, and the police took every step to prevent a full list being compiled. Journalists were warned to keep away from piles of bodies, on the grounds that it was none of their business! Baragwanath hospital was closed to the public. Lorries arrived and took away corpses, and many were never accounted for then, or later.

Deaths at the hands of the police had become commonplace in the country. Figures of casualties due to police action in the 'normal course of their duties', as supplied by the Minister of Police in Parliament, are given in Table Nine.

The ever rising toll of persons killed due to police action (as supplied officially) excluded fatalities in the prisons. The numbers were alarming and increasing complaints were voiced about the trigger-happy police. In 1976, exclusive of casualties sustained as a result of the Revolt in the country, the police killed 195 persons and injured 410. Most of the fatalities were adults, and very few juveniles had ever been injured. When, on that first day, the number of children shot dead was well over 20, and possibly even 100, there

was universal black fury, and in townships throughout the country there were calls to revolt.

The Response of a People

This widespread reaction had obviously not been anticipated by the government. It had also not been anticipated by SASM and, after the first shootings, Table 9 Persons Killed and Injured by Police in the 'normal course of duty' 1971-7631

Number Killed Number Injured

Year Total African Coloured Total African Coloured

1971 54 42 11 223 165 53

1972 94 77 14 299 237 52

1973 117 98 16 352 278 60

1974 102 88 11 354 288 57

1975 134 106 25 382 299 79

1976 195 165 28 410 345 53

Note: The total includes a few Whites and/or Indians who are not listed separately.

* Excluding any persons killed or injured as a direct result of the Revolt.

they worked on an ad hoc basis, sending some of their fellows to nearby townships to inform people of events and urge them to spread the revolt. In some regions there were SASM branches or other groups that took the initiative and organised some action. In general, however, there was no central co-ordinating body. This was, in some respects, an advantage. There was no head that could be lopped off, and each region acquired its own momentum. Local groupings (some of which will be discussed below) were content to observe events elsewhere and then call their own supporting actions. The same pattern had been observed earlier during the strike wave. But once again it was found that an initial strength turned to weakness and, in many centres, the local, leadership) was found by the police and snuffed out. Without some central body to assist areas that had been silenced, the townships in question took little part in subsequent events.

It was in the nature of the segregatory pattern of the country that some groups would always be isolated, and that was the fate of the small band of radical students at the University of the Witwatersrand. The very next day, Tuesday 17 June, 400 white students expressed their solidarity with the pupils of Soweto in a march near the campus. They were joined by black spectators who marched with them. Police and a group of Whites (said later to be plain clothes police) wielding chains and staves broke up the demonstration. When the students regrouped later they were again attacked by police. This was the only overt action attempted by white students in the north and, after this initial action (for which they were severely castigated by the university authorities), they played no further part in the Revolt. In Soweto the Action Committee, which was soon to style itself the Soweto Students Representative Council (SSRC), still had the support of the school pupils and was able to offer some lead. But after June 16 there ceased to be a leadership in overall control of events in the township; henceforth these were often decided by individual initiative, or by small groupings assuming local leadership. The SSRC only regained the initiative in late July. On June 17, PUTCO suspended its bus service and a large number of residents were forced to stay in the township. They joined the youth who were back in the streets and erected roadblocks. In the 'no-go' areas controlled by the residents, police patrols faced the possibility of ambushes from stone-throwing youngsters, and visibility was reduced by smoke from burning buildings, and from cars, vans and trucks which had been overturned and set alight.

Police vans and armoured cars patrolled the streets, and the crack of FN rifles was heard all day. Shooting was directed at groups of youth in the streets. A car driver who was careless enough to be seen giving the Black ' Power salute was killed by police. Often in plain clothes, the police were also seen cruising down the streets in cars, shooting down any child in sight. Other patrol cars lobbed gas canisters into houses in random fashion. The police aimed to terrorise and to kill -- there were no initial attempts at arrest or detention.

Groups of youth infiltrated Dube, the more prosperous region of Soweto, and burnt down Barclays Bank. There were also reports that the homes of 'collaborators' and some of the more prosperous were set alight. Some of the richer inhabitants and some of the clergy left Soweto and sought refuge in Johannesburg; they did not return for many months, and a few were accommodated at the international hotel adjoining Jan Smuts Airport. On the 17th there was news that the Revolt had spread beyond the borders of Soweto. At Kagiso (adjoining Krugersdorp) some schools were deserted and at least one was burnt, and at Thembisa (adjoining Kempton Park and near the airport) the schools were also emptied. There was intense fighting at Alexandra Township, a small black enclave of some 40,000 residents in northern Johannesburg. The youth poured out of the schools with banners pledging support to their fellows in Soweto. They set fire to the entire administration block and business centre, burnt vehicles and buses and, armed with stones, faced the police in their mine-proof Hippo vehicles. The Alexandra region was sealed off by police blocks, and for the first time the Whites felt the direct impact of the Revolt. The roads to Pretoria and the North, and much of the traffic to Jan Smuts Airport, was halted by this police action. Residents in the neighbourhood organised the first white vigilante groups, and these were to patrol the surrounding white suburbs in the weeks to come.

On Friday 18 June, the third day of the Revolt, the pattern of events was repeated. Beerhalls and bottlestores were looted and burnt (if they had managed to escape the initial outbursts), passing cars faced stone-throwing youth, and burnt-out vehicles blocked the roads inside the township. Youth were now being detained by the police, and Mateu Nonyane, a reporter on the Rand Daily Mail, said that he heard people screaming and saw students being tortured in the courtyard of the Orlando police station. Outside the police station, bodies were piled up, and the heaps grew through the night of the 17th and on into the 18th. The situation was unchanged at Alexandra and the reports filtering out spoke of intense fighting. In other townships along, the Witwatersrand there were angry confrontations between the youth and police and, at Thembisa, more reports of attacks on administratio buildings.

On Thursday the Minister closed the schools and on Friday the working week was over. At the weekend, the pattern of life in the township invariably changed, but the weekend after the Soweto shootings was unlike all others. Most shops were closed and the delivery of food stopped. The bottlestores stood gutted and the beerhalls closed (if not destroyed). Many homes were in mourning and the police admitted that 96 had died and over 1,000 had been injured in the three days. Many parents were unable to secure access to the mortuaries and no visitors were allowed at Baragwanath hospital. Those who were brought in were first checked by police before being given treatment, and relatives were refused entry. For Soweto, as for Alexandra, Thembisa, Kagiso, and along the Witwatersrand there was a temporary lull, and reports of only sporadic action in some areas. There were reports of student activities from further afield when the news of 16 June became known. There had been a large demonstration at Turfloop and a Soweto solidarity boycott of lectures, and the University was closed on the 18th. Later, 176 students were detained. On 18 June the students at Ngoye burnt down the library, the administration building, and the DRC chapel. Several university vehicles were destroyed and two (white) staff members badly injured. Many students were arrested and the university was closed for the year.

In Durban, the library of the University of Natal (black) Medical School was burnt down and 200 students organised a march down Umbilo Road on the way to the centre of the town. They were stopped by police and 87 were taken into custody; the others managed to slip away. The medical students were subsequently charged under the Riotous Assembly Act and were fined R50 each.

The African university students in Natal played no further part in the events of 1976 as a corporate body and the students at Turfloop also seem to have been silenced. Students who later reappeared in the townships might have played some role as advisers, but most were known to the police and few could operate openly without fear of being detained. There were also reports of disturbances in schools in the Orange Free State, and in Cape Town the police were on the alert and were patrolling the townships.

Revolt in the Northern Transvaal

In the early days of the Revolt, a large number of events in outlying districts were ferreted out by journalists. Many of them went over the telex and some were printed in the papers. Others never became known outside the small local (black) communities. But even those initial outbursts, once reported, received no further mention as the news of ever new incidents indicated that a national revolt was about to break out in South Africa. The Southern African News Agency (SANA), a 'loose association of free-lance journalists' (as they described themselves), sent out news of some of the early incidents. On 21 June they telexed: '. . . unrest has broken out in Basutho-Qwa-Qwa Homeland where student teachers attempted to burn down a training college. In the BophutaTswana Homeland all hostels and schools have been closed to avoid possible unrest.' On 23 June they telexed:

. .. Jouberton Township, near Klerksdorp -- 90 miles from Johannesburg . . . Police fired warning shots over the heads of high school students there who had attempted to hold a meeting. The meeting allegedly dissolved in uproar and soon afterwards cars and bottlestores were stoned, beerhalls raided and petrol pumps at the local Administration Board's Works Department were set on fire. . . . Police used a helicopter to disperse the crowds. Trouble broke out for the first time in the Lowveld [northern Transvaal] when the Teachers Training College (Ngwenya) at Lekazi Township near Nelspruit was set on fire. Damage estimated at R50,000. There were other incidents of arson in East Rand when a bottlestore and cinema were set on fire.

These reports gave an insight into the depth of hatred throughout the country and the extent to which local groups responded to the events in Soweto. The two components that made up each incident -- local resentment and response to national events -- cannot be found in the terse telex communications. Nor is there any indication of what group, or groups of people, were involved in the local outbreaks. The gap between news item and social analysis in any locality will only be unravelled by close investigations of some of these regions. Writing from afar, there is no way of undertaking this detailed investigation and, at most, it will be possible to present some picture of unfolding events in a few of the major regions of revolt.

There are more reports from Pretoria than most other areas in the Transvaal outside Soweto. Although it is still not possible to provide more than an impressionistic picture, it is clear that events there were significantly different from those elsewhere in the country.

There were two townships on the borders of Pretoria, Atteridgeville which had an (official) population of 65,900 and Mamelodi with a population of 103, 758.36 It was declared government policy that the populations of these townships should be, as far as possible, confined to 'single' persons. That is, there was an embargo on erecting family houses, and it was planned to build only single-sex hostels in future. In the early seventies hundreds of families who were classified as Tswana had been removed to two towns in BophutaTswana, GaRankuwa and Mabopane. The removal of the Tswana families was supposed to relieve the pressure on housing, separate out the 'ethnic' groups, and also provide a work force for industries on the borders of the Reserves -- the so-called Border Industries. In effect, the housing shortage became even more severe because no new houses were built and there was no accommodation for the growing population in the two townships; the 'ethnic' composition of the Pretoria townships was not appreciably altered. The two townships in BophutaTswana, furthermore, attracted large numbers of Ndebele, Shangaan and Pedi and were hopelessly overcrowded. GaRankuwa had an official population of 81,241 in mid-1977 and over 20,000 squatters living in its outskirts; Mabopane's population was (officially) 86,900, and there were an estimated 350,000 squatters in the nearby Winterveld area.37 Both the Reserve townships vfeie approximately 20 miles from Pretoria, and residents worked at Babelegi (inside BophutaTswana), Rosslyn (officially a Border area, but actually on the outskirts of Pretoria), and in Pretoria itself. In periods of tension these residents were affected by events in either BophutaTswana or Pretoria, or both!

On Monday 21 June, residents of both Pretoria and Mabopane entered the Revolt. At Mabopane two events coincided that day. One hundred and seventy workers at the Klipgat Waterworks struck work for higher wages and, according to the police, that precipitated the trouble.38 At the local high school, students at assembly refused to leave for classrooms and the police were called in. There was shooting and at least one boy of 13 was killed. Students left the school and burnt buses which normally transported workers to Pretoria or Babelegi. They also closed the road to Pretoria, blocking any attempts to get to the city. Those that managed to slip through were turned back by police, uncertain of what the workers might do if they got to the factories!

In Attridgeville there was a mass march of pupils, confrontation with police and, after shootings, buses and beerhalls were burnt and bottlestores gutted. Students at Mamelodi were also out and the pattern of events was repeated. By mid-day both Pretoria townships were engulfed in the smoke of burning buildings, and at least 10 youth had been killed.

On 22 June, the Pretoria work force took further action. Over 1,000 stopped work at Chrysler Park car factory, claiming that they were concerned for the safety of their homes and families in Mamelodi. Although they appeared to make no demands, the matter was treated as a strike and the police were summoned. There were also reports that students were demonstrating in GaRankuwa and that they were stoning buses and burning buildings.

There are no indications of any co-ordination of events in Pretoria and Soweto, nor of events in the Pretoria townships of GaRankuwa or Mabopane. Each region, and each township, seemed to have responded to events in neighbouring towns and then acted largely independently of the other. There were occasional signs that activity initiated in one region was followed by another -- but whether this was a reaction to press reports, or actual liaison between areas, has yet to be disclosed.

The BophutaTswana Reserve (or Reserves -- there being 19 disconnected regions) had a total population estimated at just under 900,000. Of this, nearly one-third (284,000) were non-Tswana. Affairs in the Reserve parodied relation in South Africa and the minorities were treated as second-class citizens of BophutaTswana. Lucas Mangope, the Chief Minister, assisted the South African government in its policies and supported the removal of non- Tswana from the areas under his jurisdiction on the grounds that there were insufficient land and jobs for Tswanas.39 The local administration also discriminated against non-Tswana who sought trading rights, and connived at the removal of Ndebele from Temba Township in Hammanskraal.40 One of the most contentious issues was the instruction from the BophutaTswana Department of Education that Tswana be used as the medium of instruction in all schools.41 This instruction was immediately challenged by Chiefs of the Ndebele, who had four tribal authorities under their control, but who were split geographically and existed under the suzerainty of BophutaTswana and Lebowa. These chiefs demanded their own 'Homeland' and the right to have their children taught in Pedi, their home language. At one stage the dispute over language-medium led to the closing of schools accommodating 4,000 youth. Although the South African government claimed that alternative schooling would be provided, the dispute extended through 1976, when Chieftainess Esther Kekane withdrew the Southern Ndebele representatives from the Legislative Assembly. The Lebowa authorities exacerbated an already tense situation when they demanded that GaRankuwa, Mabopane and Winterveld be removed from Tswana jurisdiction and declared international territory! The struggle for land, jobs and privileges inside the Reserves was intimately connected with the struggle over the nature of education and the language of instruction, in the process the school pupils were left unsettled and their progress impeded.

It is not known how this protracted, if mainly verbal, fight influenced the youth of GaRankuwa, Mabopane or BophutaTswana. Their actions after 21 June indicated that they were thoroughly disenchanted with schools and with all tribal authorities. From 6 to 8 August schools were burnt down in GaRankuwa and Hammanskraal (home of Chieftainess Esther Kekane), and on 8 August students marched through Montshiwa township, near Mafeking, and burnt down the Legislative Assembly of BophutaTswana. The homes of Mangope and other cabinet ministers were placed under heavy police guard, and hundreds of men, women and youth detained.

There was no concerted move by pupils in Pretoria to coincide with events in the Reserves and, from both Atteridgeville and Mamelodi, there were sporadic reports throughout the rest of the year of buses being stoned, or of schools and other buildings being burnt. There were occasions when the events in Mamelodi (where the activity was most intense) seemed to coincide with campaigns in Soweto. But generally, those groups that offered leader- ship acted in response to local needs, in the schools, and in the community, and did not seem to act in concert with Soweto.

Leaders of the Revolt

Speaking in the immediate aftermath of the demonstration and shootings of 16 June, Hlaku Rachidi, president of the Black People's Convention, maintained that the old order would not easily be restored. He was reported in the press as saying:

The authorities, the parents and the teachers are going to be faced with a new child. The kids have learned a whole political lesson during the last week . . . They are rejecting the imposition of the whole White establishment and system plus the norms and values of Whites . . . The BPC interprets this as Black Consciousness in the kids. It is gut reaction, not lofty philosophy, and it reflects and articulates the feelings of the people.

Rachidi's comments were themselves part of a 'gut reaction' to the revolt in Soweto. His assertion that a 'new child' was emerging and that the 'norms and values of Whites' were being rejected was part of BPC rhetoric and will be discussed in Part Three of this book. What is central to the issue of leadership, is that Rachidi did not then, or indeed later, claim that the BPC had either initiated the events of 16 June, or provided leadership for the events that followed. There was a strong thread of libertarianism in SASO/BPC: 'gut reaction' for them was more important than 'lofty philosophy' and more important than organisation and leadership.

The Action Committee/Soweto Students Representative Council

The Action Committee of SASM could not be satisfied with 'gut reactions' and did take some steps to widen the base of their revolt. Motapanyane, in his account of events, said:

Immediately after [the shootings and stoning] ... we told our students to do what they could to spread the actions to other locations. The struggle went on for some days immediately after June at the same pace because at that time the Action Committee was meeting everywhere in an attempt to intensify the struggle so that it should really be felt by the Government. Question: The struggle spread throughout the country within a short while. Was the spread of the struggle all organised by any centralised body, or did it have a spontaneous element to it?

Answer: SASM is a national organisation and has regional and local branches. If a certain member of a team is doing something that is right, the rest of the team will join him to do it; it was not always a matter of having to instigate the others to do it.45 Where branches of SASM existed and were able to function, they might have followed the Soweto example and called on the student body to demonstrate. There were, however, few functioning branches because of continued police harassment.

In the absence of such branch initiative, or of other groups to call on the youth, there were cases in which school pupils did hear accounts from boys or girls who left Soweto soon after the initial shooting and returned to their home towns. One such recorded instance came from a student at UCT who interviewed pupils in the Cape Town townships. A girl at Guguletu High School stated that she and her classmates had heard a full account of events in Soweto from youth who had returned to Cape Town. In her opinion, it was this personal account which precipitated the local revolt. Cape Town,

in turn, provided a focus for events in the rest of the Western Cape. Local dissatisfaction fused with national revolt, each centre reinforcing the others and in turn receiving fresh impetus. Local organisation, growing out of groups that had existed before 16 June, issued leaflets, called for specific actions, or secured some influence amongst sections of the community. Some regions had committees that were acknowledged by at least part of the local community, and consequently initiated campaigns. There were other areas in which individuals, sometimes involved in local political groups, acted on their own initiative and organised some local action. That was the pattern of events in Kagiso (to be discussed below), where individuals who were members of a PAC cover-organisation, took it upon themselves to set buildings alight on

18 June.

It was only in Soweto that there existed a formal, non-clandestine organisation able to initiate a number of events over an extended period of time. That organisation was SASM, acting through an Action Committee and known to the public as the SSRC.

Since its inception in 1971 SASM had always functioned inside the schools and, prior to May 1976, had not engaged in public political affairs. After the introduction of Afrikaans language instruction it was thrust forward, first in the schools, and after the 'June 16 demo', in public, as an initiator of political activity. Also, before May, it had as an organisation faced a certain amount of harassment: after June 16 of course, its members were actively hunted down by the police. Before June its activities were partly shielded behind school walls; after the demonstration the schools were closed down and the membership scattered (literally) in the streets of Soweto. This body of school students, and in particular its leadership, unseasoned in political activity, had nonetheless to take the initiative in extending their struggle into the wider community and summonsing the entire population of Soweto to demonstrations against the apartheid system. The transition from classroom discussion to strike and then revolt was far from simple. The members of the SSRC faced decisions that would have taxed a mature political organisation. More than that, the students had to define, and redefine, their position in society, and establish a relationship with the non-school-going youth, with their own parents, and with the wider working class community. There were severe shortcomings that had to be overcome in their understanding of (black) social forces. They had to appreciate the need to keep contact with the migrant workers who lived in

the hostels and whose problems were so very different from those of house- holders, and they had to face confrontations with the 'push-outs' whose social aspirations were so different from their own. In the course of time these youth would also have to face advances from members of both open and clandestine movements, and take decisions on proposals that they work with (or even under) the aegis of the BPC or the ANC. They had to decide on public statements and press interviews; make pronouncements on violence and non-violence; on strikes and boycotts; and more prosaically, on whether to return to schools, and whether pupils should write examinations.

The Perils of Leadership

The matter might have been simpler if the SSRC had been able to retain its leading cadres and had had a period of stability in which to consolidate its gains. This was a luxury it never found and, even though its leaders learned fast, the large losses to police action led to a continuous turnover in the leadership. Tsietsi Mashinini, the second president of the SSRC, was in office for only five weeks. On 23 August he left South Africa with the police hunting him and a price of R500 on his head. Khotso Seathlolo, president at the age of eighteen, lasted longer, but was shot and wounded in a car chase, in mid-January 1977, and escaped to Botswana. A number of his executive had been arrested earlier and one commentator said that at this stage '. . . this was the fourth time in as many months that the SSRC appeared to be dead.' The SSRC was not dead, but it had to restart and gather together a new leadership. This repeated itself, although never under such difficult circumstances as in June 1977 when it was said of the new president that: 'Trofomo Sono,

the new leader, was not picked because he had special leadership qualities. Only because he was one of only two executive members left to pick from.' The discontinuities in leadership, and the loss of membership due to deaths and detentions or flight, led to changes in tactics, altered orientations, and above all to indecision and uncertainty. This makes any generalisation about the SSRC, and any statement about the attitude of the students very difficult. Nevertheless some tentative analysis must be attempted if the events of 1976-77 are to appear as something more than a series of 'gut reactions' to events in the country.

In the days following the demonstration of 16 June, the students had the support of large sections of the township. Eric Abraham who interviewed Mrs. Nomzamo Winnie Mandela on 18 June for SANA telexed the following:

Abraham: . . . from the workers and adults I spoke to in Soweto yesterday it would seem that [the students] have the support of the black population at large and that the base of the confrontation has broadened beyond that of the Afrikaans language issue. Would you agree? Mandela: Precisely. We warned the government that this would happen if they continue compelling the children to learn [Afrikaans] ... and if they demonstrated their hatred against the language they have our full support. But as such, the Afrikaans issue was merely a unifying factor - it could have been anything.

The extent of SSRC control of events in those first days is open to question. Very few people in the township had ever heard of SASM or of the Action Committee. In fact it did not seem to be until 1 August that Mashinini was able to address a meeting that had been called by the Urban Bantu Council -- after a six-week interval in which all gatherings had been prohibited - and announce the existence of the SSRC. Prior to that date the SSRC was known only by a small circle of persons who were not students.

It would have required a remarkable organisation to maintain control of the situation once the fighting began. The youth that fought were not all students, and there was no reason to believe that the 'pus

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