South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party on Sunday called on the nation to embrace a non-racist vision and to continue the fight against police brutality as the country commemorates the 61st anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre.
The Human Rights Day, marked in South Africa on March 21, is linked to the events that unfolded on this day in 1960 at the Sharpeville and Langa townships, where apartheid security forces cracked down on peaceful marches against the pass laws act that required black South Africans to carry a passbook everywhere and at all times. One of such marches at the Sharpeville police station ended tragically with the killing of 69 protesters. Later the same day, police fired tear gas at the unarmed protesters in Langa and shot three people dead.
“As the ANC marks this important day on the anti-apartheid calender, we frown upon the emboldened racism monster, which continues to reverse the gains we have made since 1994 [year of transition from pro-apartheid National Party government to ANC]. We must confront and defeat racism wherever it rears its ugly head. We urge our members and supporters and all those who embrace the vision of a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa not to tire, but to redouble their efforts to ensure that the demon of racism is consigned to the dustbin of history,” the ANC said in a statement.
The ruling party added that it was the nation’s duty to ensure that any act of police brutality against peaceful and unarmed civilians was not tolerated in South Africa
President Cyril Ramaphosa, in turn, delivered an address to pay tribute to the victims of the Sharpeville tragedy.
“The heroes who protested at Sharpeville on the 21st of March 1960 took up the cause of liberty, freedom and human rights. They did so not for themselves alone but for all. That is why they are heroes and heroines. In reflecting on the events at Sharpeville, we appreciate how far we have come from being a society that cares not only for a few at the expense of the majority,” the president said.
He also recalled that the current celebrations came slightly over a year since the coronavirus pandemic was declared a national disaster. South Africa has endured great hardship, and people have also “had to give up basic human interactions that we have once took for granted like greeting each other with a handshake or a warm hug,” Ramaphosa continued.
The country has striven to meet its human rights obligations during this tough period, according to the president.
“Through the provision of care to the sick and social support to the vulnerable, we have worked together to give effect to the most important rights of our people-the right to work, to earn a living and to provide their families. It was a struggle for social and economic rights. It was at Sharpeville that President Nelson Mandela signed our democratic Constitution into law 25 years ago,” Ramaphosa added.
He further urged the nation to work together to “become a society that is free from poverty, hunger and deprivation,” a society that “recognizes the dignity of every individual and the role of every man, woman and child in building a better future.”