Soweto 16 June 1976 – The Untold Story

What You Won’t Read in the Media, the Apartheid Museum or a State School Textbook


Page 36Extracts from the book Soweto… But God

 To read the complete book online CLICK HERE


Salvation Amidst Violence and Confusion

“The soldiers are coming! They are shooting!” The 39-year-old mother could hear the confusion in the street outside the school near her home. She rushed out to see what was happening. It was awful. Parents were running to the school to fetch their children. Others came rushing out of the building dragging their children with them. Noise and shouting filled the air... Fear was written on many faces...


Then her attention was drawn to her neighbour’s house. She saw that her neighbour’s three daughters were breaking the windows of their own home. “What are you doing?” she called to them. “We want to kill our mother!” came the reply. “But why? She is your mother!” cried the horrified Z, who is herself the mother of several children. These three girls were possessed by the spirit which overcame so many of the young people of Soweto on that dark day, the 16th of June 1976. Just then an aunt came on the scene and tried to stop the girls. Z ran out to help her. As they approached the house, one of the girls whipped out a knife and threatened the two women: “This is none of your business! Get away!” The two women were helpless and in real danger. They had to retreat. Z invited the aunt into her house and a little later went out again, feeling that she had to pray for the girls. This was too much for them. Suddenly she felt a sharp pain in her leg - they had thrown a brick at her as she stood praying. Their strange anger was now centred on her. They cursed her and threatened to burn her house down.


For a moment she was terrified and wanted to run. But she realised that that would only make matters worse, they would pursue her and kill her. She remained calm and slowly walked back into her house where two of her own frightened children met her. “Don’t be afraid,” she said calmly. “Come, let us pray!” This took place on the Thursday morning. That same evening there was a prayer meeting for young people in her home. She told the children about the three girls and asked them to pray for them.


Page 128next morning their mother came to thank Z. for what she had done the previous day. She was, however, still very frightened about what had happened. Z. saw her deep need and began to tell her about the Lord Jesus. It was a wonderful moment when the two women prayed together and the neighbour, in her need, opened her heart to the Saviour! This formerly frightened mother was now filled with the abundant joy of Jesus. The riots had led to her salvation. Satan had overreached himself. Once again he was overcome by the One who has conquered him on the Cross.


On the Saturday evening one of the daughters came back to her mother, she wanted to ask for her forgiveness.”


Note from the Editor

The above incredible story of redemption amidst the violence of 16 June 1976, is just one of the nuggets that I have drawn from the book, Soweto but God, published in 1978 by the Dorothea Mission. Authored by Rev Clarke Gittens, it draws on research, interviews with Sowetans and first-hand accounts from missionaries of Dorothea Mission, such as the founder – Hans von Staden, who knew, loved and worked alongside the people of Soweto to bring the Gospel to that and many other townships in South Africa. To draw on the title, Soweto may have been a match that set ablaze the downward turn of South Africa towards a Marxist led country, yet [But] as the author demonstrates, GOD was and still is at work to turn tragic events for His people’s good and His Glory.


Satan’s Strategy

For further background on the political conflict that raged in South Africa during the twentieth century, see the article The Battle for South Africa. I have quoted a few paragraphs from this article that help explain the intersection of the spiritual and political conflict that led to the Soweto Riots of 1976: Many South Africans have recognised that we do have a great calling, a great responsibility and are in the midst of a great conflict. As Vladimir Lenin declared: “Whoever controls the tip of Africa controls the world. We want it for world communism.”


Africa for Christ

Pg 84Battle for Africa, Brother Andrew explained: “The South African church is one of tremendous devotion to Christ. It has the spiritual muscle and the financial resources to reach black Africa… I believe satan is aware that South Africa has this potential and consequently works hard to isolate South Africa from the rest of the world. It has been singled out for boycott, embarrassment and criticism, particularly, I believe, because satan wants to isolate South Africa to prevent it from fulfilling its Divine commission.”


Targeted for Revolution

To understand the extraordinary campaigns of the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s to force South Africa to surrender to godless Communism we need to remember the insight of the 19th Century German military strategist Clausewitz: “War is an act of violence to break the enemy’s will…it is not the loss of men, horses and guns, but of order, courage, confidence, cohesion and plan…and it’s principally the moral forces which decide here.” For decades, South Africa was the target of an unprecedented international media propaganda campaign, economic warfare and revolutionary violence. “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption…” 2 Peter 2:19


Soweto 1976: A Turning Point

An article published by the South African Communist Party, The Way Forward From Soweto, aptly summarises the Marxist agenda behind the riots: “There is no doubt that, taken as a whole, the Soweto events have opened a new chapter in the history of the revolutionary struggle.”


The riots profoundly changed the socio-political landscape in South Africa. The Director of the Dorothea Mission, Hans von Staden wrote in the Foreword to the book that “the Soweto riots might mean the beginning of the end for Christian civilization in South Africa.”


Pg 0Soweto Riots or Uprising (as it is called by the politically correct), is often called the turning point in the anti-apartheid movement. The liberal media certainly used the (at first sight) shocking pictures of children who were shot by the police to manipulate the overseas world media to further condemn Apartheid South Africa and strengthen sanctions against her people.


A Different Perspective

The book gives a glimpse into the violence caused not by the soldiers and police, but rather by the rioters themselves. Indeed, the burning of vehicles and buildings, opportunistic looting of homes and businesses and murder of government officials is rarely mentioned in the average narrative of the riots. In fact, if it is mentioned, it is praised by those who are sympathetic to the Marxist instigators.


Extracts from Soweto, But God

Unless otherwise stated, the following (except for the sub-headings) are all direct quotes from the book. We have also changed the present tense narrative to past tense.


Soweto, But God


Page 156Happened on 16 June 1976?

On the morning of June 16th 1976, ten thousand (some sources claim twenty thousand) black high school pupils staged a protest march. Chanting Black Power slogans and waving crude and inflammatory placards they marched through the streets of Soweto. The demonstration was supposed to have been a peaceful one. Unfortunately, it didn’t stay that way. The police moved in and tried to disperse the marchers. Stones were thrown. Shots were fired. Then the “peaceful protest march” exploded into an orgy of fighting, burning, looting and killing. The violence went on for four days and when order was finally restored, it was found that 176 people were dead and over a thousand injured.


Setting the Scene – The Situation in Soweto and Life in the Townships


Houses Built in Soweto by Apartheid Government

It was a tremendous boost to the creation of Soweto when Sir Ernest Oppenheimer arranged a loan of six million Rand for township development in 1956. It meant that at last a realistic approach could be made to planning, marking out and building a city, albeit piece by piece. It meant that new townships could be surveyed and pegged out, water and sanitation and all the other essential services could be planned and construction begun. Since then, the pace of building waxed and waned according to the amount of money on hand. In the hey-day of building, it was claimed that no fewer than 63 houses were being completed per day. At the time of writing, there were 9,500 people on the waiting list for houses (as always, the lack of money has held up the programme, but a new and imaginative ‘revolving fund’ was created and it was hoped to have about R2 million by the beginning of 1978).


Pg 32

Were Living Conditions Like in Soweto?

By 1976, nearly 13,000 people lived in their own homes, houses that would be a credit to any suburb in any city in the country. Most of those houses were the old sub-economic 51/6 style, their owners have added kitchens and bathrooms and toilets and extra bedrooms as well as carports or garages. You would have been amazed to see the furnishings inside those houses. At the time of writing, only 51/9 houses were being built for tenants, these have a separate bathroom and kitchen. For people who wanted to build a house for themselves, there were a range of plans, or they had their own plans drawn and then submitted them in the usual way. Some of the new houses in Dube would not have been out of place in the best suburbs in Johannesburg or Pretoria.


Street Lights and Electricity for Homes

The shadowy, dangerous streets which have always been the haunt of criminals at night were transformed by the erection of high-powered ‘high mast lights’ at every intersection. By the end of the 1960s, most of Soweto’s houses had electricity.


Page 78bIncrease Outstripped the Provision of Housing

The phenomenal population increase has always outstripped the provision of housing. Newcomers arrived and babies were born much more quickly than houses could be put up.


White Taxpayers Funded Building of Houses

Most of the money which was needed to build houses and to provide facilities and services for Soweto came from the white taxpayers. During the years that the Johannesburg City Council was responsible for the townships, they frequently subsidised the building programme and the running costs from their own income from ratepayers. Every effort was made to enable Soweto to pay for at least some of its own expenses. Rentals for houses and fees for various services were low, but they brought in some revenue.


Disastrous Fund-Raising Scheme

Another scheme which brought in a great deal of money was the sale of sorghum beer to the blacks. There have often been protests about this policy and the degree of dissatisfaction seems to be underlined by the fact that during the riots the beerhalls and bottle stores were prime targets along with most of the West Rand Administration Board (WRAB) offices. Not one was left standing, they were all burned to the ground.


Page 24. Different but similarConsultations

After the riots, 13 of the 41-member Soweto Urban Bantu Council resigned, but the remaining 28 members still meet regularly with officials of the WRAB and with their people and there are regular consultations with leading citizens in Meadowlands and Diepkloof and Dobsonville. Mr. H.P.P. Mulder, the Chairman of WRAB has made a practice of arranging direct discussions with cabinet ministers or secretaries of government departments wherever possible to deal with specific issues; in this way he has been able to overcome a great deal of the previous tensions and misunderstandings.


Election of Community Councils

The next stage of the political development of the urban blacks is to be the election of Community Councils. These are intended to be as democratic as possible; all registered citizens of Soweto will be able to vote for the 31-member council which will be elected in February of 1978. These councils have been given wide-ranging executive powers by the Act, but will decide for themselves how quickly they will take over the effective administration of the city.



Dr CME Leistner, Director of the Africa Institute, said: “Lenin said that the road to Europe lies through Africa… Well, the road to Africa runs through Soweto!” It is foolish and naïve for South Africans to imagine, as some do, that the riots in Soweto and other areas are no more than the work of “Communist Agitators,” and to go back to sleep with the complacent thought that “the police will deal with the matter.” But on the other hand, it is downright stupid to deny Communist influences. It is abundantly clear from the pattern of events on the day of the riots and even more so from the things that have taken place since then that well-trained troublemakers were definitely involved in the disturbances both in Soweto and in other places. Various newspaper reports of the time record that after the disturbances were well underway in Soweto, cars with Johannesburg registration numbers were seen in other townships along the reef and that wherever they appeared, trouble flared up. It is reported, for example, that people at Natalspruit, near Germiston, ran to the police station with the words, “God help us, the agitators from Soweto have come here!”


Riots Were Not Spontaneous

If this is not enough, then we have the statement made by Mr. F.A. Tabeev, a member of the Praesidium of the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union when he visited Dar es Salaam in October 1976. Addressing a public meeting he said, “The recent events in South Africa were not a spontaneous happening. They were the result of the work of organised national liberation movement officials of the African National Congress (ANC), operating on a broad front which embraced workers, students and people from rural areas, including whites, coloureds and Indians.”


Pg 152Africa – Strategic Target for International Communism

I believe that we need to realise (if we have not already done so), just how important our country really is, not only from a political/military and economic point of view, but far more important, from a Spiritual point of view. Politically and militarily, South Africa is one of the most strategically important countries in the world today. Lenin declared that Southern Africa would be one of the main obstacles to the communist’s programme of world conquest and military strategists of all shades of opinion have repeatedly underlined the fact that to control the Cape sea route would be to control much of the Indian Ocean and the south Atlantic, enabling any hostile power to have a stranglehold on Britain, Europe and America. Economically, South Africa occupies an important position in world commerce. Our gold and other minerals are constantly needed by the insatiable factories of many countries, an enormous amount of foreign capital is invested in SA. All of the attempts in recent years to isolate the Republic from the rest of the world have only served to underline the fact that the economic importance is such that many countries would rather risk censure than cut their ties with SA. The latest trade figures show that many countries in Africa are increasing rather than decreasing trade with SA. All of which makes South Africa an attractive prize in the eyes of the power-mad and unscrupulous.


Spiritual Significance of South Africa

Page 107more important than any of these is the Spiritual Significance of this country. In spite of the many failings and shortcomings which are so often pointed out and which we are only too keenly aware of, South Africa is still basically “Christian” and God-fearing, certainly much more so than many other countries in the world today. It is one of the last countries in the world where the largest Churches still respect the Bible as the Word of God and try to preach Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. In a world which is more and more rejecting God and the authority of His Word, this is anathema. There are forces and people in the world who will not rest until they see this destroyed. Christians in South Africa dare not underestimate the determination of communist and antichrist forces to bring this country to her knees and thereby to gain control of the whole of the subcontinent. They have demonstrated only too clearly in all too many countries in the world that they will do anything to gain their ends. Lies and subversion are their stock-in-trade. They use any and all means to undermine respect for government... police, army and all who are responsible for maintaining law and order.


Propaganda to Provoke Grievances

Films, television, radio, books, magazines, newspapers and the like, all are employed to break down moral standards and to promote dissatisfaction and unrest in order to create conditions in which they may gain control of a country. We have the sworn testimony of many ex-communists that they had been given expert training in the art of incitement, fanning grievances - real or imagined - into confrontation and conflict with the authorities to promote confusion and anarchy.


Was the Teaching of Afrikaans the Primary Reason for the Riots?

However, whatever the truth of the matter may have been - and there have been many lengthy discussions at every level and several changes in Bantu Education - in spite of the fact that the language issue was put forward as the primary reason for the demonstrations which resulted in the riots of ‘76, there are several things which seem to indicate that this was not the real issue at all. One observer who has been closely involved in the situation for some time stated, “The issue of using Afrikaans in the schools was the match, but various people had been building up a very inflammable haystack for some time; they had constructed it of distortion and half-truth. It burned well… and the only thing that will really put it out is truth…” There is the fact that several schools were involved where the medium of instruction has always been English, together with the too- professional pattern of events since the disturbances began, force us to the conclusion that there are much larger issues at stake than are immediately apparent.


Rejection of Christian Values

The Star of June 20th 1976 reports a certain Mr. Rahede as saying: “The government will stamp out the present explosion of unrest, but that will not solve the fundamental problems... the question of Afrikaans was the flashpoint, but the language issue is symbolic of the kids’ rejection of a lot of other things. They are rejecting the imposition of the whole white establishment as a system plus the norms and values of whites.”


Pg 38Rebellious Generation

A prominent black Christian tried to explain the reasons for this to me: “Up to now,” he said, “Black parents have always been very close to their children. But try to imagine what it does to these children when they sit every night at the supper table and so often they must hear how their parents have been humiliated by whites. They hear of how the clerk at the pass office shouted at their mother. They hear of how their father, who may be a well-educated man must say ‘yes baas’ to the young white man who has just today started work and knows nothing of the job that the black man has been doing for the past twenty years. They must listen to their mother tell them how the shop girl spoke to her and how their father was pushed out of the way in the street. They listen and I know that it does something to them deep down inside, for they are modern young people, they are not like we were when we were children. They read the newspapers, these modern teenagers and they know what is happening in the rest of the world and they say, ‘No one will treat me the way they treat my father and my mother.’ So, they become rebellious and listen to talk of revolution and killing.”


Demonic Communist Forces

The citizens of this country and especially those who consider themselves to be Bible-believing Christians, must realise that there are demonic forces at work in our modern world. Forces which have been so successful with their incessant chorus of “Liberation now!” that they have persuaded the world that any means is justifiable so long as the black people of Southern Africa are “liberated” from their white “oppressors.” In the most amazing way, the eyes of the world have been blinded to the fact that this process of “liberation,” as practised by communist “freedom fighters” has, without exception, brought anarchy, suffering, death and destruction to those whom they are pretending to liberate and has imposed a slavery never known before in the history of the world in those countries where “liberation” is complete.


When you discuss this with Sowetans, you find that there are some who are aware of the truth of this and who know full well what has taken place in Mozambique and Angola and in other parts of Africa, but that somehow, they are in the minority. Too many are being deceived by false and misleading propaganda - don’t people generally believe what they want to think is true? Many are being persuaded that they “have nothing to lose but their chains” and that the fuller life lies in their throwing in their lot with the “freedom fighters.”


The sophisticated people of Soweto, especially the young people, were very much aware of political and social developments in the countries of Southern Africa and the world at large. They follow the course of negotiations in Rhodesia and South West Africa with bated breath and can tell you who said what at UNO.


Children Rebelling Against Parents

The Rand Daily Mail sums up the resulting situation in an article entitled, “Soweto’s Lost Generation” (6 August 1976): “Parents of school-going children in Soweto, or in other black townships in the Transvaal are facing a heart-breaking dilemma. Their children are turning against them. The children are blaming their elders for collaborating too long with the apartheid system. This message shone through this week when I interviewed a number of black parents and teenage high school pupils. The middle-aged black journalist with an eighteen-year-old son at high school said, ‘It is breaking my heart to see my son changing overnight. He no longer confides in me, he jeers at me and his mother for working so hard that we can send him and his brother and sister to school’.”


Black vs White?

It is too easy and simplistic to see the problem of Soweto merely in terms of a confrontation between blacks and whites. Newspapers in South Africa and around the world have done their best to make people believe that this is the case, but the picture of blacks and whites at each other’s throats does not stand up to the harsh light of reality. The fact that many blacks risked their own lives to protect whites during the rioting and some took food and coffee to the white policemen standing guard in the townships during the nights of the troubles simply does not fit the above picture.


Murder Amidst Confusion

Nor does it account for the fact that blacks took advantage of the confusion to attack and kill other blacks for reasons which had nothing to do with politics. Prominent churchmen who know the black Sowetans have stated bluntly that not a few of them took the opportunity to settle old grudges and feuds during the unrest.


39 01Criminal Element

An adequate assessment, from a Christian point of view, demands that we look much deeper than this. We must accept that we are not remote from these and other urgent social and political issues which must be given serious attention in these days. But more than that, we must realise that there are underlying spiritual factors which affect each of us very directly. When we read through the newspaper reports about the terrible things which took place during the riots, we find that the trouble began when the students’ protest march erupted into violence, but we notice also that the worst incidents took place when other elements moved in to take advantage of the situation - the criminal element. The roving gangs of tsotsis, the ‘won’t-work’ types who saw in the disturbances a golden opportunity to loot, kill and enjoy themselves, while their previously sedate and studious cousins were embroiled with the police.


Widespread Oppression?

Quite a few Sowetans spent their holidays away from the city, even overseas. For example, in 1972 some 54,000 Africans spent their holidays outside of South Africa and there were no less than 3 327 business trips beyond the borders.


Materialistic Envy

Too many white Christians in South Africa have been willing to stand by complacently while a hard, materialistic society has thoroughly indoctrinated the black people into believing that material, social and political things are all that matter in life and by our lifestyle we continue to reinforce this belief every day!

Pg 94aLack of Bible-Based, Gospel-Preaching Churches

Page 82The awful truth is that there is a famine of sound Christian teaching and of Evangelical preaching in the midst of this apparent wealth of religion. When we get down to asking some searching questions, we start getting some heart-breaking answers, for the sad truth is that some of the larger historic churches have moved away from “the Faith once delivered to the saints”, under the influence of modernistic teaching which questions the fundamental truths of the Gospel, they have taken to dabbling in social and political issues rather than concentrating upon winning men and women to Faith in Jesus Christ and building them up in their Faith.


Desperate Spiritual Need of Townships

The missionaries of Dorothea Mission’s urgent call to evangelise, disciple and pray for the townships of South Africa is still the same today.


“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20


IntroPicSoweto but God 3D fbYou can read the full, original text in Soweto, But God,
by Rev. Clarke Gittens -



Gospel Defence League
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See also:

How Marxists Subvert Churches and Society

The Greatness of the Great Commission


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