Why did people disagree about what happened at Sharpeville, South Africa on 21 March 1960?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One major source of disagreement exists in the narrative of what actually happened.  Police reports indicated that the crowd became "hostile" and threatened police safety. Consider the words of Police Commander D H Pienaar: "It started when hordes of natives surrounding the police station...If they do these things, they must learn their lessons the hard way."  The narrative that the South African police force and authorities advanced was they they were acting in self- defense against a hostile crowd of "natives."

Eyewitnesses and protesters dispute this, suggesting that their assembly on March 21, 1960 was a peaceful one and that police opened fire in the most brutal of manners.  Their narrative features how they were protesting the use of pass laws and pass books as part of the governmental system of Apartheid.  PAC Leader, Robert Subukwe, suggested that Black South Africans present themselves at police stations without their papers to be arrested, in a civil disobedient display of defiance towards Apartheid laws.  

At some point, the peaceful display turned into a bloodbath.  The police called for reinforcements as well as low flying aircraft to disperse the protesters and to turn them away.  Some reports of protesters throwing stones surfaced, but the reality was that bullets and weapons were fatally employed against unarmed protesters.  Not a single police officer faced reprimand for what happened at Sharpeville in 1960.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team