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Sunday, March 21, 2010

South Africa to mark Sharpeville Massacre of 1960

Sharpeville Massacre aftermath, 21 March 1960
The 1960 Sharpeville Massacre drew worldwide condemnation

South Africans are preparing to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre, an iconic moment in the nation's liberation struggle.

Sixty-nine people died on 21 March 1960 when police gunned down unarmed people protesting against apartheid laws.

The dead will be honoured as part of Human Rights Day, with church services, the laying of wreaths, and a speech by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

Critics say people in the township still face poor living conditions.

Defining moment

The Sharpeville Massacre is remembered as one of the bloodiest moments of the liberation struggle, the BBC's Karen Allen reports from Johannesburg.

Fifty years ago, South African police gunned down unarmed protesters in Sharpeville township, 50km (30 miles) south of Johannesburg.

Sixty-nine people died and at least 180 were injured - many shot in the back as they were trying to flee the scene.

They had gathered outside the police station to protest against pass laws, which required all blacks to carry identity documents - known as pass books - at all times.

The Sharpeville massacre led to the banning of the African National Congress (ANC) and its challenger, the Pan African Congress (PAC), and signalled the start of the underground armed resistance movement in South Africa.

Today, many in the township are disappointed that the movement they fought for - now the ruling ANC - has failed to improve their lives, our correspondent says.

Many of the shops in Sharpeville have closed down, unemployment persists and there is a sense among some residents that basic public services are inadequate.

In recent weeks the ANC has faced protests from other communities in South Africa, who fear that cronyism and corruption have overshadowed the party's agenda.


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