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Salient. Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 25. October 4, 1976

Soweto activists were the children of Sharpeville

Soweto activists were the children of Sharpeville

There is a very real sense in which Soweto is the natural heir to Sharpeville. The "kids" at the heart of the Soweto protests are essentially the children of Sharpeville: born about the time of the shootings, they are the first real products of post-Sharpeville apartheid, the first generation of Black South Africans educated wholly under Bantu education, the corner-stone of apartheid. This fact, more than any, makes the troubles in Soweto so significant and indicates that the sequel to Soweto will be considerably more troubled, and will take place a lot sooner, than after Sharpeville.

It was hardly surprising that the troubles began in Soweto. No area in South Africa today better exposes the bitter reality of apartheid. A vast conglomerate of boxed-up townships, Soweto houses white Johannesburg's workforce. With an official population of 650,000 its probable population of more than a million Blacks is served by hardly a dozen cinemas, a scattering of community halls and men-only beer halls. Less than a quarter of the houses have electricity; even less have hot running water: streets are seldom lit; public transport is crammed and expensive. With a frighteningly high crime rate (an average of 13 murders a week), Soweto is a concentrated complex of frustration, anger and deprivation - on the edge of, and constant servant to, white Johannesburg's affluence and plenty.

The anger of this huge urban population has been sharpened in recent weeks by the wrangle between Prime Minister Vorster and Chief Kaiser Matazima over the issue of citizenship of the Transkei, due for 'independence' in October. Vorster hopes to solve the problem of the ruban blacks by declaring them all citizens of their ethnic homelands, irrespective of their actual origin. According to his plan, a large proportion of Soweto's inhabitants - most of whome have never been to the Transkei, nor wish to do so - will in October, by a stroke of apartheid magic, become citizens of the Transkei and so, of course, foreigners in their own country.