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Vanderbijlpark, 1911

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50th Anniversary of Sharpeville


This year marks the 50th Anniversary of Sharpeville Day on 21 March 2010. The year also ushers in 2010 FIFA World Cup, a watershed event we have all waited for patiently. Emfuleni Local Municipality (ELM) has to use this opportunity to profile its products and services and the ELM brand in general. Our approach for the 50th anniversary must be different and should take advantage of the excitement generated by 2010 FIFA World Cup.

It is a fact that the entire world will be focusing on South Africa due to the spectacle of world football. ELM is a non-hosting municipality of the event but its close proximity to Johannesburg and other host cities makes it one of the best attractions for both international and domestic tourists.
Human Rights Day is celebrated on 21st March each year to honour our fallen heroes and heroines and celebrate the human rights and fundamental values for which they scarified.

On 21 March 1960, events were planned for many parts of the country, for people to protest against the Pass Laws. These laws required all Africans living or working in and around towns to carry a document (known as a pass) with them at all times. Failure to carry this document would lead to arrest by the police and people being sent away from the towns in which they lived.

On this day people decided to go to police stations without their passes and to demand that the police arrest them. The idea was that so many people would be arrested and the jails would become so full that the country would not be able to function properly. It was hoped that this would lead to the Pass Laws being scrapped.

At Sharpeville in Gauteng, thousands of people gathered at the police station demanding to be arrested. They were met by 300 police officers. After a scuffle broke out, the police opened fire on the crowd. Sixty-nine people were killed and 180 injured by the shooting.

Shortly after this the ANC and PAC were banned and the ANC decided to launch the armed struggle.  After a period of darkness during the 1960’s, the 1970’s saw increasing resistance and struggle culminating in the end of apartheid and birth of our democracy in 1994.

It should be noted that this event led to the United Nations declaring Apartheid as a crime against humanity and laid grounds for the isolation of the then regime by the international community.
The new democratic government declared March 21 Human Rights Day not only to commemorate the struggle of the people in Sharpeville, but all struggles all over South Africa for freedom and democracy.
We celebrate this day annually in partnership with Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture to:

  • Remind us of the great suffering and loss of life that accompanied the struggle for human rights;
  • Celebrate our new Constitution and Bill of Rights; and
  • Raise awareness on our human rights and our struggle for human rights, especially amongst young people.