The Soweto Massacre

Soweto is an urban area of the city of Johannesburg in South Africa. Soweto is an English abbreviation for South Western Townships. Many Africans moved to the townships by the increasing eviction of Africans by the city and State authorities.  They had been drawn to work in the gold mines.

Soweto Uprising  Bron: toptenz.org

Soweto Uprising
Bron: toptenz.org

Soweto Uprising
Soweto came to the world’s attention on 16th of June 1976 with the Soweto Uprising. The Soweto Uprising is a series of protests led by high school students in South Africa. It began on the morning of 16th of June 1976. A mass of students from Sowetan schools began to protest in the streets of Soweto in response to the introduction of African as the medium of instruction in local schools. The black students in South Africa saw this as the language of their oppressors. Thousands of students took part in the protests. The police attempted to stop the peaceful march by firing tear gas into the crowd. Some students responded by tossing back the tear gas or throwing stoned at the police. The police released dogs into the crowd, but many of them were killed with stones or knives. When the crowed moved on, the police opened fire on the students. Many of them died. The number of killings is 176, with estimates up to 700. The students were soon joined by older Sowetans. They began rioting and attacking. They destroyed and looted buildings, smashed cars and set fires. The rioting spread to other townships in South Africa and continued for three days. The massacre led to strikes of the black population and worldwide protests.

The Soweto uprising was a very important turning point in the history of South Africa. The youth became active in the anti-apartheid movement. They were organizing resistance within the country or joining exiles in the armed struggle. Together with liberation organizations and trade unions, they formed the heart of the movement that would eventually topple apartheid in the early 1990s.

Miriam Makeba
Miriam Makeba was a South African singer who campaigned against the South African system of apartheid. Mama Africa, as was her nickname, was the first African singer to make African music popular in the US and Europe. Makeba’s life was marked by struggle. When she was 18 days old, her mother was arrested for selling an African homemade beer. She was send to prison, so Miriam spend her first six months in jail. When she was a child she sang in the choir of the Kilmerton Training Institute.
When Makeba was 18 years old she gave birth to her only child, a daughter named Bongi. Makeba’s career began in the 1950’s as a member of the South African jazz group the Manhattan Brothers. She left the group to form an all-female group The Skylarks. In 1956 she released the single ‘Pata Pata’, which became popular throughout South Africa.
Her successes as a vocalist were balanced by her outspoken views about apartheid.  In 1960, the government of South Africa revoked her citizenship. For 30 years she lived in banishment. After her daughter died in 1985, Miriam moved to Brussel. She took part in the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute. This was a popular music concert staged on 11th of June 1988 in London. This was broadcast too 67 countries. The event called for Mandela’s release. When Mandela was released, he persuaded Miriam Makeba to return to South Africa. She returned home on 10th of June 1990.
In 2008 Makeba became ill while taking part in a concert. She suffered from a heart attack after singing her hit song ‘Pata Pata’. She was taken to the Pineta Grande clinic, where doctors were unable to revive her.

Soweto Blues
Miriam Makeba sang about the Soweto Uprising in her title ‘Soweto Blues’. The lyrics were written for her by Hugh Masekela, one of her husbands. The song describes how the Soweto Uprising began. When the children got a letter from the master which said the local schools should use Afrikan as the medium of instruction. This was the language of their oppressors. The song describes the uprising. The song emphasizes that it were just children who got murdered there. She sang: Where were the man, when the children were being shot. Where were you when the children were throwing stones. In this song she is wondering where the men were to stop the children, to protect them. The song is describing how horrible it was and how it was put in publicity: just a little atrocity, deep in the city. Like it wasn’t important, and it didn’t matter that a lot of children were slaughtered.


Lyrics Soweto Blues

The children got a letter from the master
It said:
No more Xhosa, Sotho, no more Zulu.

Refusing to comply they sent an answer
That’s when the policemen came to the rescue

Children were flying bullets dying
The mothers screaming and crying
The fathers were working in the cities
The evening news brought out all the publicity:

Just a little atrocity, deep in the city
Benikuphi ma madoda (where were the men)
Mabedubula abantwana (when the children were being shot)
Benikhupi na (where were you)
Abantwana beshaywa ngezimbokodo (when the children were throwing stones)
Benikhupi na (where were you)

There was a full moon on the golden city
Knocking at the door was the man without pity
Accusing everyone of conspiracy
Tightening the curfew charging people with walking

Yes, the border is where he was awaiting
Waiting for the children, frightened and running
A handful got away but all the others
Hurried their chain without any publicity

Just a little atrocity, deep in the city
Benikuphi ma madoda (where were the men)
Mabedubula abantwana (when the children were being shot)
Benikhupi na (where were you)
Abantwana beshaywa ngezimbokodo (when the children were throwing stones)
Benikhupi na (where were you)

Soweto blues
Soweto blues
Soweto blues – abu yethu a mama
Soweto blues – they are killing all the children
Soweto blues – without any publicity
Soweto blues – oh, they are finishing the nation
Soweto blues – while calling it black on black
Soweto blues – but everybody knows they are behind it
Soweto Blues – without any publicity
Soweto blues – god, somebody, help!
Soweto blues – (abu yethu a mama)
Soweto blues

Amanda Strydom and Hector P.
Amanda Strydom is a South African singer and songwriter. Strydom also campaigned against the apartheid. This is reflected in her songs. One of those songs is about the Soweto Uprising: Hector P. Hector Pieterson  was born in 1963 and died during the Soweto Uprising on 16th of June 1976. He became an iconic image of the Soweto uprising when a news photograph by Sam Nzima was published around the world. The picture showed the dying Hector Pieterson being carried by another student while his sister ran next to him. Hector was shot when the police opened fire on the protesting students.

Hector P. bron: fimomitchell.com

Hector P.
bron: fimomitchell.com

In the song Hector P., Amanda Strydom is singing about 16th of June 1976. She describes what she was doing on that day and how she remembers the moment when she saw the uprising on the TV.  The song is very sad. She is singing about Hector when he died. He really is a symbol for all children that died that day.

Ek was neëntien jaar oud toe Hector gesterf het
Hy was dertien jaar oud met ‘n koeël deur sy lyf
Dit was koud in ons voorhuis – op die sestiende Junie
En die wind het geruk aan die vlag by die hek

-

Hector Peterson -
Kind met die glimlag
Kind van die struggle
Kind van ons grond

Click here to read the complete lyrics
For the song click here

 

Sources:

Wikipedia. Soweto Uprising.
HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/SOWETO_UPRISING on May 11, 2013.

Cumming, Denis.( June 16, 2011 06:00 AM) On This Day: Soweto Uprising Begins With Violence During Student Protest
HTTP://WWW.FINDINGDULCINEA.COM/NEWS/ON-THIS-DAY/JUNE/SOWETO-UPRISING.HTML  on May 11, 2013

Wikipedia. Soweto.
HTTP://NL.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/SOWETO  on May 11, 2013

African Heritage. Axis of Logic (Thursday, Jan 17, 2013)
HTTP://AXISOFLOGIC.COM/ARTMAN/PUBLISH/ARTICLE_65316.SHTML  on May 12, 2013

Miriam Makeba, official website.
HTTP://WWW.MIRIAMMAKEBA.CO.ZA/  on May 12, 2013

All Music. Miriam Makeba.
HTTP://WWW.ALLMUSIC.COM/ARTIST/MIRIAM-MAKEBA-MN0000496097 on May 12, 2013

Wikipedia. Hector Pieterson.
HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/HECTOR_PIETERSON on May 12, 2013

Amanda Strydom Official Website.
HTTP://WWW.TUSSENKONTINENTE.EU/AMANDA-STRYDOM/AMANDA-STRYDOM on may 18, 2013

Wikipedia. Amanda Strydom.
HTTP://NL.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/AMANDA_STRYDOM on May 18, 2013

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