Memorial Acre unveiled in Soweto

17 June 2014

A Memorial Acre was officially opened in Soweto on Monday, the 38th anniversary of the June 16, 1976 Soweto Uprising in which hundreds of schoolchildren lost their lives while protesting against the apartheid state’s imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools.

Gauteng Infrastructure Development Minister Nandi Mayathula-Khoza – who took part in the uprising at the age of 14 – said the opening of the Memorial Acre marked “a giant step in commemorating our liberation. It evokes nostalgia and is also a powerful indicator of the strides we have made together as a people, government and country.”

The R48-million Memorial Acre, which houses the June 16 Memorial and Youth Institute, is situated opposite the Morris Isaacson High School in White City, Jabavu, where the 1976 students’ protest is said to have gained momentum after starting at Naledi High School at the south-western end of the township.

According to the Gauteng provincial government, the institute will serve as a centre of memory and a resource for community development, with various youth programmes set to be run from the institute.

The institute will partner with universities to develop an accessible June 16th historical reference centre, while offering support programmes, leadership training and mentoring to out-of-school youth to help them acquire skills and jobs.

The two-storey Youth Institute is designed in the shape of an AK-47 rifle, a symbol of the struggle against apartheid. Next to the memorial, a statue of Tsietsi Mashinini, one of the student leaders of the Soweto uprising, has been erected.

The entrance to the institute has a section of glazed steel bearing the words: “Struggle, Liberty, Freedom, June 16, Memorial Acre, Youth and Rise”.

The site is enclosed by a Memorial Wall depicting the history of the area and the events of June 16, 1976.

Community artists supplied all the artwork on the grounds of the institute, and 192 previously disadvantaged beneficiaries received work and training during the course of the project.