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The BBC's Panorama programme's
original coverage of the riots in 1976
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The BBC's Rageh Omaar, in Soweto
"South Africa today is free"
 real 56k

The BBC's Peter Biles
"President Thabo Mbeki led a procession from the high school where the unrest began in 1976"
 real 28k

Saturday, 16 June, 2001, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Mbeki invokes spirit of Soweto
Thabo Mbeki
Thabo Mbeki led the commemorations
South Africa's young people have been told by President Thabo Mbeki to follow the example of those involved in the Soweto uprising of 1976 and help rebuild South Africa.

Mr Mbeki was speaking at a rally to mark the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the uprising when thousands of black students rebelled against apartheid.

As we remember the heroes of 1976, we must ensure that we educate the youth, but if they value their fallen heroes they must participate in the process of transformation

President Thabo Mbeki
The president said that the struggle against racism continued despite the end of apartheid in 1994, and that the country still has "some distance to travel".

Mr Mbeki said that he was worried about youth involvement in crime and in the gangs that are "spreading drugs in South Africa".

The anniversary is known in South Africa as Youth Day, and is a chance for South Africans to celebrate the country's political freedom, as well as a moment to reflect on the loss of life in the revolt.


Earlier on Saturday in a carnival atmosphere in Soweto, President Mbeki led a procession from the school where the unrest began in 1976.

Hector Petersen being carried away in 1976
Hector Petersen's death became a powerful motif of the anti-apartheid struggle
Hundreds of people surged behind him, cheering, singing and dancing.

They made their way to the memorial named after Hector Peterson, the 13-year-old boy who became the first victim of the uprising.

His photograph became a powerful symbol of the fight against apartheid.

President Mbeki laid a wreath at the memorial, as did some of the families of those children who died in 1976.

The Soweto rising against the education policies of the then white government is generally seen as one of the historic turning points in South Africa that led to the eventual collapse of apartheid.

Hundreds of youngsters were killed by the security forces in the months of violence that followed the revolt.

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