The 21 March is more than just a public holiday in South Africa
On 21 March of every year, South Africa celebrates Human Rights Day to commemorate the Sharpeville Massacre that took place in 1960. The Sharpeville Massacre was an atrocious event that made headlines all across the globe, and has since been celebrated as an official public holiday throughout the country.
The events leading up to (and continuing after) Sharpeville Massacre on 21 March 1960 created a nation of tension, suppression and frustration. It was during the Apartheid era where segregation was backed by the South African constitution and heavy discrimination against people of colour was widespread.
Legally, no black person could leave a rural area, or a black area, into an urban area, or a white area, without carrying a permit from the local authorities. Two political parties, namely the PAC (Pan-Africanist Congress) and ANC (African National Congress) organised a demonstration against the pass laws on 21 March 1960.
About 5 000 - 10 000 people marched to the police station in Sharpeville, a township just outside of the city of Johannesberg. These protesters were offering themselves up for arrest for not carrying their pass books. While some sources say that the protesters were peaceful and non-violent, other sources claim that they were throwing rocks at officers and inciting violence.
In total, 69 people were killed, including women and children, and 180 injured. Many were shot in the back as they were fleeing the shoot-out. The Sharpeville Massacre created a storm of uprising and riots around the country, as well as international attention and protests.
Today, South Africans celebrate Human Rights Day on 21 March to commemorate the pivotal event in 1960. After a long and difficult struggle during the times of Apartheid, racial discrimination is outlawed. Take time on this day to appreciate one another, be kind to one another and celebrate differences! How boring would the world be if we all looked the same, thought the same way, spoke the same way and believed the same things?
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