At the end of this month, I will be leaving the rambunctious 20s behind and moving into my 30s. And while this milestone will be a first for me, so will spending Youth Day in a national lockdown during a global pandemic.
I wish a topic like police brutality was as unfamiliar to me as my 30s and Covid-19, but unfortunately it’s not. And I say this not only from a personal perspective, but as a South African who is aware of the horrors that brothers and sisters of this land faced at the hands of those they should trust to protect them.
At the moment social media feeds are overflowing with news of the global protests against police brutality in the United States. George Floyd is a name many will not forget. And here in South Africa, names like Collins Khosa, Hector Pieterson and Mbuyisa Makhubo have been etched into our collective memory.
I am a young, brown South African woman, and although I may not have experienced police brutality directly, I’ve read and heard the stories of the Soweto Uprising, of how our country’s youth took a stand against unjust systems in 1976. I’ve heard stories of apartheid police making a visit to my grandparents’ home to “check” that nothing was awry, after they had been tipped off that my aunt was dating an Italian man. None of those lived experiences should have happened. Now, more than 40 years later – as it should have been then – no one in the country should fear the blue light of a police car.
I may not have lived through the Soweto Uprising, but now, more than ever, I need to be an active and informed citizen. I started here, listening to these two podcasts about the day when schoolchildren took on a crushing regime to bring about change in their school systems.
I have hope for our country
Nelson Mandela’s address on 16 June 1995 gives me hope for the future of our young people, and for our young democracy. It gives me hope to know that we have progressive laws and a Constitution that works.
In his 1995 Youth Day address, Madiba said to the young people of South Africa: “Wherever you are – in the schools, in religious institutions, at work, in the army and police services, in sporting bodies, as cultural workers ... be assured that we love you all and you shall always remain in our hearts. We are firm in our conviction that you deserve a better future.”
May the memory of those who fought and died in the Soweto Uprising on 16 June 1976 continue to be honoured on this public holiday. And may those who still fight today against injustices in our society be supported. Because every person in South Africa deserves a better future.