Yesterday marked the 56th year of remembering Sharpeville; a day we know as Human Rights Day. I found many people quietly asking “What is Human Rights Day again?” or “Is it only a South African holiday?”

This irritated me, but I could only blame our system and educational syllabus for not teaching OUR history to us. We do not know our country’s history, our people’s history and positive black history. I find that many, myself included have only started to know our slave history and the true land history of our country way after school. But should this not be in our primary and high school syllabus? Should our history not be taught to us as a priority as this is our homeland? I knew European, American and French history better than that of my own African history. Who do I approach to have black stories told, black history learnt and get our education to highlight why our people still suffer the consequences of our history. The new generations cannot create change if they do not know what started the struggle, who fought for change and who our true heroes are. A history lesson is needed for ALL. We cannot ignore our present and past struggles. Many still have to live in the far away segregated communities, flats and rural areas that were forced during Apartheid, yet many do not even know the truth of our history and who to celebrate. Let’s write, share and teach our history.

The Sharpeville Massacre was an event which occurred on 21 March 1960, at the police station in the South African township of Sharpeville. This date is also the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It is the day when, 69 ordinary South Africans were gunned down by the South African Police for protesting against the apartheid pass laws; offering themselves up for arrest for not carrying their passbooks.

The day, also referred to as Sharpeville Day and Heroes’ Day, finally made the world aware of the inhumanity of the apartheid regime.

Since 1994, 21 March has been commemorated as Human Rights Day in South Africa.

In 1998, the TRC found that the police actions constituted “gross human rights violations in that excessive force was unnecessarily used to stop a gathering of unarmed people.”

The Marikana Killings was compared to that of the Sharpeville Massacre; on the 16th August 2012, members of the South African Police opened fire with R5 rifle guns on a group of strikers. Within minutes 34 miners were killed, and at least 78 were wounded. The incident was the single most lethal use of force by South African security forces against civilians since the Sharpeville Massacre.

Our history is important; we need to be able to recognise it when it repeats itself and when no change has been made we need to know what we stand and fight for; what heroes we want to become.


photo taken from the George Herald