By Mbangwa Xaba

The impact of June 16, 1976, just like the Sharpeville Massacre of 21 March 1960, reverberated around the world, drawing attention to the brutality of the apartheid regime. n a period of four months, October 1976, it had gotten ANC President General Oliver Tambo on the podium of the United Nations General Assembly. He gave a historic speech, a hopeful indicator of victory and apartheid regime’s first eyeball-to-eyeball with international isolation. He must have been as emotional as he was buoyant, when in part, he said: “For the first time in the history of the United Nations, a representative of the majority of the people of South Africa has been allowed and invited to share this prestigious rostrum with the representatives of the independent and sovereign nations and peoples of the world. “After three-and-a-quarter centuries of the most brutal national oppression suffered by any people on the African continent, our people, the indigenous majority, are asserting their will to be free with breathtaking heroism.
“There is no vocabulary to describe the nobility and the pathos of the conscious sacrifices that the black youth of South Africa have made over the last four months to free themselves, their people and the country from the forces that are determined to keep us forever their chattels. “Together with their mothers and fathers, they have seen hundreds of their compatriots pay the supreme sacrifice rather than accept a life of enslavement.” Today, 46 years later, Tambo’s words are incongruent to the society we have since become.

A black government, a product of supreme sacrifices, has turned into a disgrace to the liberation struggle. To spare us the possibility of a further blight to the brave, iconic and proud history of our country, the nation’s collective memory has been padlocked. Ordinary people would rather not know what it took to achieve this democracy. I came across a joke on social media and it is in Sesotho. Loosely translated, it goes: “Hector Pieterson was shot on 16 June on his way to school,” one person remarks and the other responds, “Why was he going to school on a public holiday?” This is not ignorance. It is a deliberate distancing intended to numb the pain. Our world is different from the Pieterson heroism. Ours is a world where millions of children are trapped in poverty. We are accustomed to seeing government as a haven for thugs. We occupy front-row sits to the type of things movie makers may never concoct in their creative best. Our leaders line their pockets with public funds, murder and tear each other apart publicly for seats in party leadership as they are vying for government positions. It would appear president after president compete for the honour of who is the nation’s most shameful criminal.
The grandchildren of the class of 76 have been systematically assured a life of servitude to white supremacy. About 70% of the country’s wealth still in white hands. Six out of 10 children (62,1%) are identified as multidimensionally poor. The majority of children (0-17 years old) suffer from multiple deprivations simultaneously. Black African children (68,3%) show the highest percentage of multidimensional poverty, compared to their peers from other population groups. Multidimensional poverty is highly prevalent among double orphans (77,3%) and paternal orphans (75%), as opposed to non-orphans and maternal orphans. Far too many young people are neither in school nor working.
Over 75% of South Africa’s youth is unemployed. They face high vulnerability to crime, a little more than a third (35,4%) have experienced some form of sexual abuse and close to 30% abuse a substance of one kind or another. All these, are serious enough without child-headed households, teenage pregnancies, physical abuse and the absence of fathers/father figures.

South Africa has failed her children. Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa says: “The South African education system, characterised by crumbling infrastructure, overcrowded classrooms and relatively poor educational outcomes, is perpetuating inequality and, as a result, failing too many of its children, with the poor hardest hit.” The Amnesty International report titled, Broken and Unequal: The State of education in South Africa, states: “The situation is so bad, government does not comply with both its own constitutional and international human rights obligations with respect to education.”
The report specifically shines a spotlight on the poor infrastructure in public schools, including sanitation, which has tragically resulted in the death of some children in pit latrines. The majority of children don’t even play sports, there are no sports facilities to speak of. Our children are condemned to a life of misery.
Let’s face it, when we commemorate the 46th anniversary of June 16 and Youth Day, in all fairness, there is nothing to celebrate. All we have are unfulfilled promises. The breathtaking heroism that Tambo spoke about, the nobility and the pathos of the Soweto school children, who were brutally attacked by the apartheid police, has been mercilessly betrayed. I agree completely with young people who say they don’t want Youth Day to be about the history of others. They want to it to acknowledge their current reality and the struggles they are facing. As a matter of urgency, they must take instruction from Frantz Fanon, who says: “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it.”
If young people stand by and fold their arms against this injustice, they would have most certainly betrayed their generation’s historic mission. A word of advice from an internationalist and revered revolutionary, Che Guevara: “We cannot be sure of having something to live for, unless we are willing to die for it.”

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