chapter  9
28 Pages

Soweto

The Soweto uprising of June 1976 did not take South Africa completely by surprise. It had been preceded by years of industrial unrest. From the late 1960s onwards there had been heightened political activity among university students. Intelligent observers, whatever their political position, could detect in this course of events all the signs of an impending outburst. A mood of new, uncompromising radicalism was permeating every section of the black population. Events in Mozambique and Angola made the prospect of social change seem all the more immediate and increased the tension among the people in the townships and factories: 'In trains, buses, taxis, hospitals and schools,' reported two African journalists in March 1976, 'there is talk of nothing but the new developments.' A shop-sweeper in Germiston declared: 'I have been suffering for a long time. Would war change all that? If it would, then I welcome it.' Even an African businessman reflected this radical mood: 'We have no sympathy for the present Government. We welcome any kind of change so long as there won't be any discrimination. Even if Russia or Cuba were involved, we would not be perturbed' (Cape Times, 27 March 1976). And Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, at the end of April, uneasily declared: 'I am not a revolutionary, but I see a revolution coming' (Die Burger, 1 May 1976).