The Sharpeville Massacre


The movements of black South Africans had been controlled for decades by the passes they carried which allowed the white authorities to monitor their whereabouts and prevent the blacks from entering certain areas of South Africa.


The African National Congress (ANC) and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) launched simultaneous but separate protest campaigns against these passes and on the 21st March 1960 a group of between 5,000 and 7,000 black protestors in the township of Sharpville converged on the local police station offering themselves up for arrest for not carrying their pass books.


Precisely how the violence began is unclear, and there is little evidence to suggest that the police were provoked, however the police opened fire on the protestors eventually killing 69 people and injuring over 180.


The uproar among blacks was immediate, and the following week saw demonstrations, protest marches, strikes, and riots around the country leading the government to declare a state of emergency and imprison more than 18,000 people. The ANC and PAC were both subsequently banned as political entities; a move which was crucial in encouraging these previously peaceful organizations to adopt increasingly violent and aggressive tactics.


Following the massacre the UN Security Council condemned the events in Sharpeville which signaled the beginning of the exclusion of South Africa from international affairs that lasted until the repealing of the Apartheid laws in the 1990s.