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Human Rights Day: 60 years on, Sharpeville residents live in hope

While residents had anticipated that on Saturday Sharpeville would come to life as the country commemorates 60 years since the massacre, they tell stories of hope in a time of fear amid the coronavirus outbreak.

A few metres from the open field where 69 people were gunned down in Sharpeville, is a row of businesses run by youth who wish to grow the township's economy. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – Ravaged by apartheid violence 60 years ago, life and light appear to have returned to Sharpeville.

Sixty-nine people were killed during the shootings by apartheid police. However, the bloody stain that people are familiar with when thinking of Sharpeville appears to be washing away.

In the hustle and bustle of a Sunday morning in Sharpeville, one encounters a group of girls suited in their pink dresses, matching lipstick and balloons in their hands.

They are headed to a nearby amusement park where they will be celebrating their friend’s 8th birthday.

Sharpeville resident Tlhalefo Mthembu on her crown birthday on 8 March 2020. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

Sharpeville resident Tlhalefo Mthembu. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

This picture doesn’t immediately raise any eyebrows.

Except, only a few metres away lies the site of the mass killings where the names of those who succumbed to gunshots are engraved on a bronze plaque.

Further down the road is a row of restaurants, vegetable stalls, and supermarkets.

The hair salons are countless.

Kgoitsemang Nkwe says hair is big business in Sharpeville, the ladies here take care of their looks.

“It’s a big business in Sharpeville. People love doing their hair. It’s like everyone who starts a business starts a hair salon. But I don’t, it’s a mobile salon so I use my own car.”

Sharpeville is the only home Nkwe has ever known.

“We are a family. We know each other and that’s the good thing about Sharpeville.”

Along with others in the community – Nkwe anticipated that Saturday Sharpeville would come to life as the country commemorates 60 years since the massacre.

However due to the COVID-19 virus crisis, these plans were called off.

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