Sharpeville Massacre, 21 March 1960

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Sharpeville Timeline

16 December 1959 - At the annual African National Congress (ANC) conference, Chief Albert Luthuli declared that 1960 would be the "Year of the Pass", with a nation-wide anti-pass campaign to start on 31 March - the anniversary of the 1919 Anti-Pass Campaign

16 March 1960 Robert Sobukwe informs the commissioner of police, Major General Rademeyer, that the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) will be protesting against the Pass Laws starting on 21 March

19 March 1960 – the PAC calls on Black South Africans to leave their pass books at home and give themselves up at the nearest police station. This was done in an attempt to clog the system up

21 March 1960March in Sharpeville lead by the Pan Africanist Congress is attacked by police leading to the death of 69 people. Another march in Langa, Cape Town leads to the death of two protesters by the police

22 March 1960 – Prime Minister Verwoerd addresses parliament and claims that the protests have nothing to do with pass laws or unhappiness with apartheid

23 March 1960 – Robert Sobukwe, Kitchener Leballo and 11 other high-ranking PAC members are charged with incitement to riot. Phillip Kgosana leads a protest march in Cape Town

24 March 1960 – The apartheid government bans all gatherings of more than twelve people until 30 June in an effort to disrupt the growing protests

25 March - Representatives of 29 African and Asian member-states request an urgent meeting of the United Nation Security Council to consider ,"the situation arising out of the large-scale killings of unarmed and peaceful demonstrators against racial discrimination and segregation in the Union of South Africa".

27 March - The Commissioner of Police announces that the pass laws are to be suspended until a normal situation has been restored, an occasion taken by Chief A. J. Luthuli to burn his pass. The Police Commissioner says, “that the pass laws are not being suspended to appease the unfounded protests of Bantu agitators, but because the jails can no longer accommodate the many Africans who present themselves for arrest by openly violating the pass laws.”

28 March - ANC calls a nation-wide stay-at-home in protest against the events in Sharpeville.

Pass books are burned across the country. O. R. Tambo leaves South Africa illegally on the instruction of the ANC to carry on work outside the country

Albert Luthuli publicly burns his pass.

30 March 1960 – State of emergency declared and over 11 000 people are detained. The United Nations Security Council begins discussions on South Africa

31 March 1960 – The government mobilises four more regiments of the Citizen’s Force

1 April 1960 – The United Nations Security Council adopts Resolution 134 that calls upon the South African government to abandon its apartheid policies and general discrimination. The resolution was passed with nine in favour and France and the United Kingdom abstaining.

Ten thousand Indians and two thousand Coloureds are ordered to leave Peitermaritzburg

5 April 1960 – The Torch and The New Age are banned as the government tries to gain control of the spread of information

6 April 1960 – The pass system is revived

7 April 1960 – The government passes the Unlawful Organisations Act that will ban the ANC, PAC, South African Communist Party (SACP). Furthermore the Extension of University Education Amendment Act, Act No 34, bans Black students from attending White universities

8 April 1960 – The ANC and PAC are banned. Justice Minister Erasmus states there can be no political organisation among urbanised Africans

11 April 1960 – In a further clampdown on the press Myrna Blumberg, a correspondent for the New York Post and London Daily, was detained and restricted

Last updated : 18-Mar-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 20-Mar-2015

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Sharpeville Massacre, 21 March 1960
Sharpeville Massacre, 21 March 1960
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At the annual conference of the African National Congress (ANC) held in Durban on 16 December 1959, the... more