South Africans commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre on Saturday, when 69 people were killed and 180 others wounded for protesting apartheid. The day is hallowed on the South African calendar as “Human Rights” day, but as politicians lead the nation in remembering Sharpeville, what is often forgotten about that bloody day is just as significant as what is recalled.
Those gunned down in Sharpeville, a township south of Johannesburg, were not the only ones who died on March 21, 1960 protesting “pass laws” – a domestic passport that black males were ordered to carry and produce upon request – part of the segregation system that severely restricted movement.
In Langa, a shanty town close to Cape Town, police also opened fire on protesters, killing three people. At least 26 others were wounded. In the chaos that ensued, a driver who transported two journalists to the township was also killed.
The Sharpeville massacre was the turning point in the history of political resistance to Apartheid in South Africa. Since 1994, March 21 is Human Rights Day in South Africa. March 21 is also the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in memory of the massacre.