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Activists' death not in vain

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Activists' death not in vain

by Shahista Rohan-Toefy
18 Jun 2008
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

ON 16 June 1976, high school students in Soweto took to the streets in protest against the Bantu Education Act, imposed on the country by the Apartheid government.

Thirty two years later, June 16 commemorates the young lives that were lost during the struggle against oppression: it does so in the form of a public holiday called Youth Day.

Coline Williams, who died in a bomb attack in Athlone on 23 July 1989, was one who sacrificed her life for the betterment of the youth of today. Her sister, Selina Williams-Begg, spoke of Coline and her family. Selina describes Youth Day as an opportunity to reflect on where we come from and what our past is.

She says that on a day such as this, her mother is extremely emotional because she is taken back to the tragic day on which Coline was killed.

"Living in the seventies and eighties, we had a major struggle to fight and our enemy was real and clear. Today, the enemy has changed its form to drugs and other crimes. "The youth of today should pick up the spear and continue to fight so that the legacy lives on."

Selina says she feels her sister's death was not in vain and that she is proud of her.

Wesley Fester, a member of CARA (an organisation commemorating young struggle heroes), urges everyone to remember the sacrifices that the youth made during the apartheid era - sacrifices, he says, that contributed to the democratic South Africa of today.

He says that after winning the war on apartheid, South Africans need to take stock of the gains of their freedom and take full advantage of opportunities available.

"The youth of today need to emulate the youth of 1976 to 1990. We are confronted by the challenges of crime, unemployment, lack of skills and other social ills... tik and other drug addictions enslave our young people," says Fester.

According to Fester, South Africa needs to fill the vacuum of leadership and form partnerships with institutions at the forefront of campaigns, gathering an unstoppable momentum to address shortcomings that deprive communities.

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