The Congress of the People (COPE) has called for the iconic Orlando Stadium be named after student leader Tsietsi Mashinini.

The party has called on government to acknowledge all those who laid their lives for the liberation of South Africa, as the country commemorates the 44th anniversary of the June 16 Soweto Uprisings, the historic march which was led by Mashinini.

COPE says Mashinini has not been acknowledged for his role and contribution to the liberation of this country.

In 2018, Mashinini was honoured at a memorial lecture at his former school in Soweto. Mashinini was at the forefront of June 1976 school protests.

He later died in exile. Professor Barney Pityana delivered the keynote speech.

Leading the protests it was this day that turned Tsietsi Mashinini into an instant hero and an enemy of the apartheid regime.

Forty-four years later and the youth of the country are still faced with myriad challenges such as unemployment, lack of skills development, pregnancy and HIV/AIDS among them.

Pityana says the youth are not given the opportunity to lead.

The likes of Mashinini, Seth Mazibuko and Onkgopote Tiro have left big steps to follow for the current crop of youth activists.

Tsietsi Mashini’s biography

Tsietsi Mashinini was born on 27 January 1957 in Central Western Jabavu, Soweto. Mashinini was the second son of Ramothibi, a lay preacher in the Methodist Church, and Nomkhitha Mashinini, and was one of 13 children (11 boys and twin girls). He was active in his local Methodist parish and chairperson of the Methodist Wesley Youth Guild at the age of 16.

His education started at the Amajeli crèche in 1963. He went on to Seoding Lower Primary, after which he proceeded to Itshepeng Higher Primary. In 1971 he became a student at Morris Isaacson High. He was a passionate reader.  This was spotted by his History and English teacher, Abram Onkgopotse Tiro, who taught at Morris Isaacson after was expelled from the University of the North (Turfloop) for his political activities. Tiro had great influence in shaping Mashinini’s political thinking and subsequent adherence to the ideology and philosophy of Black Consciousness. He mentored him and supplied him with reading material. Through Tiro, Mashinini started reading about the history of Africa’s struggles, American slavery, the Human Rights Movements in the USA and about the evil of apartheid. Mashinini was the chairperson of the debating team at his school, and his excellent academic performance became the basis for his influence among his peers.

Mashinini’s energy, creativity and sportsmanship became evident through his recreational activity, which included theatre, baseball, ballroom dancing, martial arts, swimming and tennis. Former teacher Mrs Benadette Mosala said of him: “He had real potential in the theatre and asked for assistance for his productions. He had high aims for himself and would refuse to play second fiddle. He was a very attractive and handsome young boy. I know the girls loved him and he was very confident.”

As a teenager of his time, he preferred African-American fashions, especially drawn to hippie culture. He sported an Afro and wore bell-bottomed trousers and high-heeled shoes, and had a vibrant social life.

Mashinini joined the South African Students Movement, a student body established to assist students with the transition from Matric to university.

On 13th June 1976, about 500 Soweto students met at the Orlando Donaldson Community Hall to discuss ways and means of confronting and challenging the Department of Bantu Education. The students decided to stage a peaceful protest march on 16 June against the introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction.

An Action Committee was set up to prepare for the campaign. Mashinini was elected chairperson of the Action Committee, which was later renamed the Soweto Students Representative Council (SSRC), with Mashinini as its first president (until he was succeeded by Khotso Seatlholo from Naledi High School). Mashinini and Murphy Morobe were the two representatives from Morris Issacson High School serving in the Soweto Student Representative Council.

During assembly on the morning of 16 June at Morris Isaacson High School, Mashinini climbed onto the podium and led students into song, and out of the school grounds towards their assembly point for the planned student demonstration.

They were joined by students from other schools in Soweto. It is estimated that 20000 uniformed students joined the mass demonstration. As they marched down in a throng, they came across a police barricade on their way to the assembly point. Mashinini climbed a makeshift podium to deliver a spirited address, telling students to march peacefully, to remain orderly and not to provoke the police. Sourced from SA History