South Africa remembers 1960 massacre when police shot dead 69 protesters

On Monday, March 21, 1960, after a decision to embark on a peaceful protest to denounce pass laws designed to segregate South Africans, 300 armed policemen opened fire at over 5000 protesters at the Sharpeville police station killing 69 on the spot.

The protest was organised by the African National Congress (ANC) breakaway group, Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) who called on South Africans to leave their passes at home and march peacefully to police stations nationwide to be arrested.

The protest was peaceful at other police stations where no arrests were made; but the Sharpeville Massacre that resulted in 180 injuries changed the face of the apartheid era as subsequent protests erupted and more deaths recorded.

As we remember the Sharpeville and Langa Massacres, we must appreciate and respect the experiences and pain of black people. 

The United Nations in 1966 proclaimed the day as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and South Africa marks the day as Human Rights Day.

On Tuesday, March 21, 2017, a free South Africa led by President Jacob Zuma is commemorating the day by honouring anti-apartheid activist and Black Consciousness Movement leader Steve Biko who was murdered 40 years ago at the age of 30.

Wreaths were laid at the Phelindaba Cemetery in Sharpeville, Gauteng where the victims of the massacre were buried, and at the monument next to the police station where they were shot.

It is climaxed with a 2km anti-racism and anti-xenophobia walk from the monument to George Thabe Stadium.

The United Nations is also marking the day under the theme: Racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration.

This article was first published by Ismail Akwei on

Published by Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei is an international journalist, digital media and communications professional, editor, writer, arts, culture and tourism advocate, human rights activist, pan-Africanist, tech enthusiast and history buff. He has worked with multinational media companies across Africa and has over a decade’s experience in journalism.

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