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(page 7)
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 home).

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 into crowds).

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 blacks.

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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Heritage Sections
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History · Society
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In this period of Cape History:



Petty Apartheid



The Silent Years

Influx Controls

1976 Uprising

Post '76 Reform


Turning Tide

Mass Action

Bibliography & Contacts


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