“1976; the loss of our innocence

2015-08-13 06:00
Langa High School student marching down Washington Avenue on 11 August 1976 .Courtesy of the Argus and UCT Special Collection.

Langa High School student marching down Washington Avenue on 11 August 1976 .Courtesy of the Argus and UCT Special Collection.

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On Tuesday, as we say ekasi,the day before yesterday, it was 39 years to the day that a sniper’s bullet snuffed the life out of Xolile Musi, on an overcast and drizzling Wednesday morning, on the 11th of August 1976, in Langa.

It is 39 years that has seen the photo-shopping, cutting and pasting and the airbrushing of facts of history.

Of a fateful day, when the shrill screams of young school girls pierced the air, after a single bullet splattered Musi’s brains and left a gaping hole on the back of his head.

The crescendo rose as the mothers who witnessed his dead and limp body being dragged by the leg and dumped into the back of the police van like a sack of manure.

If they only knew end of innocence brought about by a single bullet; the deep groans and lumps in the male students’ throats, the congealed anger visible through the throbbing veins on their temples.

To them, this was just another rioter, another kaffer klip gooier, another lazy native child who refused to go to school, another Bantu to be taught a lesson.

It was a demonstration of naked and brutal power, unleashed on school kids in uniform, carrying a blackboard inscribed: “We are not fighting”. Only if they knew.

Only if the crying mothers knew what the evening would bring; the creeping sunset dunked in Musi’s blood, soaked in anger and bitternes for the loss of one so young.

If only the young girls knew that for some of them, it would be the last sunset, the last look from a lovelorn classmate, neighbour, ,sister, father or mother.

If they knew, they would have spared their tears for the evening.

The death of Xolile was an omen to a gruesome feast that would be unleashed on Black communities in Gugulethu, Langa and Nyanga East and later to spread to Indian and coloured townships in Cape Town.

It was an apocalypse, a night of fires from burning government buildings lighting up the cold winter night.

The explosions, the staccato of police and army rifles, the screams of the innocent rushing from work and the frantic darting and rushing of mothers looking for their children in the cauldron that was umbumbu.

The tears of the Musi family that started as a stream of tears, quickly transformed into rivers of blood on the 11th of August 1976.

It was the children. It was the students. It was the anger.

It was the bullets. It was the brutality. It was the desperation.

It was the humiliation of being force fed and having Afrikaans rammed down your throat. Or was it?

Maybe it was the accumulated anger of years of watching your father crumpling his hat when a young white policeman, barely ot of his teens demanded the Dompass from him.

It could have been the fact that our mothers were lulling the madam’ s children to bed whilst their own children were being shot and maimed.

It could have been because whilst she was walking the baas’s children in the park, her own were on their own with nothing to eat, waiting for her return on Thursday; Sheila’s Day.

It could have been the the pain of being kicked out of District Six, Ndabeni, Simonstown, Wynberg, Tokai, Bellville, Parow and Tiervlei, only to be dumped in the sandy wastelands of Gugulethu, Langa and Nyanga East.

The betrayal of our grandfathers who had laid down the lives for South Africa in the wars, only to find their families banished to the margins of town on their return after the second World war, could have fuelled the seething anger of our generation.

That those who we had welcomed to our shores, had massacred and wiped out the entire San and Khoeikhoei nations, could have added to the bitter memories that fed our anger.

We knew though, that the blood of Xolile Musi was not spilt in vain.

That, we knew for sure, as we jumped borders to exile, were tortured in detention, were shot at in the streets, jailed, killed and maimed.

We know now, that wherever Musi is, he would recocgnise that we only ever tried our best

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