|The 1976 Uprising
|In July 1976 widespread violence
broke out in Soweto, Johannesburg, as school children protested against the
imposition of Afrikaans as the teaching medium in schools. The battles between
youths and police marked the end of the 'silent years' and the beginning of a
violent intensification in the struggle against apartheid.
In the weeks following the Soweto uprising, school children
from Langa, Nyanga and Guguletu marched through the township streets to protest
the shooting of Sowetan schoolchildren and the imposition of 'security
measures' that prevented them studying at night in school buildings (children
often studied at school because there was electricity and more space than at
When police used teargas and dogs to break up the peaceful
march, it descended into a full scale riot with 36 hours of violence against
shops, government buildings and beer halls. Coloured children also became
involved in the struggle, visiting their peers in Guguletu to express
solidarity and mock the police.
The Black Consciousness Movement grew during this time,
attracting 12,000 people to a gathering in Athlone in 1976. Demonstrations
tended to become violent only when the police turned up, as reflected in the
Cape Flats slogan; 'Peaceful students protest, police riot'.
For one day, September 1st, the ban on outdoor meetings was
lifted and one thousand African pupils marched peacefully through the city
streets. Over the next few days, as coloured students tried to do the same, the
police responded with teargas, beatings and birdshot (small bullets sprayed
During 1976 a total of 128 people were killed and over 400
injured in Cape Town's urban violence, drawing both national and international
attention to the situation. Some academics, welfare groups, businessmen and
newspapers took a concerned stance on the authorities' repression and violence
and called for more cross-racial contact, political rights and citizenship for
There were some members of the white community who joined the
resistance and were themselves victims of violence. Lecturers at UCT were
banned or detained, and their colleagues started a history workshop to document
events in the city and try to explain them. Many whites, however, remained
passive, some emigrated, others became paranoid.
Rumours spread during September that all blacks had been told
to 'kill a white', which prompted whites to buy guns, patrol the streets and
put armed guards at school gates.
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· Culture ·
In this period of Cape History: