22 March 2017
The Human Rights Commission's Gail Smith says the country has come a long way and people are now more aware of their rights.
JOHANNESBURG – As South Africa marks 57 years since the Sharpeville Massacre, the Human Rights Commission says it's encouraged that citizens are becoming increasingly aware of their rights.
On this day in 1960, thousands of people marched to the Sharpeville Police Station and protested against what used to be called the dompass.
Police opened fire and killed 69 people.
Another 180 were wounded.
At the time, the apartheid government had enacted measures to restrict the flow of black South Africans into cities.
These pass laws intended to control and direct their movement and were used to enforce greater racial segregation.
Black residents in urban districts were subject to influx control measures and had to carry what was called a dompass with them at all times.
The passbooks contained an identity card, employment and influx authorisation from a labour bureau; name of employer and address, and details of personal history.
If a bantu, as black people were referred to, was found walking around urban areas without this document they would be arrested.
The South African Human Rights Commission's Gail Smith says the country has come a long way and people are now more aware of their rights.
“In an ideal world we wouldn’t be needed as a human rights commission but we are heartened that more South Africans are aware of their rights.”
She also says a lot still needs to be done.