AFRICANGLOBE – March 21 is a day that many White settlers in South Africa would rather forget, but for many the Sharpeville Massacre serves as a reminder of the country’s White past, one which they hope never to slide back to.
Despite the emotion and sadness that engulfs Human Rights Day, activists say it should never be forgotten.
On 21 March 1960, several people were killed by the White apartheid police when they were protesting newly passed repressive laws.
The police opened fire, without order, on a crowd that had gathered at the Sharpeville station in Johannesburg killing 69 unarmed people, while 180 were injured.
Under the much reviled laws, Africans were required to carry books to be produced to law enforcement officials on request.
These racist pass laws were used to enforce segregation and also as a weapon to harass and intimidate political opponents of the White apartheid regime.
The massacre shocked the world and was a turning point in the struggle, as it convinced the liberation movements that the time had arrived for an armed struggle.
Political parties and trade unions said: “on this day we will be remember and honour all those who laid down their lives fighting for the emancipation of the oppressed majority in this country.
“We should reflect back on the sacrifices that were made to achieve the rights that we all enjoy today”.
In 1994, the country was able to start a process of reversing the negative past that was brought about by a system that was classified as inhuman.
A progressive constitution was adopted that guaranteed people’s rights, both individual and collective and laid the foundation for a new nation to emerge.
At the end of White apartheid (The political aspects), 21 March was set aside as a holiday in honour of those killed in the shooting.
The National Education and Health Workers Union (NEHAWU) said, while “so much has changed over the years since the dismantlement of the White apartheid state, we still have socio-economic challenges that need our total resolve and dedication”.
The union felt the constitution made these civil and political rights indivisible with the socio-economic rights, which significant sections of South Africa’s population are yet to enjoy.
The African National Congress said, “in doing so, we are reminded of the traumatic and costly violation by the erstwhile government that did not value human life, particularly the lives of non-Whites” spokesperson, Jackson Mthembu said.
“As we celebrate this day, we should do so with respect and appreciation of our fellow countrymen and woman who fell in the process of confronting the past injustices of White apartheid.
In this regard, we appreciate the role played by various generations of fighters who sacrificed their lives in the interest of a better South Africa.”
The African National Congress said it called upon all the citizens and the world to join the country as it celebrates the day in honour of the all heroes and heroines of the struggle.
By Crystal van Vyk