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City honours Alex’s first victim of the 1976 uprising Print E-mail
19 June 2017
AlexJune16
                                                                                Photo by: Gezani Chauke

The City of Johannesburg honoured Japie Vilankulu, Alexandra’s first victim of the June 1976 youth uprising, when Council Speaker Cllr Vasco da Gama laid a wreath on his grave at the Alexandra Cemetery on Saturday June 17.

The wreath-laying ceremony – also attended by Chief Whip Cllr Kevin Wax, local ward councillors and senior council officials – was part of the City’s commemoration of the 41st anniversary of the day when a peaceful youth protest against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in black schools ended in bloodshed.

Vilankulu was killed by a police bullet on 17 June 1976, a day after the uprising broke out in Soweto.

Speaking during the wreath-laying ceremony, Cllr Da Gama said Vilankulu was an inspiration and that his name would forever be etched in the history of South Africa’s struggle against oppression and exploitation.

He said more than ever before South Africa’s political discourse needed the contribution and participation of young people like Vilankulu. He said South Africa had asked for a lot from the Class of 1976.

“Today we need to ask [from our youth] for even more. We call upon the youth to be a vehicle of change. Yes, you need to remember what happened in 1976, but you also need to look at the present and the future,” Cllr Da Gama said.

“To today’s youth, please don’t sit back and wish for your lives to be better. Engage us. Work with us. Challenge us.”

Cllr Da Gama said as today’s youth were reaping the fruits from the tree planted by Vilankulu and his comrades, the challenge for them now was to build on those gains and create a legacy to be enjoyed by future generations.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Michael Vilankulu said the City’s gesture was humbling. He said this was the first time since the advent of democracy 23 years ago that such an honour was bestowed on his brother.

“The struggle to liberate South Africa did not start and end in Soweto. Alexandra has never seen anything like this from the ANC government. After two decades my brother has received the recognition he so deserves,” he said.

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Last Updated on 19 June 2017