Salt River pupils share their story

Some of the former Salt River High School pupils who took part in the 1976 march, along with current pupils.

On September 2 1976, school pupils tried to march to Parliament to protest against apartheid injustices, and while they never made it there, a new documentary tells the stories of marchers who were arrested.

The documentary, Salt River High 1976 – The Untold Story, tells the stories of 10 pupils, two teachers and a parent from Salt River High School. It explores the events leading up to their arrest, their incarceration, trial and eventual acquittal.

Producer and director Anwar Omar was 14 and the youngest of the pupils to be arrested on that day.

He said the documentary tells of the impact the events of 1976 had on their lives. At the time, the march was one of the largest political demonstrations to reach the CBD.

The group had planned to march to Parliament, to speak out against the use of Afrikaans in schools, despite most of the marchers themselves being Afrikaans first-language speakers.

The march was violently dispersed by the security police at the Golden Acre. Mr Omar, his brother, Rashied, and fellow pupils, Mariam Gafoor, Azam Mohamed, Fasieg Abrahams, Riefaat Hendricks, Armien Saban, Ismail Lackay, Moegamat Samuels and Leon Bosch were arrested and detained for 10 days at Woodstock police station.

They were all placed into one cell with a mat and two blankets to sleep on the concrete floor, besides Ms Gafoor, who was held on her own.

The march took place, a day after Alexander Sinton, Belgravia High and Hewitt College students marched to Athlone police station.

Mr Omar said the screening of the documentary in Parliament on Friday September 21, as part of Parliament’s Heritage Month events, was a historical moment.

“Forty-two years later, the march in the form of the documentary, has made its way to Parliament, to remind all South Africans that the struggle for liberation is not over and that we should be vigilant to defend the hard-earned freedoms for which thousands paid with their lives,” he said.

Before the screening, Mr Omar, some of the former Salt River High School pupils and current pupils went on a tour around Parliament. Staff and members of Parliament sat in on the screening.

Mr Omar said the march signified a turning point in the history of the liberation struggle, which, ultimately, led to freedom and democracy.

“Many MPs who watched the documentary today participated in the events at the time, and we are hopeful that it will remind them of their responsibilities to serve the public and create a just, free and equitable society,” he said.