Sharpeville heroes deserve better

2010-03-20 15:18

ON March 7 1960 Robert Sobukwe addressed a letter to the

nation and his followers asking them to leave their passes at home and demand to

be arrested.

The response of the police in Sharpeville on March 21 was to fire a

volley of bullets that left 69 people dead and more than 200 injured.

Fifty years later numerous service delivery riots have wrecked

communities such as Sharpeville, Balfour, Standerton, Mamelodi, Orange Farm,

Sebokeng, Snake Park and Brits.

A few observations need to be made about the service ­delivery


Firstly, most of them occur in urban areas.

Secondly, they occur in

areas that are economically depressed, with ­increased populations and limited

economic opportunities.

Thirdly, they reflect an ­absence of credible local leadership.

Fourthly, they are fuelled by internecine rivalry within the ANC.

Fifthly, they can be attributed to accumulated development

deficiencies over the years by past and current ­municipalities.

And lastly, they expose an increasing political lacuna at ­local

level that may have far-reaching ramifications for the ANC in the forthcoming

local government elections.

Sharpeville is an economically depressed area. It is economically

dependent on Mittal, formerly Iscor, and a few secondary factories.

There has

been a dramatic population increase in Sharpeville with the establishment of

nearby Tshepiso.

Sharpeville is forgotten ­except when there is a yearly

­remembrance that ends up as a vibrant jamboree of sorts.

An assortment of

kwaito stars, VIPs and buses make their way through Seiso Street, with

passengers peeping through the windows like curious tourists.

When the fanfare winds down the community is left with the

lingering pain of the death of its beloved ones.

All the major business ­opportunities for that day are ­given to

people from Johannesburg. The people of Sharpeville grace the occasion as mere


The heroic heritage precinct of Sharpeville has not been promoted to

lure international tourists, who will in turn stimulate local businesses, as is

the case with the Hector Petersen Memorial, which has stimulated local business

such as Sakhumzi and Nambitha in ­Orlando.

The local Vaal River and the

Sharpeville Dam have not been strategically used to bring in revenue and

increase tourist patronage.

Sharpeville and other areas in the Vaal have suffered tragic and

painful neglect.

Three months before the end of the financial year the local

municipality has only used about 40% of its budget, to the chagrin of the


The Vaal is treated like a poor cousin of other municipalities in


The fact that the riots are led by local ANC leaders is indicative of

the transient nature of ANC politics at local level because while these leaders

are up in arms against the local council they are still diehard ANC


The decision by the local council to confer the Freedom of

Sharpeville on Ma-Khumalo Zuma has met with resistance, mainly on the grounds of

lack of consultation. Some advocate for a joint honour for both Zuma and

Veronica Sobukwe, who is still alive and virtually forgotten.

The suspension of Sharpeville ANC branch leaders by the region has

also exacerbated matters. It behooves us to find a solution so that we remember

our fallen heroes with pride and dignity on March 21.


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