South Africa Sharpeville Massacre Prompted Armed Resistance

South Africa

The Sharpeville Massacre on March 21, 1960 in South Africa prompted armed resistance against the government. After this deadly demonstration, the Apartheid government banned two terrorist organizations and in return received worldwide condemnation. The African National Congress (ANC) Organization and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) were both termed as terrorist groups.

The ANC became the victorious party and entered into negotiations with the apartheid regime, and rose to be the first democratic government of South Africa in 1994. The lengthy negotiations were not without bloodshed and after the Sharpeville Massacre both the ANC and PAC Alliance infiltrated towns, targeting women, children and elderly. Bombs were placed in public areas reserved for whites in an attempt to draw authority and demonstrate the power of the masses. Thousands of people of all races were killed during these traumatic years.

The objection to the 1949 Program of Action and the 1955 Freedom Charter, and the inclusion of the Communist Party caused several members to split from the ANC and from the PAC. The PAC was launched in April 1959. Ironically, PAC won 5 seats in the first democratic election held in 1994 and popularity dwindled over the past 20 years giving the party only one seat in the 2014 election.

A few days before the massacre, the PAC party organized a campaign against the pass laws. Gathering people in the townships of Sharpeville, and Langa where the president Robert Sobukwe along with other top leaders was eventually arrested.

On that fateful day, more than 5000 people congregated in the center of Sharpeville. In other areas up 4000 gathered in Vanderbijlpark and were dispersed by police using tear gas and batons. The largest gathering was estimated at 20 000 people who gathered in Evaton and dispersed by low flying Sabre jets.

The crowd at Sharpeville did not move away and the impact of the low flying jets had no effect on the people who wanted to hear the statement by PAC leaders. Many conflicting stories have been told about the massacre and it was deemed truthful that the South African Police walked into the crowds to arrest the PAC leaders. The PAC leaders did not refuse arrest and officials asked the people to move away from the fences. Many heeded the PAC leaders words yet about 300 people remained. The small contingent of police at the gathering was soon boosted when armed police in armored vehicles arrived to help disperse crowds. There is no of factual evidence of why the police fired shots into the crowd. It was stated that the police retaliated after stone-throwing by the crowd. The group of people thought blanks were being fired and only when people dropped to the ground did the crowds disperse. Several witnesses claim that an order was given to shoot.It was a horrific day, for both the people who wanted liberty and the inexperienced police officers who tried to quell a riot.

The Sharpeville Massacre is a day in South African history that marked a change for the masses. The agonizing historical recollection is a memory that painfully bounces back when crowds of people die at the hands of police. Recently the Marikana Miners who were shot by police after being given an order to “shoot to kill” by ANC top officials brought back the distressing Sharpeville massacre into the minds of people in South Africa.

The Sharpeville Massacre did not end with the killing of innocents. There is the revenge factor taken by both the ANC and PAC terrorist groups. The hardline stance by PAC members who adopted African Revolutionary thoughts to revenge those who massacred people in the millions, slaughtered, raped and stole the land did not end in 1994.
Perhaps the PAC political party is the only unforgiving organization in South Africa and has stated that the 1994 elections were only a transfer of managerial task from white colonialist to black neo-colonialist represented by Nelson Mandela. The PAC have sworn to lead the African people, who have entrusted their whole future into the leaders of this party. To lead the people away from death to abundant life in a non-violent manner but have forewarned that they have the capacity to demonstrate how brutal they can be.

Opinion By Laura Oneale

SA History – Anit-pass campaign demonstrators flee as police shoot into the unarmed crowd
SA History – Human rights and history: SAHA reflects on the Sharpeville Massacre and how it changed South Africa
AfricanHistory – Sharpeville Massacre
Photo Courtesy of United Nations Photo Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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