Soweto tense for June 16 weekend

The ninth anniversary of the Soweto student uprising of 1976 will be commemorated this weekend in an atmosphere more tense than any previous June 16 commemoration.

As people will gather at meetings and memorial services around the country, the focus will be on two key questions:

  • Will Sunday pass quietly, or will it, like so many other commemorations and funerals in recent months, become the start of another round of unrest?
  • Will the commemoration services provide an opportunity, as is intended, to bring together rival opposition groups? The seriousness with which the authorities see the situation is indicated by the fact that they are considering using mounted police for the first time in the event of unrest in Soweto.

In Johannesburg, the main focus of attention will he Soweto’s Regina Mundi church, where the United Democratic Front and the National Forum are holding a joint service. The two organisations have formed a joint June 16 committee to plan and coordinate the commemoration day. At a Press conference earlier this week, the committee said they were organising the meeting to show that they respect each others differences.

Saths Cooper, a National forum representative on the committee, called on people to observe Sunday as “a day of serious reflection on events that have led to our being in this sad, divided and volitiale situation it is today. “We believe there are certain elements outside our formations that are bent on destroying freedom and peace in our country,” he said.

The committee called on all businesses and sporting bodies to close down their operations at least one hour before the commemoration service in their area and to remain closed for the rest of their day. June 16 takes place this year against a background of almost constant unrest in different parts of the country and the bitter – sometimes violent – clashes between rival political groups.

The tension has been heightened by a claim that white mercenaries were planning to abduct a number of key black leaders, including Bishop Desmond Tutu, Frank Chikane, Saths Cooper and George Wauchope. These people are understood to have taken precautions to counter the threat.

The Manyano Women’ Club, which derives its membership from a number of churches, will lead a protest march from Moroka Police station to Regina Mundi shortly before the commemoration service on Sunday.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Yes, victims can bring Gambia’s dictator to justice

Gambian President Adama Barrow has said that he will await the report of the country’s truth commission before pursuing Jammeh’s possible extradition

Failure to govern geoengineering could destabilise peace and security

Failure to govern new technologies to combat global warming could aggravate existing threats to international peace and security

Putting science on the continental agenda

Speech by Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor at the Science Forum South Africa, CSIR, Pretoria, December 8 2015

A day to weigh up the continent

May 25 is Africa Day. It is neither a day for Afropessimists to gloat nor one for Afro-optimists to say the African dream has been achieved.

Public participation in education under threat

Motshekga’s reported plans to make it easier to close schools could jeopardise pupils’ rights.

Best response to a cheating scandal? Completely confuse everybody

The conflicting statements about cheating during the 2014 matric exams equals complete national confusion.

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Vitamin therapy is for drips

It may be marketed by influencers, but intravenous vitamin therapy is not necessary and probably not worth the hype, experts say

Facebook, Instagram indiscriminately flag #EndSars posts as fake news

Fact-checking is appropriate but the platforms’ scattershot approach has resulted in genuine information and messages about Nigerians’ protest against police brutality being silenced

Murder of anti-mining activist emboldens KZN community

Mam’Ntshangase was described as a fierce critic of mining and ambassador for land rights.

Unite with Nigeria’s ‘Speak Up’ generation protesting against police brutality

Photos of citizens draped in the bloodied flag have spread around the world in the month the country should be celebrating 60 years of independence

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday