South Africans celebrate Human Rights Day today following the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960, but the day was first declared a holiday in 1995.
21 March, 1960 was a defining day in South Africa’s turbulent history.
It was the day that the Pan Africanist Congress instigated a protest against the strict pass laws.
The PAC arranged for supporters to march to the Sharpeville police station, thereby tempting the police to arrest them.
The rationale was to flood the jails and put huge pressure on the economy.
Unfortunately, the plan backfired tragically as police officers opened fire on thousands of unarmed supporters.
The bloodbath resulted in 69 deaths and close to 200 injuries.
In memory of the day and to honour those lives lost, the South African government declared the day an official public holiday in 1995.
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The massacre was a turning point in South Africa’s history as it intensified the struggle for liberation.
It was also one of many controversial incidents which inspired our progressive Bill of Rights.
Briefly.co.za understands the South African government is now commemorating the day under the theme: 'The Year of Indigenous Languages: Promoting and Deepening a Human Rights Culture'.
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