Human Rights Day Observed March 21 2011

On this day in 1960 a group of black South Africans gathered in the township of Sharpeville (just 150 km away from Mamelodi) to protest the pass laws that limited the movement of all non-white South Africans. A key component of the Apartheid system, pass laws required black South Africans to carry a pass book with them at all times when they were outside of their compounds and designated areas. Failure to do so could result in arrest. On 21 March 1960 at least 180 black Africans were injured (there are claims of as many as 300) and 69 killed when South African police opened fire on approximately 300 demonstrators. The Sharpeville Massacre, as the event has become known, signaled the start of armed resistance in South Africa, and prompted worldwide condemnation of South Africa's Apartheid policies. In 1996, when African National Congress succeeded to power with Nelson Mandela as their leader, 21st March was instituted as the South Africa Human Rights Day and included in the list of National Holidays of South Africa.