Note to editors: The following is an extract from a speech delivered by the Democratic Alliance’s Johannesburg Mayoral Candidate, Herman Mashaba, during the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Alexandra student uprising with the Vilankulu family. Mashaba was joined by DA leader, Mmusi Maimane MP, DA Gauteng Provincial Leader, John Moodey MPL, National Spokesperson, Phumzile Van Damme MP, and Interim DA Youth Leader, Yusuf Cassim MP.
Today we stand next to the grave, where Japie Vilankulu is buried.
This innocent, young man lost his life on 17 June, 1976. He was the first Alexandra youth to die in the unrest that had spilt over from Soweto uprising.
Japie was senselessly murdered by the oppressive Apartheid regime and his sacrifice must never be forgotten.
Today we honour him for his courage.
His courage as a young man to stand up to a racist, brutal regime and say enough.
The DA has long called for a street to be named after Japie. In 2014, a DA councilor in the City of Johannesburg had a motion calling for a street to be named after him passed during a council meeting. This after the ANC had failed for 15 years to fulfill its long promise to the Vilankulu family to do so.
At long last, tomorrow, our call will finally be answered and we must celebrate this.
Japie is an inspiration to us all and his name is etched in the history of our peoples’ struggle.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Japie’s family for their continued support of our cause.
Those we lost in 1976 never saw Apartheid fall and democracy rise.
They never knew the joy of raising a family and living a complete life.
They remain forever young in the hearts of their loved ones, and in our collective memory.
I know that youth is more than a phase in one’s life.
It is also a state of mind, a lightness of spirit, a love of adventure, and of an open and enquiring mind.
Youth is a time when most people’s life chances are determined.
It is a time that shapes us by its discoveries, joys, and scars.
This city’s youth and its future are dear to me. I know how opportunity changed my life in my youth.
I know that life-changing opportunities are the difference between success and socio-economic exclusion.
Of course, for the youth in 1976, opportunity was the difference between life and death.
South Africa needs the contributions of the youth now more than ever.
As a nation, we have always asked much of our youth like Japie Vilankulu.
But today we need to ask even more.
We call upon the youth to be the vessels of change.
As Mayor, I will prioritise working with the youth to fulfill the mandate given to us by the class of ’76, and carry our City and country forward.
The reality is that Johannesburg’s youth carry a double sized burden caused by the injustices of Apartheid and the costly blunders of the current administration.
Today, I would like to reaffirm my key pledges to the young people of Johannesburg to gain economic freedom.
We will introduce “schools to skills” programmes where school-leavers will be trained in how to handle the world of a business-leading city economy.
We will identify city-owned properties that entrepreneurs can adapt into top-performing schools and technical colleges of excellence for our poorest residents.
We will identify and lease out commercial spaces for small businesses, artisans, and shops at the lowest available rental prices to give young people an advantage.
We will look to provide registered work-seekers with free transport, so that they can find work more easily.
I will also work with the private sector to drive a project that is close to my heart. Early learning day care centres will be established in townships across Joburg. Children will receive nutritious meals, nurturing, and basic pre-school education. This will allow moms and dads to return to work.
These practical pledges and proven interventions in my vision will begin to fulfil our obligations to the young people of our city – and our huge debt to the Class of ’76.
The ANC has failed to fulfill the hopes and dreams of our youth that were ignited by the Class of ’76 and individuals such as Japie Vilankulu.
When elected mayor I will work tirelessly to ensure that these hopes and dreams become a reality for the youth of today.