19 June 2016



On 16 June 1976 the South African apartheid government, which had been trying to force Afrikaans on the schools in Soweto, saw the results of their destruction of the education system instituted for the Blacks in South Africa break down when the young people of Soweto went on a strike from their school system and rioted in the townships.

Shootings by the police on that day and subsequently saw South Africa erupt with riots, assassinations, police state actions and worse leading to suppression equal to the worst apartheid control ongoing for the next 18 years.

Then the unthinkable occurred - boycott, divestment and sanctions helped bring the apartheid regime to its knees and the apartheid government released Nelson Mandela and others, negotiated with them and in April 1994 the first democratic election occurred in South Africa.

End of apartheid and a "new world order" for all South Africans - or so we all believed until August 2012 when 34miners were killed by police - mostly blacks killing blacks - at Marikana - the largest massacre of civilians in South Africa since Sharpeville in 1960.

So deep an impression on the world in 1994, so forgotten completely 40 years later so that no main stream media seem to have remembered this historic event which changed the world's perception of the original apartheid state to the extent that the world now shuts the other apartheid state out of sight, out of mind - Israel maintaining the largest concentration camps in Palestine the world has ever known and practising apartheid with a concentration that shows how much further the South African apartheid regime could have gone.


From  southafrica.info

June 16 1976: The day youth changed South Africa's history

A placard from the student protest. The events of 16 June 1976 were sparked by the apartheid government imposing Afrikaans as the language of teaching in black schools.

15 June 2016
Compiled by Mary Alexander
It took a single day for young South Africans to change the course of South Africa's history, setting us on the path to democracy.
That day was 16 June 1976.
Here is an hour-by-hour account of events as they unfolded, 40 years ago.
  • This Youth Day, follow real-time tweets of the events of 16 June 1976 on @SA_info via the #SowetoUprising hashtag.

Protesting Soweto students in 1976. (Image: Doing Violence to Memory)

Background: An education denied

By 1976, the frustration had been building for a generation. Young black South Africans knew their schooling was the worst in South Africa.
In 1953, the new National Party government had passed the Bantu Education Act, which made sure black youth were educated only to the point that they could be servants to white people's prosperity.
Before then, South Africa had a rich tradition of mission schools. Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe, and many others had been given the opportunity to become some of the best minds in South Africa as a result of their quality schooling.
But the apartheid government wanted the threat of bright African minds to stop. Many mission schools were closed.
By 1976, students' frustration reached boiling point when the government began to introduce Afrikaans as the language of teaching.
Black students, particularly in the cities, were fluent only in African languages and in English. Few knew Afrikaans well enough to be taught in it, let alone write exams in the language.

The mood at the start of the march - before the police opened fire - was hopeful and excited. (Image: South African History Online)


It is a Wednesday morning, 16 June 1976. Today, the Soweto Students Action Committee have organised the township's high school pupils to march to Orlando Stadium, as a protest against the government's new language policy.
The student leaders come mainly from three Soweto schools: Naledi High in Naledi, Morris Isaacson High in Mofolo, and Phefeni Junior Secondary, close to Vilakazi Street in Orlando.
The protest is well organised. It is to be conducted peacefully. The plan is for students to march from their schools, picking up others along the way, until they meet at Uncle Tom's Municipal Hall. From there they are to continue to Orlando Stadium.

The children of Soweto were in high spirits at the promise of the protest. (Image: Doing Violence to Memory)


Students gather at Naledi High. The mood is high-spirited and cheerful. At assembly the principal gives the students his support and wishes them good luck.
Before they start the march, Action Committee chairperson Tepello Motopanyane addresses the students, emphasising that the march must be disciplined and peaceful.
At the same time, students gather at Morris Isaacson High. Action Committee member Tsietsi Mashinini speaks, also emphasising peace and order. The students set out.
On the way they pass other schools and numbers swell as more students join the march. Some Soweto students are not even aware that the march is happening.
"The first time we heard of it was during our short break," said Sam Khosa of Ibhongo Secondary School. "Our leaders informed the principal that students from Morris Isaacson were marching. We then joined one of the groups and marched."
There are eventually 11 columns of students marching to Orlando Stadium - up to 10 000 of them, according to some estimates.


There have been a few minor skirmishes with police along the way. But now the police barricade the students' path, stopping the march.
Tietsi Mashinini climbs on a tractor so everyone can see him, and addresses the crowd.
"Brothers and sisters, I appeal to you - keep calm and cool. We have just received a report that the police are coming. Don't taunt them, don't do anything to them. Be cool and calm. We are not fighting."
It is a tense moment for police and students. Police retreat to wait for reinforcements. The students continue their march.

By Thursday 17 June 1976 the student uprising had spread to Alexandra township in the far north of Johannesburg.
The placard in the centre reads: "Vorster and Kruger shall not go to heaven."
In 1976, JB Vorster was prime minister of the apartheid government, and Jimmy Kruger his minister of police.
The placard on the right - partly cut off - reads simply: "Don't shoot. We are not fighting."
(Image: Doing Violence to Memory)


The marchers arrive at today's Hector Pieterson Square. Police again stop them.
It was here that everything changed. There have been different accounts of what actually started the shooting.
The atmosphere is tense. But the students remain calm and well-ordered.
Suddenly a white policeman lobs a teargas canister into the front of the crowd. People run out of the smoke dazed and coughing. The crowd retreats slightly, but remain facing the police, waving placards and singing.
Police have now surrounded the column of students, blocking the march at the front and behind. At the back of the crowd a policeman sets his dog on the students. The students retaliate, throwing stones at the dog.
A policeman at the back of the crowd draws his revolver. Black journalists hear someone shout, "Look at him. He's going to shoot at the kids."
A single shot rings out. Hastings Ndlovu, 14 years old, is the first to be shot. He dies later in hospital.
After the first shot, police at the front of the crowd panic and open fire.

The Hector Pieterson Memorial in Soweto. (Image: Brand South Africa)
Twelve-year-old Hector Pieterson collapses, fatally injured. He is picked up and carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo, a fellow student, who runs towards Phefeni Clinic. Pieterson's crying sister Antoinette runs alongside. The moment is immortalised by photographer Sam Nzima, and the image becomes an emblem of the uprising.
There is pandemonium in the crowd. Children scream. More shots are fired. At least four students have fallen to the ground. The rest run screaming in all directions.


Dr Malcolm Klein, a coloured doctor in the trauma unit at Baragwanath Hospital, is on his break when a nurse summons him with a look of utter distress on her face.

Bloodied, injured and dying students were ferried to Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. (Image: Doing Violence to Memory)

"I followed her and was met by a grisly scene: a rush of orderlies wheeling stretchers bearing the bodies of bloodied children into the resuscitation room," he recalled later. "All had the red 'Urgent Direct' stickers stuck to their foreheads ...
"I stared in horror at the stretcher bearing the body of a young boy in a neat school uniform, a bullet wound to one side of his head, blood spilling out of a large exit wound on the other side, the gurgle of death in his throat. Only later would I learn his name: Hastings Ndlovu."


After the first massacre, the students flee in different directions. Anger at the senseless killings inspires retaliation.
Buildings and vehicles belonging to the government's West Rand Administrative Buildings are set alight and burned to the ground. Bottlestores are burned and looted.
More students are killed by police, particularly in encounters near Regina Mundi Church in Orlando and the Esso garage in Chiawelo. As students are stopped by the police in one area, they move their protest action elsewhere.
By the end of the day most of Soweto has felt the impact of the protest.
Schools close early, at about noon. Many students, so far unaware of the day's events, walk out of school to a township on fire. Many join the protests. The uprising gains intensity.


Fires continue blazing into the night. Armoured police cars later known as "hippos" start moving into Soweto.
Official figures put the death toll for that single day at 23 people killed. Other reports say it was at least 200.
Most of the victims are under 23, and shot in the back. Many others are maimed and disabled.


The uprising spreads across South Africa. By the end of the year about 575 people had died across the country, 451 at the hands of police.
The injured number 3 907, with the police responsible for
2 389 of them. During the course of 1976, about 5 980 people are arrested in the townships.
International solidarity movements are roused as an immediate consequence of the revolt. They soon give their support to the pupils, putting pressure on the apartheid government to temper its repressive rule. Many schoolchildren leave South Africa, to join the exiled liberation movements.
This pressure is maintained throughout the 1980s, until resistance movements are finally unbanned in 1990.

Sources and additional information

This is largely an edited and condensed version of the timeline published by South African History Online in the feature The June 16 Soweto Youth Uprising.
Journalist Lucille Davie has written many excellent accounts of the events of June 16 1976. These include:
Additional information - particularly the memories of Baragwanath Hospital trauma doctor Malcolm Klein - sourced from "The Soweto Uprising - Part 1" by Sifiso Mxolisi Ndlovu, in chapter 7 of The Road to Democracy in South Africa Volume 2, published by the South African Democracy Education Trust.
Many events omitted from this timeline, such as the killing of Dr Melville Edelstein, are to be found in this comprehensive and moving account. The chapter can be downloaded in PDF.
Researcher Helena Pohlandt-McCormick has made a wealth of testimony, photos and documents about the 1976 student uprising available online. Browse her Doing Violence to Memory: The Soweto Uprising.
Clarification of the sequence of events in the initial police shooting, and the deaths of Hastings Ndlovu and Hector Pieterson, was provided by Sulaiman Philip from interviews conducted, during the course of June 2016, with veterans of June 16 1976.


16 June ’76 – Remember Dr Melville Edelstein – the life & death of a good man

Kevin Harris productions

[Broadcast on SABC 2 “Issues of Faith” on 16th June 2013 @ 09h00]
Click here to view the video

Dr Melville Edelstein’s tragic slaying in Soweto on 16th June 1976 by a mob of enraged township youth, is the direct consequence of a racist system that socialized its citizens to judge & respond to one another impulsively on the basis of skin colour stereotypes – rather than evaluating people as individuals with their own particular differentiating personal qualities.


The central character is philanthropist, Dr Melville Edelstein.

Dr Edelstein’s goal was to serve humanity.

By all accounts he was a good man who cared about people as individuals.

This caring attitude towards every individual brought about his demise on the 16th June 1976.

Knowing that the situation was volatile – after ensuring that others had moved out of Soweto to safety – Dr Edelstein made the fatal decision to drive back into the township to check on the safety of a colleague.
His colleague had long moved out of the township to safety and Dr Edelstein – caught up in a mob of enraged students – was dragged out of his colleague’s office and brutally slain.

Under the circumstances, Dr Edelstein was slain because he was white.

His death was the direct consequence of the racist system of apartheid which socialized South Africans to impulsively judge and respond to one another not as individuals with individual qualities, but according to a stereotypical image based solely on skin colour.

In this context, as a white man – following shortly after the shock brutal police-shootings, in the volatile heat of that moment – Dr Edelstein represented the oppressor and in that “mob situation” the crowd of black students instinctively avenged the killing and wounding of fellow students by police earlier that day by taking the life of Dr Edelstein.

In his private life, Dr Edelstein carried the pain of rejection by his eldest child and only son Michael from his first marriage.

Despite repeated ongoing attempts to reconcile, to his dying day, Dr Edelstein was rejected by Michael who – in a final act of rejection – legally changed his surname from Edelstein to Lyall.


“16 June ’76 – Remember Dr Melville Edelstein”, is the life-story of Dr Melville Edelstein – brutally slain by a crowd of enraged students in Soweto on June 16th, 1976.

Deputy Chief Welfare Officer of the West Rand Administration Board [WRAB], Dr Edelstein was a philanthropist who over the years instituted many community projects for the Youth & the Disabled in Soweto.

A practicing orthodox Jew, Melville Edelstein was apolitical & dedicated to serving the good of mankind. He was also a pacifist who refused to enlist for World War II.

Before his death, he worked closely with the youth of Soweto & produced a prophetic Masters thesis intended to warn the Nationalist Party Govt of their looming collision-course with Black youth, titled, “What do young Africans Think”.

Highly respected as an academic, Melville Edelstein had the ear of Prime Minister of the day, John Vorster – as well as influential ministers in his Cabinet.

Despite this, his warnings went unheeded.

On June 16th 1976, the youth of Soweto took to the streets to register their rejection of the institution of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in “Bantu Education” schools.

That morning, Dr Edelstein was hosting the official opening for a branch of his Sheltered Workshop Program designed to provide employment for the disabled in Orlando East, Soweto.

When news of the student uprising reached the project, the ceremony was brought to a hurried end as dignitaries and workers were ferried out of the township.

Concerned about the safety of a colleague – Pierette Jacques, back at the Youth Centre in Jabavu – Melville Edelstein drove from Orlando East through crowds of gathering students to get to her office.

“I told them it was going to happen”, Samuel Thlotleng, a social worker at the Central Western Jabavu office heard Dr Edelstein cry as he rushed into the office instructing his staff to leave immediately.

When Melville Edelstein finally emerged from his office later that morning, the political temperature had long been raised by police shootings in the township & he walked straight into the wrath of a seething crowd of enraged students.

Shortly there-after, news photographer Peter Magubane came across the disfigured remains of Dr Edelstein’s body – a crude sign hung around his neck with the words,
“Beware, Afrikaans is the most dangerous drug for our future”.

“If they’d known who he was, this would never have happened”, Magubane was quoted as saying.

“16 June ’76 – Remember Dr Melville Edelstein” is the little-known story of Dr Melville Edelstein – a philanthropist who chose to work within the confines of the Apartheid system to serve the poor & oppressed. In so doing he brought hope & light into the lives of many of Soweto’s destitute & marginalized community.

Caught in the back-lash to the most oppressive phase of the Apartheid era – Melville Edelstein was the victim of the consequences of the apartheid system – a racist system which socialized South Africans to impulsively judge and respond to one another not as individuals with individual qualities, but according to a stereotypical image based solely on skin colour.

The Scream - Edvard Munch

Contact Kevin Harris

Kevin Harris
Email: khprod@global.co.za
Tel: +27-11-726 4809

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90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm