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Sharpeville Massacre: Survivors remember the fateful day in 1960

Abraham Mofokeng & Elizabeth Chabeli share memories of the day when 69 people lost their lives.

Anti-apartheid veteran Denis Goldberg and Ahmed Kathrada laid wreaths at the Sharpeville Memorial Centre paying tribute to those who fought during the liberation struggle. Picture: Ziyanda Ngcobo/EWN.
Human Rights Day,Sharpeville,Sharpeville massacre
Local Politics

JOHANNESBURG - As the country marks Human Rights Day, survivors of the Sharpeville massacre have shared their memories of the historic day.

Fifty-six-years ago, 69 people were killed and hundreds more injured when police opened fire on protesters who were burning their Pass Books at the Sharpeville Police Station.

They were demanding the abolition of Pass Books.

Abraham Mofokeng recalls what happened moments after police opened fire.

“I was already shot in my left foot and on my back side…and the bullet is still sitting in my spinal cord. They were moving around, the cops, picking them [demonstrators] up, shooting those who were badly injured…finishing them off.”

But he believes that those who lost their lives did not die in vain.

“The blood that was shed there was shed for a good cause and it has nourished the freedom tree. Now we are living in a free country. Those who lie in their graves…we are saying they should not lie there in shame.”

Mofokeng says he’s grateful to be alive to commemorate the day.

While government has spent hundreds of thousands in repatriation for those affected by the events in Sharpeville, some survivors believe many have been left without any compensation for injuries or losses.

Elizabeth Chabeli, who was 11-years-old at the time of the massacre, remembers the day she went looking for her grandparents after arriving at a locked home.

“I was surfing through the crowds looking for my grandparents, when I heard a huge bang, and as I looked back to see where this huge sound came from, I saw scores of people running.”

Chabeli lost a finger in the violence and dropped out of school because of the trauma – but she says she’s received no assistance from government.

“I’m 67-years-old now but I haven’t received anything. We keep crying daily as some people were given money and quickly after that Truth and Reconciliation Commission closed before all of us could be interviewed.

She says what happened on this day in 1960 must never be forgotten.

To view EWN’s special feature, Voices of Sharpeville, click here.

(Edited by Masechaba Sefularo)

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