What happened on 16 June 1976?

15 June 2015 | Story by Newsroom Read time 2 min.
Photo courtesy of UCT Libraries' Special Collections and Archives.
Photo courtesy of UCT Libraries' Special Collections and Archives.

"On 16 June 1976 the uprising that began in Soweto and spread throughout South Africa changed the country's socio-political landscape. The events were rooted in apartheid policies that resulted in the introduction of the Bantu Education Act in 1953.

"The rise of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) and the formation of South African Students Organisation (SASO) raised the political consciousness of many students while others joined the wave of anti-apartheid sentiment within the student community. When the language of Afrikaans alongside English was made compulsory as a medium of instruction in schools in 1974, black students began mobilising. On 16 June 1976 between 3 000 and 10 000 students, mobilised by the South African Students Movement?s Action Committee, supported by the BCM, marched peacefully to demonstrate and protest against the government?s directive. The march was meant to culminate at a rally in Orlando Stadium.

"On the way, the students were met by heavily armed police. They fired teargas and later live ammunition, the media revealing their brutality to the world and resulting in an international outcry.

"The widespread revolt turned into an uprising against the government. Beginning in Soweto, it spread across the country and its repercussions were felt for years afterwards. The aftermath had dire consequences for the apartheid government and the exiled liberation movements received new recruits fleeing political persecution at home, giving impetus to the struggle against apartheid."

Notes from South African History Online. Read more about the 1976 uprisings in the Western Cape.

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