The massacre: a tale of the 21st

Captain’s Log: entry No. 20

About 12 years after the National Party (NP) implemented the inhuman laws known today as apartheid, they were finally able to improve the crown jewel in their arsenal: the pass laws. In the late 1960s, the NP, under the leadership of Hendrick Verwoerd, managed to enforce the already existing pass laws with harsher implications, as well as extend them to include women, (prior to this, the implementation of pass laws on women was heavily contested in Parliament).

In response to this heinous act of inhumanity, the African National Congress (ANC) mobilized by organizing a campaign to protest the unfair pass laws which was to begin on 31 March 1960. Their rivals however beat them to the punch: Robert Sobukwe, with his Pan Africanist Congress, initiated an anti-pass law campaign of his own 10 days before the ANC’s first planned protest.

On 21 March 1960, the demonstrations began without many complications. Following hours of relatively peaceful protest, a group of about 5,000 – 10,000 black citizens approached the local police station in the township of Sharpville to offer themselves up for arrest. It is still debated to this day whether the crowd was peaceful or violent – regardless, a total of 249 people (including children) were either killed (69 in total) or injured (the remaining 180).

 

by Lebogang Mashego

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