This Day in History

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Tuesday, March 21, 1995
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Human Rights Day is a public holiday celebrated in South Africa. It shares the day with anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre. This massacre started as a march by ordinary South Africans protesting the Pass Laws. In essence they were saying that they were human beings and deserved to be treated with the rights and dignities that all humans have.

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

This Day in History Extra Dates
  • Thursday, March 21, 1996
    Parliament establishes the Human Rights Commission to promote and protect human rights. It is empowered to investigate violations and advise government on implementation of human rights. Dr. Barney Pityana is Chairman; members include Dr. Max Coleman, Helen Suzman, and Brigalia Bam.
    References:
    • Burger, D. (ed)(2002). South Africa Yearbook 2001/02, Pretoria: GCIS, p. 382
    •  http://www.sahistory.org.za/

  • Saturday, March 21, 1998
    Another party claiming to be the legitimate custodian of Black Consciousness, the Socialist Party of Azania (SoPA) is formed. SoPA is formed by a breakaway group of the Azanian People's Organisation (AZAPO).
    References:

  • Sunday, March 21, 1999
    Emile Serfontein, SA actor, is killed in a road accident near Oudtshoorn.
    References:
    • Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau

  • Sunday, March 21, 2004
    Human Rights Day. (GIED: Celebrating 10 years of Freedom, 2004).

  • Thursday, March 21, 1996
    Eleven people are killed at Donnybrook, Kwazulu-Natal only hours after President Mandela visits the province. All those killed are ANC supporters.
    References:
    • Coleman, M. (ed)(1998). A Crime Against Humanity: analysing the repression of the apartheid state, Johannesburg: Human Rights Committee, p. 268
    •  Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds)(1999). Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997, Westport: Greenwood.
    •  http://www.anc.org.za/

  • Saturday, March 21, 1992
    Sifiso Mabaso, ANC member, is shot dead in Umlazi, Natal.
    References:
    • Coleman, M. (ed)(1998). A Crime Against Humanity: analysing the repression of the apartheid state, Johannesburg: Human Rights Committee, p. 254.

  • Monday, March 21, 1994
    The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to which SA is a party, is signed.
    References:
    • Burger, D. (ed)(2002). South Africa Yearbook 2001/02, Pretoria: GCIS, p. 222

  • Thursday, March 21, 1991
    Foreign Minister Roelof Botha announces that South Africa has agreed that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would assist with the process of the return to South Africa of political exiles.
    References:

  • Wednesday, March 21, 1990
    Namibia gains independence with Sam Nujoma as first president.
    References:
    • Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau
    •  South African Institute of Race Relations. (1990). Race Relations Survey 1989/90, Johannesburg: South African Institute of Race Relations, p. xxxvii
    •  http://www.nnsw.com.au/

  • Monday, March 21, 1988
    A large-scale work and school stay-away takes place to commemorate the Sharpeville shootings in 1960.
    References:
    • South African Institute of Race Relations. (1989). Race Relations Survey 1988/89, Johannesburg: South African Institute of Race Relations, p. 595

  • Tuesday, March 21, 1989
    The political power struggle continues between President P.W. Botha and F.W. de Klerk and a compromise is reached between the two, according to which P.W. Botha is to announce a date for an October election. He is not expected to stand for re-election for another five-year term.
    References:
    • Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds)(1999). Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997, Westport: Greenwood.

  • Thursday, March 21, 1985
    25 years to the day after the infamous Sharpeville Massacre, in which 69 people were killed, the South African Police opened fire on a crowd of people in Langa, Uitenhage, in the Eastern Cape. At least 20 people are reported to have been killed in what has become known as the Langa or Uitenhage Massacre. Some reports register the death tally at 28. They were on their way to attend a funeral when the police gunned them down. Although the massacre is not as widely remembered today as other apartheid atrocities, such as those at Sharpeville and Soweto, it produced a tangible shift in the political situation at the time. It provoked renewed school boycotts and resulted in further clashes between communities and the police throughout the country. By July the tensions had grown leading the apartheid government to declare a state of emergency in 36 magisterial districts around the country - including the Uitenhage/Port Elizabeth area in the Eastern Cape. The following year saw the state of emergency extended to include the entire country.
    References:
    • Robert J. Thornton. “The shooting at Uitenhage, South Africa, 1985: the context and interpretation of violence”, American Ethnologist 17(2), (1990).
    • Nigel Worden. The making of modern South Africa: conquest, segregation and apartheid. Juta & Co. Ltd. South Africa (1994)

  • Thursday, March 21, 1985
    At least seventeen people are killed in Langa, a Black township near Port Elizabeth, during a commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre. Government appoints a Commission of Inquiry into this massacre, chaired by Justice D. Kannemeyer.  Another report states the number killed as twenty-six.
    References:
    • Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds)(1999). Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997, Westport: Greenwood.

  • Sunday, March 21, 1982
    Declaration by about 1,500 Mayors calling for the release of Nelson Mandela and all other South African political prisoners published by the Special Committee against Apartheid. (The Declaration was initiated by the Lord Provost of Glasgow, the Right Honourable Mr. David Kelly, with the support of the Special Committee against Apartheid).
    References:

  • Monday, March 21, 1983
    Publication of declaration for the release of Nelson Mandela and all other South African Political Prisoners signed by over 4,000 public leaders. The declaration was initiated by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston in co-operation with the Special Committee against Apartheid.
    References:

  • Friday, March 21, 1980
    The Prime Minister dismisses allegations that the Cabinet is divided, and denies that there are differences in principle between Dr. Treurnicht and himself.
    References:
    • Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds)(1999). Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997, Westport: Greenwood.

  • Friday, March 21, 1980
    Start of a weekend of events commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the Sharpeville shootings on 21 March 1960. Speakers attack the policy of apartheid.
    References:
    • Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds)(1999). Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997, Westport: Greenwood.

  • Friday, March 21, 1980
    Gideon Fagan, SA composer and conductor, dies.
    References:
    • Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau

  • Tuesday, March 21, 1978
    The first three Black ministers are inaugurated in the cabinet of Premier Ian Smith, Rhodesia.
    References:
    • Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau

  • Tuesday, March 21, 1978
    It is reported that about 15,000 students have returned to secondary schools in Soweto and that thirty-two of the forty state-run schools in the townships will re-open by the beginning of April. 
    References:
    • Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds)(1999). Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997, Westport: Greenwood.

  • Tuesday, March 21, 1978
    International Anti-Apartheid Year (21 March 1978 – 20 March 1979), proclaimed by the General Assembly in resolution 32/105B of 14 December 1977, starts.
    References:

  • Tuesday, March 21, 1978
    South Africa is informed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that it may not re-apply to join the world sporting body. Consequently South Africa will not be able to send any teams to the Olympic Games in Moscow.
    References:
    • Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds)(1999). Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997, Westport: Greenwood.

  • Monday, March 21, 1977
    Steven Biko, former SASO leader, released on 30 November 1976 after temporary detention under security laws, is re-arrested.
    References:
    • Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds)(1999). Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997, Westport: Greenwood.

  • Wednesday, March 21, 1973
    Black Laws Amendment Act No 7, designed to speed up the planning for partial consolidation of homelands, commences.
    References:

  • Friday, March 21, 1975
    The Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement is founded at KwaNzimela, in northern KwaZulu. Inkatha emerged, along with the Black Consciousness Movement, to fill the vacuum in Black politics caused by the banning of the ANC and PAC. 
    References:

  • Wednesday, March 21, 1973
    The banning orders on NUSAS leaders are discussed by the Principals of four English language universities with the Prime Minister, who is unsympathetic. Extra-Parliamentary action to bring about change in the form of government in South Africa will not be tolerated.
    References:
    • Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds)(1999). Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997, Westport: Greenwood.

  • Thursday, March 21, 1968
    SA signs a treaty with Malawi on air transport.
    References:
    • Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds)(1999). Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997, Westport: Greenwood.

  • Thursday, March 21, 1963
    A special interim report by Mr Justice J.H. Snyman, commissioner at the Paarl riot inquiry, urges swift government action to break Poqo.   Immediate acceptance of the drastic steps is announced by Mr B.J. Vorster, the Minister of Justice, just four hours after publication of the report. Joyce: The rise and Fall of Apartheid
    References:
    • Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds)(1999). Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997, Westport: Greenwood) Potgieter, D.J. et al. (eds)(1970). Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, Cape Town: NASOU, v. 10, p. 459

  • Saturday, March 21, 1964
    The 1964-65 Budget provides for R210m on defence, an increase of R52m over the previous year. The Minister of Defence, Dr. Donges, admits it is a large increase but is confident the House will furnish 'the wherewithal to discourage foreign aggression'.
    References:
    • Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds)(1999). Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997, Westport: Greenwood.

  • Sunday, March 21, 1965
    An anti-apartheid demonstration is held on Trafalgar Square, London, to commemorate the Sharpeville massacre.
    References:
    • Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau

  • Monday, March 21, 1966
    Sam Nujoma, Swapo leader, is deported from South West Africa to Zambia.
    References:
    • Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau

  • Monday, March 21, 1960
    In Sharpeville sixty-nine Blacks are shot and 152 wounded by police during a demonstration.  (The official report of the Commission appointed by the government to investigate the happenings states that sixty-nine people were killed and about 180 wounded).  On the same day two or three protestors are killed and twenty-seven injured in Langa, Western Cape. 
    References:
    • Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau
    •  Joyce, P. (1990). The Rise and Fall of Apartheid, Cape Town: Struik; Suid-Afrika, Unie Van. Kommissie om ondersoek in te stel en verslag uit te bring oor die gebeure in die distrikte Vereeniging (te wete te Sharpeville-lokasie en Evaton) en Vanderbijlpark. [S a].  Verslag. [Unpublished].
    •  http://www.sahistory.org.za/

  • Saturday, March 21, 1903
    John Beaver Marks, teacher, trade unionist and political activist, who identified himself as an African though he was of Coloured descent, and who was a staunch member of the SACP and ANC, is born in Ventersdorp, Transvaal.
    References:
    • Verwey: New Dictionary of South African Biography

  • Friday, March 21, 1924
    African Explosives and Chemical Industries (AECI) is founded.
    References:
    • Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau

  • Thursday, March 21, 1901
    A British missionary, Canon Farmer, accuses Gen. Smuts of having committed an atrocity against members of his flock at Modderfontein at the end of January 1901.
    References:
    • Cloete: The Anglo-Boer War: a chronology

  • Friday, March 21, 1890
    The Vrouesendingbond (Women Mission Society) of the Dutch Reformed Church is founded in Wellington.
    References:
    • Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau

  • Wednesday, March 21, 1900
    Anglo-Boer War 2 Poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling, summoned from Cape Town by Lord Roberts, arrives in Bloemfontein to join the editorial staff of The Friend.
    References:
    • Cloete, P.G. (2000). The Anglo-Boer War: a chronology, Pretoria: Lapa.