On the 14th and 15th of June 2017 the Department of Public Works in KwaZulu-Natal held Youth Day events in all of its regional offices and head office to celebrate and remember the lives of many young people who set South Africa apart for change on the morning of the 16th of June 1976. While the history of this holiday emerges from Soweto when the black students of numerous Sowetan schools began peaceful protests in the streets of Soweto in response to the introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools, many other young people across South Africa were also protesting. This rise was not only against being taught in Afrikaans but also against the apartheid regime and the pain that it brought to none whites which counts as the largest population of South Africa.
The celebration was one that took all the staff members back to those moments where black persons were subordinate to white persons, where black persons were not at liberty to choose and where black persons were persecuted for standing up for their beliefs. The events were held to remember where we have come from as a country and how the spirit of Ubuntu and the humanistic experience of treating all persons equally has developed over the years. In addition, we daily experience how government strives to change the effects of inequality and most importantly how it ensures that the injustices of the past are not evident in the current state’s working environment. Today’s generation can be schooled anywhere and be taught in a language that they prefer because of the Soweto Uprising. Today’s government employees can apply and work in any position of their choice as long as they have the qualifications and experience irrespective of ones skin colour, age or gender.
Southern Region staff members wearing their school uniforms
The Southern Region management and staff wore their school uniforms in remembrance of the young people who lost their lives in 1976. They sang struggle songs to commemorate this very important day. The Regional Manager of the Southern Region Mr T.L Mchunu said something very profound that the best way to remember and honour those that died for our freedom is to never allow the same thing to happen in this generation. He emphasized that we should never allow any form of inequality in our lives. He also said that we should strive for all forms of excellence in our working environments because this freedom that we have did not come easily. The guest speaker Mr J.R Zondi spoke along the very same lines in stating that black persons in those times could only be labourers who earned certain wages, but because of the Soweto uprising we are where we are as a people and country. Most importantly, he spoke about showing appreciation for the work that we do and that we should be an example to others in showing excellence in the work place.
Above: Southern Region officials mimicking scenes from the “Sarafina” play in commemoration of Youth Day
The day was celebrated with speeches on how to live life today. Many speakers spoke about healthy living and healthy lifestyles. There were also gym representatives to give demonstrations on how persons should gym and eat well. In essence, this was done to motivate employees to be well at all times.
South Africa has come a very long way since that day forty-one years ago. What was so beautiful about all the Youth Day events celebrated is that all races participated in the celebration of oneness, which showed just how much we have come as a nation and as a people.