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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 535
Paragraph Numbers 32 to 42
32 The police refused to arrest PAC members who presented themselves for arrest. According to the police, PAC officials refused the order to disperse. However, it appears from the testimony of victims that the PAC leadership did ask the crowd to disperse but approximately 300 people remained behind.
33 Throughout the morning police reinforcements arrived, including Saracen armoured cars. According to witnesses, they positioned themselves facing the crowd.
34 At 13h15, with nearly 300 police members facing a crowd of 5 000 people, a scuffle broke out. According to police witnesses, stones were thrown at them and, in response, inexperienced constables began firing their guns spontaneously. However, the evidence of Commission deponents reveals a degree of deliberation in the decision to open fire at Sharpville and indicates that the shooting was more than the result of inexperienced and frightened police officers losing their nerve. Mr David Ramokhoase spoke of a white man who “gave a sign” before shots were fired, while Mr Lebitsa Ramokhoase [JB00901/03VT] remembered a white man climbing into a Saracen and pulling the door shut above him just before gunshots rang out.
35 The crowd was unarmed. David Ramokhoase told the Commission:
We were still at the singing … not even one person was armed. I saw men and women and young men just holding their umbrellas because it was a hot day. Those who might have had guns, maybe they were hidden somewhere but I didn’t see anyone carrying any weapon, not even a stick and knobkierrie [club], not even a knobkierrie. I only saw umbrellas ... They were not going there to fight. They were peaceful. They didn’t have anything in their hands …
36 The majority of those killed or wounded were shot in the back. Lebitsa Ramokhoase was shot in his hip.
I don’t know what happened but I was on the ground and I decided that I would run until my legs go off me but I didn't know what happened. People were just trampling on me. I tried to push them but I couldn’t and now this leg was now troubling me and I decided to sit down. I said no ways, I cannot carry on.
37 Ms Korisatsana Elizabeth Mabona was walking home when she heard the gunshots:
I ran. I opened the door at my house and I opened all the doors until the kitchen door. I came back again. I was confused. I didn’t know what was happening. I felt something that was right on my chest and I said to myself where is my husband at this moment. As I was wondering another gentleman came and he said the whites are killing people in a very brutal way. I said to him, “are you talking about guns?” He said, “yes, they are using guns”. You know I was so hysterical and I started crying. I didn’t know where to go.
38 After the shootings, the police inspected the bodies lying on the ground. Those still standing were questioned about their injuries. The mood was triumphant. David Ramokhoase told the Commission that a police officer came over to him after he had been wounded.
They asked me where have we shot you. And I showed them my knee … He said Africa is no longer a thumb facing upwards, it is a thumb facing downwards now.
39 Korisatsana Elizabeth Mabona’s husband had been shot dead. Lebitsa Ramokhoase spent five months in hospital but as he lay in his bed, he began to hear that many of his fellow participants in the march were being arrested.
40 Seventy-seven people were arrested in the wake of the Sharpville massacre, among them a number of participants in the march. Several of these people had been injured when police opened fire on marchers. They were held under police guard in hospital until they could be placed in custody. Eventually the cases against fifty-three people were withdrawn.
41 Of the forty-six statements which the Commission received concerning the shooting at Sharpville, several are statements from people who were detained during the march or immediately afterwards. Some of these were held for long periods under detention laws and some were sentenced to terms of imprisonment, followed by banning orders. Others fled into exile.
42 Among those detained were Mr Zephania Lekoane Mothopeng [JB04279/01GTSOW], a PAC activist and Poqo member (later president of the PAC). Mr Modise Mathews Mashea [JB04822/03VT] was taken to Leeuwkop prison after he had spent three weeks at Baragwanath hospital recovering from gunshot wounds; at Leeuwkop he was held for two months awaiting trial in a case which was subsequently dismissed by the Vereeniging magistrate’s court. PAC member Mr Sidwell Kasa [JB01152/03VT] was also arrested while participating in the March. He was imprisoned for three years and, on his release, banished from the Vaal Triangle area.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE POLICE DELIBERATELY OPENED FIRE ON AN UNARMED CROWD THAT HAD GATHERED PEACEFULLY AT SHARPVILLE ON 21 MARCH 1960 TO PROTEST AGAINST THE PASS LAWS. THE COMMISSION FINDS FURTHER THAT THE SAP FAILED TO GIVE THE CROWD AN ORDER TO DISPERSE BEFORE THEY BEGAN FIRING AND THAT THEY CONTINUED TO FIRE UPON THE FLEEING CROWD, RESULTING IN HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE BEING SHOT IN THE BACK. AS A RESULT OF THE EXCESSIVE FORCE USED, SIXTY-NINE PEOPLE WERE KILLED AND MORE THAN 300 INJURED. THE COMMISSION FINDS FURTHER THAT THE POLICE FAILED TO FACILITATE ACCESS TO MEDICAL AND/OR OTHER ASSISTANCE TO THOSE WHO WERE WOUNDED IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE MARCH.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT MANY OF THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE MARCH WERE APOLITICAL, WOMEN AND UNARMED, AND HAD ATTENDED THE MARCH BECAUSE THEY WERE OPPOSED TO THE PASS LAWS. THE COMMISSION FINDS, THEREFORE, THAT MANY OF THE PEOPLE FIRED UPON AND INJURED IN THE MARCH WERE NOT POLITICISED MEMBERS OF ANY POLITICAL PARTY, BUT MERELY PERSONS OPPOSED TO CARRYING A PASS.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT MANY OF THOSE INJURED IN THE MARCH WERE PLACED UNDER POLICE GUARD IN HOSPITAL AS IF THEY WERE CONVICTED CRIMINALS AND, UPON RELEASE FROM HOSPITAL, WERE DETAINED FOR LONG PERIODS IN PRISON BEFORE BEING FORMALLY CHARGED. IN THE MAJORITY OF INSTANCES WHEN PERSONS SO DETAINED APPEARED IN COURT, THE CHARGES WERE WITHDRAWN.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THE FORMER STATE AND THE MINISTER OF POLICE DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE COMMISSION OF GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN THAT EXCESSIVE FORCE WAS UNNECESSARILY USED TO STOP A GATHERING OF UNARMED PEOPLE. POLICE FAILED TO GIVE AN ORDER TO DISPERSE AND/OR ADEQUATE TIME TO DISPERSE, RELIED ON LIVE AMMUNITION RATHER THAN ALTERNATIVE METHODS OF CROWD DISPERSAL AND FIRED IN A SUSTAINED MANNER INTO THE BACK OF THE CROWD, RESULTING IN THE DEATH OF SIXTYNINE PEOPLE AND THE INJURY OF MORE THAN 300.