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Sharpeville residents reflect on disagreements on who organised 1960 march

Although the protests were organised by the PAC, the ANC and some of its leaders have laid claim to the credentials of the march.

Sharpeville resident Reggie Poletsi. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG – As the debate rages on in the public discourse about the facts behind the organising of the protest that ended in the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, the township's residents say these deep-seated disagreements have found a home in their community.

Although the protests were organised by the Pan African Congress - originally a splinter of the ANC - the governing party and some of its leaders have laid claim to the credentials of the march, with residents saying this is to their detriment.

The Sharpeville of today resembles any other township in South Africa.

It is haunted by municipal service backlogs, high levels of crime and a lack of camaraderie among its people.

Yet, in the years before the massacre, a sense of familiarity among its people prevailed, helping them to maintain a peaceful and safe neighbourhood, as Reggie Poletsi explains:

“In Sharpeville as I grew as a young boy, we used to carry around records and go play at someone's place with those who we attended school with, played soccer with, we used to turn the township hall into a social.”

Then the massacre happened.

People picked sides, with those associated to the PAC hunted down by the apartheid police, and the cracks seeped in.

Overnight neighbours feared each other as the line between comrades and foes became blurry due to the ideological differences between the ANC and the PAC.

While it is acknowledged that dozens lost their lives on 21 March 1960, for those who have been alive long enough, the Sharpeville community also lost its sense of self on that fateful day.

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