SHARPEVILLE REMEMBERED WITH NEW SITES
Honour for those shot dead while peacefully protesting against apartheid pass laws
THREE sites with deep significance to the Sharpeville Massacre that happened 57 years ago in the Vaal township have been declared national heritage sites.
The erstwhile apartheid police shot and killed 69 black people who were peacefully protesting against the apartheid regime’s pass laws that aimed to restrict the movements of black South Africans by forcing them to always carry around with them a “dompass” in order to avoid arrest.
About 180 others were injured and the event came to be known as the Sharpeville Massacre.
According to a Government Gazette that was published on December 30, the three sites that have been declared as heritage sites are the 69 graves of the victims of the massacre at the Phelindaba Cemetery, the police station and the memorial gardens.
Explaining the significance of the declaration of these particular sites, the gazette reads: “As testimony to the brutal force used to enforce the racial policies of the apartheid administration, the Sharpeville police station, the memorial garden and the graves of the victims commemorate and honour those who bravely marched in protest against the forced relocation and restricted movements imposed by the pass laws and lost their lives on 21st March 1960.”
According to the PAC‘s secretary-general, Narius Moloto, the declaration of the sites was a step in the right direction towards the proper documenting of the country’s struggle history.
“We are happy that these sites have been finally declared because the recording of South Africa’s history shouldn’t be based on what liberation movement you belong to. What matters is that you were part of the liberation of this country,” Moloto said.
Moloto added it was also important the events of March 21 1960 be recorded properly, and that these sites become more than just reminders of history.
“In our submissions during the process to get these sites declared, we added it is important for these sites to create tourism and revenue for the community of Sharpeville. There needs to be signage that shows visitors where the heritage sites are located. These sites must not be white elephants to be visited once a year,” he said.
In a statement from the Sedibeng District Municipality executive mayor’s office it was also revealed that the process to have parts of Sharpeville declared as world heritage sites through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) was currently underway.
The final outcome of this process will be announced later this year.
A survivor of the massacre Abraham Mofokeng, who was 21 years old at the time of the massacre, said he was pleased to hear the sites had been declared national heritage sites.
“Even though it’s been tough living all these years without the acknowledgement of the sacrifices we made, it’s still important that this history is kept.
“It helps us know where we come from and where we need to go as a people,” he said.
Mofokeng said the lack of closure by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has also weighed heavily on him over the years, but living in South Africa today showed him that some progress had been made.
“We have a long way to go as a country, racism still exists and we’re heavily fractured along political lines, so knowing where we come from, will remind us of where we shouldn’t return to.
“Blood was spilt so that we could be here, and we should never forget that,” Mofokeng said.
We are happy these sites have been declared
HONOUR THE DEAD: Phelindaba Cemetery, where 69 people killed by apartheid police in Sharpeville in 1960 were buried, has been decleared a national heritage site.
The Sharpeville Memorial Gardens, above, and the old Sharpeville police station, right.