It was a week before police killed 69 people who were protesting against dompases in Sharpeville in 1960.
Buti Mofokeng, now 76, was among a group of men who were assured by Pan Africanist Congress leader Robert Sobukwe that police would be overwhelmed by widespread protests throughout the country.
But when police from other areas descended on the township to stop the protest, residents were surprised as they expected only a small number of policemen from the local station.
"In a meeting at Orlando Stadium a week before, Sobukwe told us that every township would be taking this action and march to their respective police stations to burn their dompases," Mofokeng said.
"We did not expect a large number of police officers from other townships to come to Sharpeville. The understanding was that there would be defiance in all other areas. It became clear that the PAC was either not honest or it betrayed the people of Sharpeville.
"People of Sharpeville were misled to believe that they were not the only township that will take this action. The only other action that was taken was in Orlando (Soweto) by 10 people. They were arrested not killed."
Mofokeng said that after a secret meeting on the eve of March 21 1960, the committee that met to discuss the following day's events became aware that police had received information about their pending action.
"We could see from where we held our meeting that there were police officers who had us under surveillance.
"There were gunshots fired that forced us to disperse. As we were leaving, some people were arrested and those of us who managed to evade the police decided to move around the township, house to house, waking up men.
"We told people that the following day was a stayaway and we asked them to bring their dompases to a point of assembly near the police station."
Residents responded to the call to gather at Seeiso Street, but they were met with fierce shooting from the police.
"It was not worth it, it left scars on many people. The apartheid system became even harder after 1960 in Sharpeville. Life is still hard even today. The pain did not end on that day," Mofokeng said.
"Nothing about Sharpeville says we made a huge sacrifice. We are not crying for mansions but decent houses, employment for children of those who died."
In honour of people who died, the day became known as Human Rights Day. In his address at a local stadium on Saturday, Gauteng Premier Paul Mashatile said townships were becoming better places to live in, work and have entertainment.
Through providing people with title deeds, the government was increasing the number of people who own properties in which they live. "This was not the case before 1994, where our people were confined to conditions of squalor," he said.