Members of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO) have observed Sharpeville and Langa Massacre Day in memory of those killed during the 1960 anti-pass law protests.
In Cape Town, members of the two parties walked to the graveyard in Langa, followed by a gathering at the township memorial.
It has been 63 years since the protests that saw the apartheid government tighten its vice grip.
The PAC’s call to action against the pass-laws saw tens of thousands respond with what should have been peaceful resistance.
Ultimately, 69 people in Sharpeville and 6 in Langa were killed on 21 March 1960.
In the aftermath, the PAC, led by Robert Sobukwe, and the ANC were forced underground.
The PAC says there can be no discussion of human rights in a country where the vast majority still live in poverty and without land.
PAC Deputy Secretary Victor Serakalala explains, “You can not discuss development when you do not have the ownership of the land. You can not discuss development when your mineral resources are still owned by foreigners. You can not have a proper education system that does not respond to your natural resources because education must be responding to what the society, the nation that is living there intends to achieve and the achievements of every society is dependent on their land.”
Azapo’s national spokesperson Gaontebale Nodoba says the day of 21 March itself must always be remembered as the Sharpville and Langa Heroes day.
It says naming it Human Rights day, is disrespectful to those that died for the cause of liberation.
“People were mowed down as if they were animals. So you can’t come and want to reshape history. For instance the holocaust, it’s not called anything else but the holocaust, so let us call March 21, 1960, what it is, it’s Sharpeville-Langa massacre that Azapo calls the heroes day so the PAC that we are with they call it, rightly so, the Sharpeville-Langa massacre day. Because people were massacred. They were massacred for standing up because human rights were an issue.”
95-year-old Kholisile Mdledle was among those protesters and was also imprisoned for 16 years on Robben Island.
“What was painful to us is the pass system, we called it the anti-pass campaign. We disagreed with the pass-laws as enemies against Africans so when I look at today, it becomes very painful to me because children of this country died and they are still dying because of apartheid.”