Sam Nzima’s iconic image of Hector Pieterson’s last moments. (Image: Lucille Davie)
Sam Nzima’s iconic image of Hector Pieterson’s last moments.  (Image: Lucille Davie)
Sam Nzima’s iconic image of Hector Pieterson’s last moments.
(Image: Lucille Davie)

Commemorative events will take place in Alexandra township, the suburb of Westdene in north-western Johannesburg, and Soweto, where the original uprising began.

Johannesburg’s executive mayor Parks Tau will unveil a plaque early on the morning of 16 June after a march from the Alexandra High School to the Realugile School in Alexandra, in memory of the 18 June 1976 march, when schoolchildren in that suburb took to the streets.

Thereafter the mayor will leave for Westdene where, in 1985, a school bus plunged into the Westdene Dam, taking the lives of 42 children.

At the dam there will be a wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate those young lives. Afterwards a group of the survivors, now in their 40s, will recall their memories of the traumatic day.

Ahmed Kathrada, a Freeman of the City of Johannesburg, and an ex-Robben Islander and great friend of Nelson Mandela, will give an address, followed by a message from Tau. The public will be invited to lay flowers.

From there the mayor’s party will depart for further Youth Day commemorations in Soweto.

Commemorations in Soweto

These events include a march from Naledi High School to the Hector Pieterson Memorial in Orlando West. Pieterson was the 12-year-old child who died on the day, the first child to lose his life at the hands of the police. His last moments were captured in a series of photographs by Sam Nzima, and they went around the world, etching forever the day in the memory of not only South Africans, but people worldwide.

A solemn wreath-laying ceremony will be held at the memorial, led by both city and provincial officials. Participants will include veterans of the June 1976 movement, as well as student and youth leaders.

Then follows a march from the Hector Pieterson Memorial to Orlando Stadium, where thousands of young people will be led by Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane and other dignitaries. A rally celebrating freedom will take place at the stadium, bringing together young people from throughout the province. Later, student and youth leaders will sign a pledge.

June 16 plaques will be unveiled at Musi High School in Pimville and at Meadowlands High School; these two schools were involved in the uprisings even before the tragic day on 16 June.

The involvement of Meadowlands High began when the school board took the lead in objecting to the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction. After the apartheid authorities would not relent, parents on the board resigned in protest.

On the morning of 16 June, there was no march in Meadowlands, and school activities went on as usual. However, by the afternoon, news of the police shootings in Orlando West reached nearby Meadowlands, and angry students went on the rampage, destroying landmarks associated with the apartheid government. The next day, on 17 June, a planned march to Orlando Stadium that was aborted the day before, was coordinated by students from Meadowlands High. Students assembled from neighbouring schools before heading towards the stadium, where police blocked their way.

The Apartheid Museum in southern Johannesburg will commemorate Youth Month with an Activism in the Arts workshop. It is to be a collaborative event by the museum and the University of Johannesburg Transformation Unit, led by project curator Farieda Nazier of the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture.

It aims to “promote art practice and related modalities as socio-political transformative tools”, with a travelling exhibition showcasing artwork produced in the workshop.

The workshop will take place between 24 and 26 June at the museum, and is aimed at youngsters between the ages of 15 and 19. Admission is R250.

By: reporter