Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 21, 2012

Sharpeville Massacre

March 21, 1960: Sharpeville, South Africa is rocked by violence. The small township was established in 1942 when 5,466 houses were built. It is located between two large industrial cities (Vanderbijlpark and Vereeniging) in southern Gauteng. Beginning in 1923, pass laws were enacted in South Africa. These laws limited the movements of the non-white populations. The apartheid system caused outrage among the blacks and African National Congress (ANC) began a Defiance Campaign in 1951 to protest their unjust treatment.

The ANC supported a protest on April 6, 1952 – the 300th anniversary of white settlement on the Cape of Southern Africa. There were about 10,000 protesters and about 8,500 (including Nelson Mandela) were imprisoned. The people continued to work toward freedom and equality. ANC had planned a protest for March 30, 1960. The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) scheduled an earlier march to preempt the ANC. Between 5,000 and 7,000 people converged on the Sharpeville police station on this date.

The PAC had distributed pamphlets encouraging people to stay home from work. They also cut the phone lines to Sharpeville. By 10 AM thousands were gathered in a peaceful protest, all gathered without their pass book in defiance of the pass laws. There were only 20 police present that morning. Fighter jets did a low fly-over hoping to disperse the gathering crowds. By 1:15 PM more police had arrived in armored vehicles. They claim they were being pelted with rocks. They opened fire on the unarmed people, firing semi-automatic guns into the crowd. There were 69 people killed and over 180 more injured.

The uproar was immediate. By March 30, the government called for a national state of emergency and 18,000 people were taken into custody. The international response was also vehement with many countries condemning the action. On April 1 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 134 calling for an end to apartheid. Both PAC and ANC were banned and the oppressed moved from passive to armed resistance. Years of struggle finally brought an end to the system of apartheid in 1994. On March 21, 1994 Human Rights Day was first celebrated in South Africa. Sharpeville was chosen as the site for the signing of the Constitution of South Africa on December 10, 1996.

The native mentality does not allow them to gather for a peaceful demonstration. For them to gather means violence. – Lieutenant Colonel Pienaar, the commanding officer of the police forces at Sharpeville

I have appealed to the African people to make sure that the campaign we are to embark on, must be conducted in good spirit and non violence, I am certain they will heed my call. – Robert Subukwe, leader of the Pan African Congress

Hundreds of kids were running like wild rabbits, some of them were gunned down. Shooting only stopped when no living protestor was in sight.  – Humphrey Tyler

I am the product of Africa and her long-cherished view of rebirth that can now be realized so that all of her children may play in the sun. – Nelson Mandela

Also on this day:

Who shot JR? – In 1980, the cliffhanger ending to the season for Dallas.
Think Outside the Bun – In 1962, Taco Bell opened for business.
I Dig Rock and Roll – In 1952, the first Moondog Coronation Ball was held.

One Response

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on March 21, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Correction- Nelson Mandela was in prison on charges of killing two higher-ups of the African Nation Congress by shooting them in the back(to get the best paying job possible- his words to me)- no other charges! Nelson Mandela pleaded guilty and served the last 25 years of 27 years in comfort in a private residence, the private residence enprisonment was at my pleading with the President of the Union of South Africa.

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