Spirit of 76

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on Monday, 15 October 2007
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Spirit of ‘76

Zoë Hinis



I don’t know how much of the Struggle I can claim. How much can I claim of 1976? I don’t know if I’m allowed or entitled to be proud. I’m a white woman, and regardless of my liberal political leanings, I remain forever linked to the chimera of apartheid. But I can wish.


I wish I had the same bravery that kids half my age had shown in the face of apartheid muscle. That bravery that so many had shown, the bravery to fight where their elders had been too afraid to raise their fists, to throw stones, breathe teargas and soldier on behind a goal reminiscent of the pillar of fire that the Jewish diaspora had once marched behind. They had challenged centuries of oppression and suppression, refusing to believe they were weak, stupid and useless for anything other than slavery. With their school uniforms serving as their bullet-proof vests, they took their lives and anger and refusal and hurled it at apartheid, at dogma and notions of racial superiority. They were braver than any youths before or after them, greater than any soldiers fighting for some bizarre notion of peace via machine gun. They took on a monster and won, prepared to make sacrifices beyond anything the apartheid leviathan was able to match.


And despite thirty years between myself and them, I am still proud. I’m proud that youth roared where age cowered. They marched while elders shuffled. They remain inspirational, profound and incredible. I may not have any claim other than being a South African student working towards adding brighter days to the rainbow nation. But what I can hope is that the class of 1976 has taught the world over an invaluable and profound lesson: nothing based on lies and hate can last. A regime, an idea, a hatred, a war, anything, it can be beaten as long as there are enough hearts and hands and minds that will oppose it. Their sacrifice, voices and records remain an incredible testament to the strength of the South African will and I know that it has not died. We hold greater willpower than any other nation in the world, and it remains my sustaining hope that this force can be called on in dire times.


Live on, spirit of seventy-six!



Postscript, 15th October


This little drabble was inspired by the research I am currently doing for an essay on the youth struggle aspect of apartheid. Though students at UJ are currently protesting the increase in their fees, I wonder what happened to when students fought for rights and real change. Rhodes students are more upset about upcoming by-laws on drinking hours in Grahamstown than they are about rape, homophobia or AIDS. When will we decide that we are dissatisfied with the status quo again? Or have we resigned ourselves to the Washington Consensus?

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