Coronavirus in SA: Support for suspension of Sharpeville commemorations
Johannesburg - Political parties in the country - including the PAC, which led the anti-pass march on March 21, 1960 - have heeded President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to suspend the commemoration of Sharpeville massacre events, due to the coronavirus.
The massacre - commemorated as Human Rights Day since the advent of democracy - was due to be celebrated by various political parties at different venues in Sharpeville tomorrow.
The Gauteng provincial government had planned its provincial event at the Oval Cricket ground next to George Thabe Stadium, while the EFF and PAC had planned a separate commemoration at nearby Dlomo Dam.
Ramaphosa was due to address a national government event at Colesberg in the Northern Cape tomorrow.
But following his address to the nation on Sunday, all parties have agreed to suspend their services despite their attachment to the day.
Over the years, especially during apartheid, the PAC dubbed March 21 Sharpeville Day, on which they remembered the day their Vaal party leader, Nyakane Tsolo, led a group of men and women to the Sharpeville police station to hand themselves over for arrest in protest against the carrying of the dompas.
Unable to arrest the multitude of protesters, police opened fire, killing 69 people and injuring scores of others, some of whom are still alive 60 years later.
Tomorrow, however, due to the coronavirus which has so far affected 116 people in South Africa, Sharpeville residents will for the first time not publicly remember this event.
Eight years ago, many of these residents violently protested against then-president Jacob Zuma and former Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane for a decision to host the 2012 Human Rights Day celebrations in Soweto.
“Why Soweto?” read graffiti daubed on the wall at the entrance to the Sharpeville Human Rights Precinct memorial site in the township near Vereeniging.
More than 2000 Sharpeville residents took to the streets that day in 2012, in a protest that turned violent, following the government’s decision to celebrate Human Rights Day in Kliptown, and not where it had happened in Sharpeville - as they expected.
Meanwhile a village in the Eastern Cape, at Xolobeni, has decided to honour Human Rights Day by spreading the message to curb the coronavirus.
Xolobeni community spokesperson Nonhle Mbuthuma said the Amadiba Crisis Committee, which also accepted Ramaphosa’s request, would instead go from village to village, from Saturday, for several weeks to inform nearby villagers on how to protect themselves against the coronavirus.