The Stream

Soweto uprising: Forty years on

South African activists join The Stream to reflect on how life has changed since the 1976 student protests.

South Africa is marking 40 years since the Soweto student uprising, which was a turning point for the country’s anti-apartheid struggle. 

Thousands of black students took to the streets after a government decree forced all black schools to use Afrikaans and English as languages of instruction. The demonstrations against institutional racism turned deadly on June 16, 1976, after police used teargas and opened fire on peaceful protesters, sparking further unrest. It is estimated at least 170 people were killed and more than a thousand injured.The crackdown made international headlines, shocking people with the reality of South Africa’s structural racism and inequality.


In 1994, the government dismantled apartheid, but some say today’s “born free” generation is still facing similar grievances from the past.


“Youth moving South Africa forward” is this year’s theme marking the anniversary. So, four decades on, how much has life changed for young South Africans since the Soweto uprising? And how has it impacted youth activism in the country today?

On today’s episode, we speak to: 

Noor Nieftagodien
Professor of History, University of the Witwatersrand

Busisiwe Mkhumbuzi @BusiMkhumbuzi   
Student activist

Simamkele Dlakavu @simamkeleD
Student activist

Ishmael Mkhabela 
Black consciousness leader

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