BACKGROUND ON THE
National Heritage Site declaration: 30 December 2016
The 21st March 1960 marked a critical turning point in the history of South Africa when police opened fire on a peaceful march led by the Pan Africanist Congress in protest against the pass laws. Marches were organised in both Sharpeville (Gauteng) and Langa (Cape Town). This display of police brutality in which 69 people died, was to become known as the Sharpeville Massacre. Demonstrations and riots broke out across the country in reaction to the police response to both protests in Sharpeville and Langa. This led to the first declaration of a State of Emergency under Apartheid, and saw the banning of the ANC and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). This brutal response from the State was the catalyst for the move away from passive resistance to armed struggle. The massacre inspired the painting of the “Black Priest” by Ronald Harrison (itself an important Struggle artwork that raised funds for Defence and Aid Movement). As testimony to the brutal force used to enforce the racial policies of the Apartheid administration, the Sharpeville Police Station, the Memorial Garden and the graves of the victims commemorate and honour those who bravely marched in protest against the forced relocation and restricted movements imposed by the Pass Laws and lost their lives on 21st March 1960.