21 March marks a significant moment in the history of South Africa. On this day in 1960, the Pan Africanist Congress - freedom fighters who had adopted an Africanist position - stormed the Sharpeville police station to protest the law which required Africans to use pass books as a form of identification.
The PAC had encouraged its supporters to abandon their pass books and gather around police stations, calling on police to arrest them. Their intention was to fill the jails and bring the country’s economy to a standstill. Their campaign adopted the powerful line, "NO BAIL! NO DEFENCE! NO FINE!"
Hundreds of brave South Africans stood their ground outside Sharpeville; that is, until the police opened fire against around 5 000 unarmed protesters, killing 69 people. Around 200 people were injured. While they had planned for resistance, no one had anticipated the severity of the consequences, Briefly.co.za learned.
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The police had not issued a warning for firing shots. The massacre received worldwide attention and sympathy for the struggle of resistance movements in South Africa. The South African stock exchange was impacted and only US banks provided loans thereafter.
Prior to the Sharpeville Massacre, the African National Congress (ANC) had planned a series of demonstrations against pass laws as well. Their plan was to organise a mass action on 31 March as this was the anniversary of the anti-pass campaign initiated as far back as 1919.
The apartheid government suffered a major blow and the country was declared in a state of emergency soon after. This meant political organisations and meetings were banned and harsh punishment given to those who broke the law in the name of resistance.
This stance also led to the ANC and PAC adopting an armed struggle.
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