South Africans are commemorating the 40th anniversary of a pivotal moment in the anti-apartheid struggle, a 1976 black student uprising in the Soweto area of Johannesburg that led to a deadly crackdown but launched a new phase of opposition to white minority rule.

Thousands danced and sang Thursday at a stadium in Soweto where President Jacob Zuma later spoke of the students gunned down by apartheid-era security forces.

Zuma listed democratic advances in South Africa since the first all-race elections in 1994 and lamented the violence of some students today who have burned school buildings in protests over high fees and other grievances.

June 16 is a national holiday in South Africa.