Youth pay tribute to Sharpeville survivors as Anti-Racism Week gets underway
Johannesburg - The launch of the sixth Anti-Racism Week campaign took place at the Sharpeville Human Rights Precinct near Vereeniging on Saturday.
Anti-Racism Week is held annually during Human Rights Month, on March 14-21. It culminates on Human Rights Day, also the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
At the launch, young people paid tribute to all those who lost their lives in the Sharpeville Massacre.
The event featured dialogue and discussion sessions aimed at finding solutions to tackling racism.
“This also included a skit of police brutality at the time, played out by a group of survivors and families of the victims of the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960.
The commemoration was also attended by young people who are representatives of youth clubs across Gauteng.
Youth programmes manager at the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Ifan Mangera said they run a programme where organised youth in various communities get together and these structures are called the Kathrada Youth.
"Sharpeville is very important to us. Human Rights Day is soon upon us, so as we launch Anti-racism Week, this is an annual programme of the foundation where we highlight issues of racism across the country, particularly how young people engage with the past and find solutions and engage in activism," he said.
Neeshan Balton, of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, said the 21st of March is recognised internationally as the International Day for the Elimination of Racism.
"That day traces its roots back to the day the massacre took place here 61 years ago.
“The Sharpeville Massacre galvanised the world to take a stand against apartheid, and to take a stand against racism. Young people are also here with us to reconnect with that history, and to draw the link between what happened 61 years ago with where the country and world is, 61 years on as the issues of racism are still prevalent.
It is a global phenomenon. We need to continue our fight against racism wherever we can," he said.
One of the survivors of the massacre, Abraham Mofokeng, 82, spoke to the Sunday Independent and said survivors of the massacre were tired of telling their stories. “They are wondering when the change they thought they were fighting for 60 years ago will come to Sharpeville.
"Our lives started changing with Nelson Mandela's release, but people are still financially struggling and finance is still in white people's hands," said Mofokeng, who was 21 years old when officers opened fire on the protesters, shooting demonstrators including women and children as they scuttered. Mofokeng still bears the scar where a bullet entered his back.
In Sharpeville, the cemetery today has a line of neat concrete slabs with black headstones which mark the resting place of the massacre's victims.
The youth visited the grave sites of the victims where wreaths were laid. The memorial visit at the grave site was then followed by a dialogue and reflective session by several speakers on racism in post-apartheid South Africa and ways to eliminate the scourge.