Sharpeville Day: 63 years later and life is still cheap

On Tuesday, the country commemorates Human Rights Day, colloquially known as Sharpeville Day – the day on March 20 1960 when 69 anti-pass protesters were mowed down, killed by the fire power of the apartheid oppressive regime.

And more than 200 protesters suffered serious injuries and humiliation at the hands of apartheid police. Sharpeville, a black township outside Vereeniging, bled, as did other black townships such as Langa in the Western Cape and
Orlando East in Gauteng, among others, when the brutality of white oppression was unleashed.

Pass laws were reserved for black people, a clear discriminatory minority government policy that wrongly believed white people were superior. Many black people paid with their lives in defence of their human dignity, committing to fight the apartheid beast that deprived them of their humanity, imposing on them what the beastly regime knew was at variance with human decency.

Why did the white minority regime think black people did not deserve justice and all that went with it, and that they deserved extermination when protesting an unjust system and the extremely inferior and poisonous Bantu Education system imposed on them?

White communities enjoyed opulence, spared of the daily trauma visited on black people by the cruel unjust system. Black people lived in rat-infested hovels known as black townships.

This was a well-orchestrated plan, callous in its making, and intricate in its design and execution. The regime was hell bent on keeping the black man and black woman “in his place”, humiliate and belittle them in ways that defy logic.

On the day 63 years ago, a Wits University lecturer, inspired by his deep conviction for the love of black people, abandoned his cosy lecture room, led his people in the townships of Orlando East, Sharpeville and Langa, and other black areas, to demand the communities fight the unjust system. Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe. Young then, fiery, and only 36, yet in him his Africanist followers saw a messiah. He led from the front. He urged his followers to burn their dompas as he did himself, to challenge the might of the apartheid system.

On Tuesday, South Africans and the world remember the Sharpeville massacre as a symbol of protest and pain.

We pray such an evil system will never again rear its ugly face to torment the people of this beautiful country.

Yet, sadly, we cannot, and should not, close our eyes to the sad reality that evil continues to persist in our democracy.

The ideal of an egalitarian society continues to escape us.

Bad governance is still us.

Unemployment is rampant. Crime has reached unacceptable levels, yet President Cyril Ramaphosa has, for reasons that are unclear, chosen to keep in his cabinet an unperforming man as police minister. Does the president not see that Bheki Cele lacks the capacity to protect South Africans from marauding criminals? Is his thinking driven by political expediency?

What is the point of commemorating Human Rights Day when life in our country has become cheap?

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