Are the youth really free in a democratic SA?
On June 16 1976, apartheid police followed a number of protesting pupils fleeing from bullets and teargas to Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Rockville, Soweto.
When they arrived there they fired live ammunition in the church, damaging the marble altar and the crucifix.
The bullet holes are still visible in the church ceiling and provide evidence of the police violence unleashed on the youth in those dark days.
Fast forward to last Monday, 39 years since the shootings. It was at Regina Mundi where a debate, a Unisa-Sowetan Dialogues session, on the conditions of the youth was held to commemorate June 16.
The gathering was held under the theme: "Are the youth of South Africa really free after decades of democracy?"
For young political activist Veli Mbele, little to nothing has changed for the youth of this country. Mbele, one of the panellists, contended that the youth were still ravaged by the challenges that afflicted them during apartheid, from violence to unemployment.
"Black young people are the only youth component of our society that has and continues to form part of the most exploited, oppressed, traumatised and depressed section of our society," he said.
Mbele argued that the ANC government had failed to transform society and some of its actions were similar to those of the National Party government.
To demonstrate his argument, Mbele made examples of the police killing of young Free State activist Andries Tatane, the Marikana massacre and the killing of residents marching for water at Mothutlung in North West.
"The state under the ANC is simply a continuation of the institutional anti-blackness that was unleashed by the successive white supremacist regimes on the black body for decades," he said, adding that the ANC had become the protectors of white privilege.
He said concepts such as the rainbow nation, reconciliation, nation building and social cohesion were meant to numb the minds of the black youth and black people in general from realising that the main challenge they faced was that they remained landless in their own country.
"If you go to section 25 of the constitution it protects white property. Unless we change that sell-out constitution, things are not going to change.
"There are people who are prepared to die for the constitution. Those who want to change must also be prepared to make the sacrifice," he said.
"There is a need for us as black people to create space to discuss our issues alone. And from there develop the kind of approaches we want for our issues. We must make a decision as black people whether we want to fight for the removal of white supremacy or we want to be incorporated into it so that we don't waste one another's time."
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