City honours unsung June 16 1976 heroes
City honours unsung June 16 1976 heroes
June 16memorial

The City of Johannesburg is to honour two of the most unheralded victims of the June 16 1976 Soweto uprising as part of its five-week-long programme to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the day when thousands of youths took to the streets of the township to protest against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in black schools.

Hundreds of unarmed learners – many of them in their early teens – were shot dead when apartheid police reacted violently to the peaceful protest.

Two of those who lost their lives on the day were Hastings Ndlovu, reputed by the leaders of the uprising to be the first victim of the unprovoked police action; and Dr Melville Edelstein, a social worker and academic. To honour 17-year-old Ndlovu, the City of Johannesburg has renamed Thabethe Street in Orlando West – not far from where Hector Pieterson was shot dead – after him.

Ndlovu’s family still lives on this street, which forms part of the June 16 Heritage Trail, and will be present when the new name is unveiled. The City will also unveil a plaque at 3940 Mphuti Street along the heritage trail in remembrance of Dr Edelstein, one of two white people who perished on that day.

The plaque, mounted on a 2.5m-long brick column, is accompanied by an information panel on his life and death. The column is surrounded by a paved area beautified by a garden circle. Both events will take place on Youth Day, Thursday June 16.

Dr Edelstein, who was 57 when he died, has also been remembered in film screenings on Constitution Hill, Museum Africa, Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum and various public libraries in all the City’s seven regions since May 18.

Several other events to mark Youth Month have been held throughout the City from as far back as May 5 when the City’s Department of Community Development facilitated and hosted dialogues on peace and reconciliation in all the regions. Other activities included essay writing; the screening of Mbongeni Ngema’s Sarafina at the Soweto Theatre, Johannesburg and at Nasrec from the 17th. In addition, there’ll be aerobics, netball and rugby tournaments; social cycling, fun walks and a book exhibition.

Several City entities and departments will from Friday June 10 participate in the June 16 Youth Expo to showcase programmes aimed at accelerating efforts to transform young people’s lives. The exhibitions will be staged at the Nasrec Expo Centre on the outskirts of Soweto over 10 days.

The Youth Month commemoration will reach a climax on Youth Day, Thursday June 16, when the June 16 1976 students’ peaceful march is re-enacted. This will be followed a week later by a two-day Youth Social Cohesion and Economic Transformation Summit.

The summit has been planned for June 24-25 at a venue still to be finalised.