The June 16, 1976, Uprising that began in Soweto and spread across the nation profoundly changed the socio-political landscape in South Africa.
When the language of Afrikaans alongside English was made compulsory as a medium of instruction in schools in 1974, black students began mobilizing.
On the morning of 16 June 1976 between 3000 and 10 000 students mobilized by the South African Students Movement’s Action Committee supported by the BCM marched peacefully to demonstrate and protest against the government’s directive. The march was meant to culminate at a rally in Orlando Stadium.
They were confronted by heavily armed police who fired teargas and later live ammunition on demonstrating students. This sparked a widespread revolt that morphed into an uprising against the government. While the uprising began in Soweto, it spread across the country and carried on until the following year.
The aftermath of the events of June 16 1976 had dire consequences for the Apartheid government. Images of the police firing on peacefully demonstrating students spurred international revulsion against South Africa as its brutality was exposed.
As a direct consequence, the exiled liberation movements received new recruits fleeing political persecution at home giving impetus to the struggle against Apartheid.
Events that triggered the uprising can be traced back to policies of the Apartheid government that resulted in the introduction of the Bantu Education Act in 1953.
The rise of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) and the formation of South African Students Organisation (SASO) raised the political consciousness of many students while others joined the wave of anti-Apartheid sentiment within the student community.