Documents, and articles relating to the Sharpeville Massacre 1960

Documents:

Extracts taken from various sources:

Here are documents from the months and days before the start of the Pan Africanist Congress' Anti Pass campaign.

PAC Campaign will be test

Contact

19 March 1960

Under the slogan of "no bail, no defence, no fine", the Pan Africanist Congress will shortly launch a nationwide campign for the total aboilition of the pass laws. The exact date on which the campaign will start is still unkown. The decision lies with the P.A.C. president, Mr. R.M. Sobukwe. But members say that the campaign will begin "shortly - within a matter of weeks". ”¦.. It is impossible to estimate what hope of success the campaign has. The Africanists claim a membership of about 34, 000. If a substantial number of these are wiling to go to goal [jail] for defying the pass laws ( for possibly lengthy periods if they are prosecuted under the Criminal Laws amendment Act), the political situation in the Union could change dramatically. It is possible that with large numbers of P.A.C. members offering themselves for arrest, other Africans will follow suit. The Africanists could start the snowball rolling in setting off general African resentment against the passes. This could catapult the Pan Afgricanist Congress into National prominence almost overnight. It could lead to a massive build up of support fopr the Pan Africanist Congress - and perhaps to a consequent falling off of popular support for the well established African National Congress. If, on the other hand, the Africanists fail to rally a substantial number of people to their campaign call, the result could be their total eclipse as an effective political force. At the moment, there are no tidy answers to these questions. The answers will come when the campaign begins. Until then, no-one knows.

Source: Contact newspaper 19 March 1960. Patrick Duncan, a white liberal supporter of the Congress movement, founded Contact in 1957

Robert Sobukwe's testimony about the lauch of the campaign

"The campaign, Your Worship, in connection with which we are appearing here to-day was forst made known on the 18th of March , on a Friday, the 18th of March, 1960. It was made known through me at a Press Conference. Immediately the nature of this campaign and the details of this campaign became known, the Alexandra branch of the Pan Africanist Congress dissociated itself from that campaign, through its chairman, Mr Josias Madzunya, in no uncertain terms. As a result”¦ I expelled him from the Pan Africanist Congress. As I've said, then the campiagn was made known on the 18th of March. Circulars were printed and distributed to the members of the organisation and on the 21st of March, on Monday, in obedience to a resolution they had taken the members of te Pan Africanist Congress surrendered themselves at various police statuons around the Country. "

Source: ROBERT SOBUKWE'S TESTIMONY ABOUT THE LAUNCH OF THE CAMPAIGN This is an extract from evidence he gave at the Commission. All these documents are in the Historical Papers Archive of the University of the Witwatersrand. There are some excellent photographs of Sobukwe, as well as extracts from his speeches and quotations in this archive.

Extract from Robert Sobukwe's speech on the eve of the anti-pass campaign

"Sons and daughters of the Soil, Remember Africa! Very soon, now, we shall be launching.

The step we are taking is historical, pregnant with untold possibilities. We must, therefore, appreciate our role. We must appreciate our responsibility. The African people have entrusted their whole future to us. And we have sworn that we are leading them, not to death, but to life abundant.

My instructions, therefore, are that our people must be taught NOW and CONTINUOUSLY THAT IN THIS CAMPAIGN we are going to observe ABSOLUTE NON-VIOLENCE.

The impact of the Anti-pass campaign...

Verwoerd Gives Riot Details

"Facts not yet checked", he tells the House of Assembly

The Cape Times

22 March 1960

Dr Verwoerd, the Prime Minister, making a further statement about the riots, said the latest information was that 49 Bantus were killed and 156 wounded in the disturbances at Sharpeville Bantu Township near Vereeniging.

... At Sharpeville, Colonel Pienaar, in command of the police there, had to force his way through a crowd of about 20,000 Bantu who had surrounded the police station.

...Stones rained on the police and the mob advanced on them. Colonel Pienaar then gave orders for the police to load. At that moment three shots were fired at the police from within the Bantu crowd. The shouting crowd advanced and the police fired a volley with Sten guns and 303s without an order having been given to fire.

...He regretted that the effect of all the propaganda of the past years had brought the government's handling of Bantu affairs under suspicion and these people had now been instigated to try the impossible and challenge the authority of the state.

Links

  • Go to the Robben Island Museum Website for an account of Sobukwe's time on the Island after his arrest. Find this at www.robben-island.org.za
  • The PAC Website has a good timeline, www.pac.org.za.
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