Sharpeville massacre: Tears as survivors recall that day , 60 years later

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Wounded people lie in the street, 21 March 1960 in Sharpeville, near Vereeniging, where at least 180 black Africans, most of them women and children, were injured and 69 killed. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG – The story of Sharpeville has been etched in the minds of South Africans for the past 60 years and has become a contested narrative among politicians.

But, for the people who barely survived the massacre of 1960 by the apartheid police, the events of the day are as distinct on the eve of the 60 year anniversary as they were then.According to the regime’s records, 69 people were killed.

Eighty-four-year-old Ellen Motshidisi-Mohane’s wrinkled hand wipes her eyes time and time again as she recalls the day her life and that of many others changed forever.

Before the interview began, that gesture was accompanied by a deep sigh when she heard what brought Eyewitness Newsto her door.

Her friend and neighbour, 74-year-old Perpetua Mpila missed the throngs of people who marched to the old police station against the pass laws as she sat at a nearby corner waiting for a friend.

“I was not even properly seated when they started shooting – ko ko ko ko – I stood up and ran down.”What followed in the days after was weeks of mourning.

The women say even dogs appeared to have lost the appetite for life and that’s when it struck them that life would never be the same for the orderly township.

There was increased surveillance, mass arrests and most recently an attempt to erase the actual events of the day, but through all of this, the survivors maintain they would do it all over again, for it was better to fight than fall back in the face of repression.