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The African National Congress (ANC) joins the country in commemorating 40 years since the brave youth and pioneers of 1976 took to the streets of Soweto to rise up against the apartheid regime.

The 16th of June 1976 brought home the full horror that was apartheid, as heavily armed security forces mowed down unarmed students demanding the decision to introduce Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools should be revoked. More than 176 students were killed, and dozens seriously injured.

June 16 marked a turning point in our country’s history and it is thanks to their fearless sacrifice that we today can speak of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society in the making.

The courage that led the students to confront the bullets of the apartheid security forces will forever be etched into the annals of our history.

Today, 40 years later, our young people face different struggles.

Though political liberation has been won, economic freedom and emancipation has not yet been attained.

The ANC, joined by progressive and patriotic youth, continues to lead the struggle for the full attainment of the objectives of the National Democratic Revolution and the full realization of the demands of the Freedom Charter.

Young South Africans today must take up the baton of the youth of 1976 and be active agents in shaping their own destinies.

In his 1964 lecture ‘Youth Must March in the Vangaurd’, the late Cuban revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara called his country’s young people to ‘become the motor force of the whole mass movement, marching in the vanguard.’

He said: “Stay young, don’t transform yourselves into the old theoreticians or theorizers; maintain the freshness and enthusiasm of youth. You must learn to grab hold of the great watchwords of the government, internalize them: to do this you have to learn how to discern the most important aspects of things being stressed by the government, which represents the people and at the same time, the party.”

Aided by the progressive, pro-youth policies of the ANC, our youth are now able to realize their full potential and play their part in building a better South Africa.

This necessitates strengthening a culture of responsible, patriotic citizenship.

Forrmer President Cde Nelson Mandela once said:

“I admire young people who are concerned with the affairs of their community and nation; perhaps because I too became involved in struggle whist I was still at school.”

“Young people are capable, when aroused, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom. I appeal to the youth and those on the ground: start talking to each other across divisions of race and political organizations.”

The South African youth of today should aspire to walk in the footsteps of the youth of 1976, who united to Advance People’s Power.

They fought and died for our liberation and our democracy: it is the duty and responsibility of all South Africans, and our youth in particular, to jealously safeguard this democracy.

In taking forward their own legitimate struggles of today, be they around access to education and employment opportunities, or the provision of services, young people should be mindful that the hallmarks of the struggle of the students of 1976 were unity and discipline. The primary task of youth, said Guevara, “is to give impetus to, and to lead through example, the production of the man of tomorrow. Everyone needs to be improving themselves through work, through relations with other people, through serious study, critic discussions – these are all things that contribute to the transformation or people.”

At all times we should heed the words once uttered that: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

The ANC calls on its young members and supporters, and all the youth of South Africa, to assume the mantle of the brave pioneers of 1976 in taking forward the aims of the National Democratic Revolution and the demands of the Freedom Charter.

We call on the country’s youth to work with the ANC to mobilise the nation around a common vision of the kind of society we seek to attain, acting in partnership with each other and with each sector, for the realization of the common good.

Around the world, young people have been the formative influence on revolutions and in leading struggles for liberation.

This Youth Day, in remembering the youth of 1976, we also remember the stuggles of young people around the world – from Palestine, to Brazil, to the Western Sahara.

As the country gears up for municipal elections in August, we call on the youth to join the ANC in Advancing People’s Power in Every Community.

Issued by ANC

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