On 16 June 1976, a group of school children set off from Morris Isaacson High School in Orlando, Soweto, to protest over Afrikaans being a medium of instruction, among other grievances against the apartheid government.
In a standoff with police, police opened fire on the children. The township was sealed off, and attacks on government buildings followed; as well as the flight of many youths and political leaders into exile.
This day is now marked as Youth Day.
Also on the weekend, the arts and culture department said it was conducting DNA tests on a man in Canada who could be Mbuyisa Makhubo.
The whereabouts of Makhubo have been a mystery for decades after he was photographed by journalist Sam Nzima during the uprising carrying a dying fellow student Hector Pieterson, aged 13, who had been shot by police.
The image, distributed world-wide, has since become iconic of the trauma of the day.
Meanwhile various political leaders have scheduled in addresses on the public holiday.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is due to address a gathering in Kimberley, while Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema will speak in Rustenburg and Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane will visit Soshanguve outside Pretoria.