Women's struggle, 1900-1994
Women's resistance in the 1960s - Sharpeville and its aftermath
Table of contents:
Table of Contents:
- Women's resistance in the 1960s - Sharpeville and its aftermath
- The decline of the Federation of South African Women
- New resistance stirs: Student activism and Black Consciousness in the 1960s
- Indian women and resistance in the 1960s
As the 1950s gave way to the 1960s the African National Congress (ANC) and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) both announced plans to tackle the pass laws for blacks (both men and women) with massive protests, civil disobedience and pass burnings. There was a sense of rivalry between the two organisations to get their campaigns off the ground first.
Suddenly the country was rocked by the events of 21 March in Sharpeville where people had gathered to show the police that they did not have their passes – and thus to invite arrest. In the general confusion and escalating tension of the situation, police shot and killed 69 people. World headlines condemned this callous example of unwarranted police repression against unarmed Africans. Predictably, and almost immediately, there was a government crackdown of all black opposition. In a single stroke the national liberation movement was stopped (temporarily, at least) in its tracks and the Congress Alliance was plunged into disarray. The government declared a state of emergency, hundreds of arrests were made and in April 1960 the ANC and newly-formed PAC were banned as lawful political parties. Both organisations were driven underground. By mid-1961 Congress leaders had come to the realisation that non-violent methods of resistance had failed and would have to be abandoned; the ANC and PAC both established military wings - Umkhonto we Sizwe and Poqo respectively. The new strategy was to turn to violence, to try to harm the economy and to gain publicity for the fact that the ANC was still a viable organisation despite being banned.