THE 1976 STUDENTS UPRISING IN CAPE TOWN!

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Senzeni na, senzeni na, senzeni na, senzeni na, senzeni na, senzeni na, senzeni na, senzeni na, senzeni na, sono sethu, sono sethu yintoni na, sono sethu yintoni na, sono sethu, sono sethu bubumnyama….!!!!

Sizowodubula ngoMbayi-Mbayi ayabaleka dubula ngombayi-mbayi, sizowadubula, dubula, dubula ngombayi-mbayi…..!!!

Ngamhla sibuyayo, ngamhla sibuyayo, ngamhla sibuyayo lophalal’igazi! Lalenj’u Vorster, lalenj’u Botha, lalenj’u Malan, lalenj’u Kruger lophalal’igazi…..!!!

Umz’omhle kune Ethe engunaPhakade, umz’omhle kuneEthe engunaPhakade, umz’omhle kune Ethe engunaPhakade, umz’omhle kune Ethe ongangenwa sono!

These were the songs we sang in August 1976 during the students uprising in Cape Town. At that time, I was a learner at Intshinga Senior Primary School in Gugulethu. I remember very well at that school there was no better leader than Fezile “Feya” Mvula. I remember, one teacher Mr Khuse chasing him with bricks like a demon.

During the uprising, the common slogan was “Black Power”, “Black is Beautiful”. Other freedom songs popular at the time were, “Khulul’uMandela asikhokhele” (release Mandela to lead us) “Joshua Nkomo khawusilwele kula Mabhulu” (Joshua Nkomo fight for us against these Boers).

I remember the role played by the likes of Zolile Sonqishe, Malusi Sotshononda and Mzimkhulu Nikani, the first students who challenged Afrikaans at Langa High School in 1971. The school board expelled them for that. They were later joined by Vondela Landingwe, Zolile “Ghost” Ndindwa and Mpazamo Yonana in shaping the 1976 students uprising in Cape Town. They were the ones with the programme of burning government targets such as government buildings/institutions or any facility which they thought was hurting the black communities, like bottle stores.

At that time, there were only four Secondary/High schools in the black townships in Cape Town. These were Langa High School, Fezeka Secondary School, I.D Mkize and Mabuwa (later renamed Sizamile High School and subsequently Oscar Mpeta). Nonzwakazi (the Methodist Church) at NY1 in Gugulethu became the centre where many activities took place.

They were influential students from these secondary schools, namely Bathembu “Mthembu” Lugulwana, Jeff Mamputa, Zwelakhe Gongxeka, Dennis Dlanga, Vukile “Ngqungu” Siyaka, Nicholas “Killer” Msizi, Kenneth, Baba Zondi, Ketani “Chisa” Katanga, Terence “TaPepa” Makhubalo, Kenneth Fassie, Khaya Magodla, Vuyani Vanyaza, Zakes Siyalana, Mzoli Ngcawuzele, Brian Mphahlele and James Mokoena, to mention just a few. In Langa, Xolile Mosie was killed. The old guards who were implicated and arrested were Christmas “Com T” Tinto, and Mountain “Com Q” Qumbela. There was also the “notorious” Rev Sikolakhe Marawu.

It was quite an exciting experience for some of us as it was our first encounter with political turmoil. Seeing a teacher chasing a learner with brick was upsetting. When teargas was used, it was the start of a bitter taste. It was worse when some learners were killed. The Apartheid Regime, through their police force, made the situation worse, chasing us every day. We had to awake early every morning and hide away from the police. We hid in chicken shacks, gardens or pretend to be dumb or mentally ill just to avoid being harassed by the police. In some instances, we played with the ‘nice’ soldiers. Later we realised that the ‘nice’ soldiers were those who were forced into military conscription.

The government also used a group of migrant workers to attack fellow black people in the city, especially the youth. This group “Amabhaca”, as they were called due to their tribal background, were used by the evil-minded Apartheid government against their own. The Apartheid Regime exploited the gap which existed between migrant workers and black township residents. They were used as a shield by police and also a force to attack fellow black people. As a result, men had to be recruited from street to street to counter Amabhaca. This is how the Amabhaca ploy was defeated.

The following year, not all of us returned to school as some were arrested, went into exile, were paralysed/crippled, others died and some just disappeared without trace to date.

The consequences of participating in uprising were torture, condemnation to mental derangement, disappearance, death etc. The were many unnamed people who were killed. In Langa, a learner, Xolile Mosie was killed by police. In section 3, Gugulethu, I know of three learners that were killed by the police: Lucky Ndibaza, Mvuselelo Ntleko and Mzimkhulu Ndingane. Mzimkhulu was about four years younger than Hector Pieterson, the alleged youngest youth to die in 1976 students uprising.

The uprising boosted the liberation movements as its ranks were swelled by the 1976 detachment. The students were also victorious as Afrikaans was withdrawn as the medium of instruction.

There is a misconception and misinformation that it was only the black children who were involved or participated in the 11 August 1976 uprising. Yet there were student boycott at the predominantly coloured University of the Western Cape and secondary schools. From secondary to tertiary schools, the coloured community were led by the likes of David Evertson and Cecyl Esau. It is on record that a number of student leaders from the University of Western Cape were arrested and detained at Victor Verster.

We also had good policemen like Tata Majikela and others from the townships who refused to kill their children. They not only refused to obey instructions from their seniors but rejected white supremacy in its entirety.

The 1960 Sharpeville and Langa massacres captured international attention. The 1976 Uprising opened the eyes of the international community about what was happening in South Africa. Each action by the oppressed did not just yield results but laid foundation for the next action. To those families who lost their children, their sacrifice was not in vain. Their blood nourished the tree of the freedom.

By Thembile Ndabeni
The writer is a freelance writer and holds a Master’s degree in South African politics and political economy from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
(Photo Source: www.lib.uct.ac.za)

  • Ezrom Mokgakala

    Do everything possible never to forget the cruelty of the racist to this Peaceful Demonstration.