HE political implosion that we have come to know today as the "Sharpeville Massacre" and commemorate as integral to Human Rights Day, was a tragedy of unparalleled proportions in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

Never before had so many innocent and defenceless people been senselessly killed since Africans were united under the banner of the ANC from 1912.

Of course, there were other rebellions, but Sharpeville was on a much larger scale.

This nonetheless began an era of increased repression, leading to the events of June 1976, when within a space of less than a year more than 1000 young people were killed.

These barbaric acts committed against defenceless, peaceful protesters were condemned.

As a result, the question of what led to the massacre became obscured in the face of the international condemnation of these murders that were committed with impunity.

In accordance with African customs, antagonistic debates are often suspended out of respect to the departed. And precisely because many people died on that fateful day, those who claim victory for its historical significance have been unchallenged.

For years, the PAC has claimed that they are being ignored by the majority party in Parliament, and that their historical role in dismantling apartheid should be recognised. They then claim to be behind the series of events that led to the tragic massacre.


We do not intend to be history's revisionists. Neither do we as the ANC intend to claim easy victories, for the death of 69 people on what became Sharpeville Day was no easy victory.

As some have said, it was a victory written in the blood of our people. But that victory saw results and, among others, India's prime minister Nehru acting against apartheid South Africa.

But what exactly did the PAC do in the days leading to that fateful event? About three years earlier in 1958, Robert Sobukwe led a breakaway movement from the ANC, forming the PAC in 1959. The PAC was a small splinter organisation of disgruntled people who broke away from the ANC.

The build-up of massive resistance was undoubtedly led by the ANC, and this has been attested to by its popular support since its political unbanning until now.

The ANC led in the Defiance Campaign against unjust laws in 1952 and mobilised various sectors of our population in the 1955 Congress of the People, hence our insistence that the real Congress of the People is the ANC.

I believe Cope will in future distort this historical fact, and I also believe that the name Cope intends to imply this deception.

There is no doubt that there have always been various ideological strands in South Africa, even among the various forces fighting for liberation from apartheid.

But these forces were incapable of unleashing massive resistance, hence they piggy-backed on activities organised by the ANC. The Sharpeville massacre is noexception.

The ANC was mobilising the masses for a rally on March 31 1960.

Then the PAC quickly organised a march scheduled for March 21, going door to door, distributing misleading pamphlets purporting that the march was organised by the "Congress".

As a result, many people were misled into thinking that the march was organised by the PAC.

Evidently proud

Why did the "Pan Africanist Congress of Azania," which is so evidently proud of its distinguishing name, choose to use the name "Congress" for what was to be arguably its biggest political event since their formation in 1959?

More so when it was the NC that often went under the name 'Congress or the Congress or in isiZulu 'uKhongolose'?

As it is, the Sharpeville massacre remains an isolated incident in the history of the PAC.

The PAC cannot claim responsibility for any other events that led to Sharpeville. Nor can it lay claim to any events that followed it, other than the fact that the PAC was banned along with the ANC in 1960.

The Sharpeville massacre finds proper focus in the events organised by the ANC before and after the massacre itself.

Other historical figures confirm the view that the ANC was responsible for the mobilisation of the people that led to the opportunistic door-to-door activities of the PAC in the morning of March 21 1960. Among these is Nelson Mandela in his Long Walk to Freedom.

If scholarly quotes and references add value to truth, we know that Mandela would not tell lies or claim easy victories.

Also, Alistair Boddy-Evans, in The Origins of the Human Rights Day makes the following assertion: "The PAC and ANC did not agree on policy, and it seemed unlikely in 1959 that they would co-operate in any manner.

"The ANC planned a campaign of demonstration against the pass laws to start at the beginning of April 1960.

"The PAC rushed ahead and announced a similar demonstration, to start ten days earlier, effectively hijacking the ANC campaign."

While Sobukwe emphasised that the demonstration was to be peaceful, Alistair Boddy-Evans asserted that the PAC leadership was hoping for a violent response.

The only reason for this was to elevate their supposed importance in the struggle for liberation.

The Sharpeville massacre must be properly located in the struggle as led by the ANC, of course admitting to the bloody opportunism that the PAC is.

Consequently, the ANC owes the PAC no political elevation. N o amount of grandstanding will bolster its dwindling support, because its ideology was as irrelevant in 1958 and 1959, as it is today.

The correct history of Sharpeville needs to be told to the South African youth. The writer is the ANCYL president.