Struggle stalwart at Sharpeville massacre

2016-03-23 06:00

ON 21 March, 1960 Pan-African Congress leader Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, one of our greatest political icons of our age, led a mass defiance of South African pass laws.

He urged blacks to go to the nearest police station and demand to be arrested.

Police opened fire on a peaceful crowd in the township of Sharpeville and killed 69 people, injuring 200. Many were shot in the back while fleeing from police gunfire.

This protest changed the course of the South African history. In court Sobukwe led his own defence and was jailed for three years for incitement. At the end of the sentence the government pushed the so-called “Sobukwe clause” through Parliament to keep him in prison without trial. For the next six years Sobukwe was kept in solitary confinement on Robben Island.

On his release, he completed his articles with attorney HZM Nzimande. Thereafter, he opened his law firm charging minimal fees and doing mostly pro-bono work.

Sobukwe died February 1978. A total of 5 000 people attended his funeral at Graaf-Reinet, the place of his birth.

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