Thursday, August 20, 2009

Extracting the guilt from the Sharpeville incident

The current ANC regime is propped up by many myths and criticisms of apartheid to look back on and blame for current ills and engender guilt in whites. So much so that it is no longer a means to an end, it is an end in itself.

None more so than the incident at Sharpeville on March 21 1960.

The facts are well recorded. A group of between 5,000 and 7,000 people converged on the local police station in the township of Sharpeville, offering themselves up for arrest for not carrying their pass books. This was part of a broader campaign organized by the PAC. The story is told of how this “defenceless” crowd was allowed closer and closer to the police station, whereupon the racist Boer police opened fire, killing 67 in cold blood.

What is not, however, often told is that there is evidence that the PAC used intimidating means to draw the crowd to the protest, including the cutting of telephone lines into Sharpeville, the distribution of pamphlets telling people not to go to work on the day, and coercion of bus drivers.

In the preceding hours to the shooting incident, the field was left open for poorly trained community leaders and marshals in ‘task teams’ whose primary purpose was to stir up the mob, and who were then either unable or unwilling to steer the crowd away from what was clearly fast becoming a cataclysmic situation.

Remember too, that there were only 294 policemen – 156 white and 138 black – inside the fenced-in police compound at Sharpeville that Monday. Some in the crowd were also heavily armed with either pistols or rifles which they had every intention of using should the opportunity present itself.

This had been confirmed by police reinforcements making their way from the periphery of the crowd into the police station and who had heard (but not actually seen) shots fired and had also been stoned on their way in.

The white police also convinced themselves that they faced a far more sinister, internal threat: That their black colleagues inside the station could not be trusted. Who can blame them? Outnumbered by jeering, taunting crowds outside (some carrying weapons) and the simple fact of a racial link between the black police in the station and the crowd outside, it was sufficient to convince them that they faced a dual threat. And apart from anything else the crowd included a criminal element as well (does May 2008 ring any bells here?)

Add to this brewing pot the massacre that had occurred at Cato Manor in Durban some 8 weeks before (23 January 1960) in which an angry mob attacked 4 white and 5 black policemen at the Cato Manor Police station. They butchered the men and mutilated the bodies. The mutilated bodies, with genitals stuffed in their mouths, were then dragged through the streets by the mob. One Sharpeville protester is quoted as saying “We took great delight in shouting ‘Cato Manor’ - because we knew it would disturb the Boers,”

Of course, the fact of the Sharpeville shooting is not justified, but far from being the racial monsters that popular mythology has painted the policemen with, they were frightened out of their wits. Shitless. Popular mythologists also makes much of the fact that most of the protesters were shot in the back.

Instead of confirming their case, it negates it. It is clearly an indication that the police were shooting in a panic, taunted to breaking point by a crazed mob, in the full knowledge of the Cato Manor massacre just a few weeks before, and egged on by the PAC mob leaders.

To take it’s rightful place in history, Sharpeville should be de-mythologized and recognised for what it was: A tragic example of what can happen when neither protesters nor police have put in place the means with which to deal with crowd control.

I have researched the article drawing on information from Wikipedia and reviews of the book
"Sharpeville, an ordinary atrocity" by professor Philip Frankel

1 Opinion(s):

Anonymous said...

Excellent post ExZ.