As the world edges closer to the 45th anniversary of the 16 June 1976 Soweto Uprising – when the gallant, resolute, and politically mature school children of the south western Johannesburg (South Africa) township fearlessly and unshakably stood up against the brutal, repressive, and racist Apartheid regime (which was armed to the teeth), resulting in the brutal killing of 175 students (although, some scholars place the fatalities at over 700), and the wounding of over 1000 – we need to re-look at how our current generation of young people measure up to those of 1976.
When I look at the highly painful and tragic picture of the slain Hector Pieterson (as his lifeless body is being carried by a wailing schoolmate, with another equally distraught fellow schoolgirl following closely behind, as they flee from the volley of bullets at the hands of Apartheid security forces – who did not care that they were actually shooting at unarmed children) my heart is filled with both immeasurable grief at the needless killing, and anger at the ruthlessness and sadistic savagery of those who claim to be our leaders.
Nonetheless, that same picture – which made global headlines, and was captured by Sam Nzima – was the trigger that brought the entire world’s attention towards a largely forgotten and neglected plight of the people of South Africa, who had endured over a century of unparalleled and unbearable cruel subjugation and oppression at the hands of a few.
Indeed, this act of brutality by the Apartheid regime – as much as they possibly regarded it as a brave show of force, not only to prove who held the reigns of power, but also to instill crippling fear in the hearts of any South Africans, who may have harboured similar rebellious ambitions – in fact, marked the beginning of the end of this racist entity, as it had the effect of actually emboldening a cross section of the country’s oppressed citizenry, as well as galvanizing a massive global anti-apartheid campaign.
The loss of life and blood of these amazing school children was not in vain, as it was the much-needed catalyst to finally bring down the Apartheid regime – and, also serves as a living inspiration and encouragement to today’s oppressed people all over the world, who have being subjected to unspeakable suffering by their own governments.
And, Zimbabwe is evidently one of those countries – where the ruling elite has practiced a form of intra-racial apartheid and fascism on their citizenry, that reads like a copy and paste from the South African experience.
The question that we now have – as we draw closer to the 16 June commemorations, referred to as Youth Day in some countries – is, “Do we still have an astute, politically conscious, and fearless generation of young people, as was witnessed in the South Africa of 1976?”
Can Zimbabweans honestly expect to see the rising up of our youth, as they stand up firmly and relentlessly against the continued, and obviously worsening human rights abuses, impoverishment, and brutalization of their nation by an uncaring and cold-hearted regime – whose only pleasure appears to be derived from the wanton plundering of the nation’s abundant resources for their own personal enrichment, whilst millions can hardly manage and afford the very basics of human sustenance?
Do we have even a single Hector Pieterson amongst the youth of Zimbabwe – who is prepared to sacrifice everything in order to give Zimbabweans a chance for a better and more prosperous tomorrow?
Let us not forget that Zimbabwe has had its own Hector Pietersons before – as was witnessed during the country’s liberation struggle of the 1960s and 1970s, when numerous school children bravery abandoned their education, and crossed the border into Mozambique, Zambia, and Botswana to join the fight for independence.
Many of them – just like Pieterson – paid the ultimate sacrifice, and died in the bushes, or in the various foreign-based training and refugee camps, that were bombed by the colonial regime.
Therefore, what happened to that spirit of placing one’s country ahead of temporary and shallow objectives and ambitions?
Why would our youth today – whose futures have all been destroyed by a ruinous, corrupt, and incompetent ruling elite – merely look on, as if everything was alright and normal?
Are our youth not even moved, or angered, when all their hardwork in school, and their dreams for a comfortable and prosperous life in adulthood, are callously shattered – rendering them unable to follow their true passions, but forced into being small scale farmers, or Makorokoza (alluvial gold miners), or selling bhero (flee market traders), as those are the only available avenues left for any semblance of livelihood, in a country where a medical doctor can not even afford a house?
Do they not feel any pain watching as their parents struggle, and most times, fail, to make ends meet, and adequately provide for the family – due to economic challenges brought about by the government?
As a popular saying goes, “If you are not enraged, then you have not been paying attention” – and, our passive youth appear not to have been paying attention at all, as to the true extent of the dire and hopeless situation they are in, as the country is destroyed each and every day by those in power.
Honestly, as our young ones sit in there parents’ homes, virtual without a future to talk about, do they not think that this is the right time for them to finally pluck up their courage, and stand up for their own futures, and of their own children?
If they do not – what type of Zimbabwe do they seriously think awaits their children?
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263733399640, or email: email@example.com