Sharpeville to be mourned – despite the clampdown

Monday is Sharpeville day, and all over the country commemoration services, rallies and other actions are being planned to mark one of South Africa's bloodiest anniversaries. Preparations are going ahead despite the strong likelihood that the state will take steps to prevent protest meetings from taking place.

The shootings in Sharpeville on March 21 1960, and those in Langa township on the same day in 1985, will be mourned by a variety of organisations ranging from "Charterist" to black consciousness groups. Details of some of the actions cannot be reported in terms of Emergency regulations that restrict reporting on boycotts. Fourteen organisations affiliated to the now-restricted United Democratic Front have directed an appeal to "all the people of South Africa to commemorate the Sharpeville and Uitenhage massacres and to protest against extreme repression".

The statement, from women's organisations, the Transvaal Indian Congress, civic associations and youth groups, forms part of a broader call for protest against planned executions. The Azanian Co-ordinating Committee (Azacco), a crisis committee formed after the effective banning of the Azanian People'sOrganisation and other groups, has announced a series of commemorative meetings to take place over the weekend and on Monday.

According to Azacco's coordinator Lusiba Ntloko, the meetings will go ahead despite the detention of three key Azacco figures this week, and probable restrictions. 'Meetings will be addressed by leaders of various political organisations, community groups and trade unions and are scheduled to take place at a minimum of 23 venues. Azacco's call was endorsed by 18 groups, including the National Council of Trade Unions and the National Forum.

The Azanian National Youth Unity (Azanyu), which was not affected by the recent spate of restrictions on activist organisations, has urged people to participate in a "period of resistance" from March 18 to 21. Azanyu has called for the wearing of black clothing, and has asked ministers of religion to ring church bells between 6 and 6.30am on Friday.

From Saturday to Monday, "peaceful resistance" will take place, including the cleaning of graves and laying of wreaths in Sharpeville. Residents of Uitenhage are also planning a major commemoration of the tragedy which befell their community three years ago.

The Uitenhage Residents Civic Organisation has announced that Monday will be a day of mourning, including a rally at KwaNobuhle's Jabavu Stadium. Business and shebeen owners have been called upon to close their premises from 10am to 5pm as a "token of solidarity with the bereaved community". In addition, people have been asked to refrain from playing sport and to fast from 6am to 6pm.  

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.


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