After The Soweto Uprising

Today, South Africa – and young people around the world – will celebrate Youth Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the Soweto uprising, in which up to 700 students lost their lives in the name of education.

Earlier this week, we drew parallels between the England riots of 2011 and the Soweto uprising, both fuelled by police brutality yet with decidedly different motives.

When harrowing images of the Soweto uprising hit the international stage, they heralded the turning point in the anti-apartheid struggle. Here at b**p we’ve decided to take a look at the events leading up to the end of apartheid, which happened after the Soweto uprising.

More Brutality – 1977:

“They had to kill him to prolong the life of apartheid”. Those are the words of Nelson Mandela describing the passing of influential anti-apartheid campaigner Steve Biko, who was found dead in police custody with severe brain damage from being beaten by officers. As a figurehead of the anti-apartheid movement who was responsible for coining the phrase “black is beautiful”, Biko has inspired and empowered millions of black people and students worldwide, both in his life and after his death.

Musicians Join Forces – 1985:

As Band Aid’s 1984 single Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ proved, music does have the power, not necessarily to change to world itself but to change our attitudes to the world. In 1985, Steven Van Zandt formed ‘Artists United Against Apartheid’ and a wave of anti-apartheid songs such as ‘Silver and Gold’ by U2 were released.

Political Freedom – 1990:

One of the most empathetic contributors to the end of apartheid was the white state president, F.W De Klerk, who in 1990 lifted the ban on the African National Congress, a social democratic political party which opposed apartheid and continues to hold power today. De Klerk underwent a remarkable transformation from being a supporter of segregation to a freedom fighter against the oppressive regime.

Nelson Mandela Released From Prison – 1990:

Having been imprisoned for 27 years, due to the work of De Klerk, Nelson Mandela was finally released from prison and the road to liberation began.

A Referendum – 1992:

Like all pivotal political debates, the end of apartheid lay in front of South Africans on a ballot paper. De Klerk’s reforms (he is quickly becoming the man of the moment) over the previous couple of years culminated in a choice posed only to white South Africans which asked whether they supported the end of apartheid. It was perhaps a sign that South Africa would not be able to throw off the shackles of apartheid quite so easily, that even at the time when apartheid – a system which isolated blacks – was being dismantled, black people were still being held back from the vote itself.

Nelson Mandela Elected President – 1994:

In 1994, at the country’s first election allowing both blacks and whites to vote, Nelson Mandela of the African National Congress was elected as President of South Africa, and became the country’s first black chief executive, which finally ended apartheid. De Klerk was appointed as one of his deputies.