Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Youth Day in Soweto - where it all began

On June 16 1976 nine year old Noble Mabaso was shot by police outside his home on Nykale St, Naledi, Soweto. Two days later he died from his wounds in hospital. 

The atrocity happened just a few metres from Naledi High School, where student organisers of the march that day, protesting against Afrikaans as a medium of instruction, took decisions that changed South Africa forever. 

Fast forward 39 years. Today I visited Noble's mother, Violet, to share the pain of her loss. She still grieves. 
Three years ago on this day Helen Zille, Lindiwe Mazibuko and members of our constituency came to pay their respects to Noble. A photograph of Noble hangs on his mother's wall, commemorating their visit.

Violet, a dignified lady who lives alone but for occasional visiting grandchildren, believes her son did not die in vain. But the rewards of liberation are elusive to the new generation of youth. The educational system and the economy are failing them.

Kids leaving school today can't read, write or count. They can't get jobs. Shockingly, callers to Talk Radio 702 and Cape Talk said education standards in township schools were better in 1976 than today.

21 years of ANC misrule must end if Noble's legacy is to be true to his name.

A month ago I attended morning assembly at Naledi High to listen to Lebo, an HIV/AIDS activist, speak to pupils about the perils of unprotected sex. 

She told her life story, how she contracted HIV but was fortunate to give birth to an HIV-free child. Lebo is an inspiration and received a warm welcome from the 400 or so pupils. Her message seemed to hit home.

Afterwards the headmaster invited us into his office and told us how Enos Ngutshane, a pupil at the school, was hounded by the security police on June 8th 1976 for writing to the minister of education demanding Afrikaans be dropped as the medium of instruction. 

It is no surprise Naledi High was where the march began on June 16th, leading to police shooting to death Hector Pieterson and many others.

This afternoon Lebo was one of the guest speakers at our DA Soweto West Youth Day event held at Naledi Sports Ground. Our aim was to energise young people with music, poetry, motivational speakers and messages from DA public representatives on issues affecting them. 

In my speech I recalled how on that day 39 years ago I was at school in England and the news of police brutality against school children shocked us. My tutor made us read Alon Paton's Cry the Beloved Country which made a deep impression on me and was instrumental in my deciding to visit South Africa 6 years later.

Violet and Lebo want the DA to show we care for people like them. They are searching for a new political home, now that the ANC has lost its way. 

I assured Lebo we are listening. Our Values Charter, underpinned by our commitment to Freedom, Fairness and Opportunity, is our pledge to South Africans we will not bring back apartheid, that we care for Violet, Lebo and millions like them. 

Here's the tricky bit: persuading people that even though Bantu education, however deficient it was compared to the education provided to Whites, compares well with standards today, this does not mean the DA will bring back apartheid to improve educational standards. 

Our challenge is to disassociate the DA from apartheid while acknowledging some parts worked. 

They worked not because of, but in spite of apartheid. In fact they were the root causes of apartheid's implosion.

More, better educated black South Africans entering an integrated economy pitted against the ideology of separate development. It was an uneven contest and the eventual outcome was inevitable.

What is also inevitable is the ANC's demise. Young people know they have been let down by years of promises, and are searching for a better tomorrow.

To repeat loud and clear: The DA honours Noble's legacy.

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