Sharpeville Massacre – the beginning of the end

March 21, 2010 at 5:10 am Leave a comment

Fifty years ago, 69 people lost their lives in a small township 50 km south of Johannesburg, South Africa. The shooters: police officers. The victims: rioters protesting apartheid laws that required black men and women to carry identity documents (pass-books) wherever they went. After the shootings, the apartheid government banned black “terrorist” organizations, rounded up their leaders and sentenced them to prison, forcing the struggle underground. It was the beginning of the end of apartheid. But 50 years later and 16 years after the fall of apartheid, South Africa remains gripped by deeply unequal living conditions, despite a black government. Old wounds run deep.

This is the legacy I carry with me, as the descendant of apartheid supporters. I live a continent away, in a land of privilege, but Sharpeville stands as a reminder of my roots, its collective memory etched into my psyche. You don’t have to be South African to appreciate what Sharpeville represents: It is every marginalized community robbed of freedom, dignity and of dreams. It is a reminder of intolerance run rampant, of ideology turned cult. Let those deaths not be in vain. Let us commit ourselves to empowering others, regardless of skin colour, ethnicity, or any other categorization we humans can dream up to separate ourselves from each other. We are one village – fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, lovers, all. Let us not forget that.


Entry filed under: South Africa.

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