Smanga kumalo— Mrs Mampinga Ndamane, who is a survivor of the Sharpeville Massacre, commemorated Human Rights Day with the Democratic Alliance at Sharpeville in the Vaal on Thursday. A-96-year-old Ndamane, who has 14 great grandchildren, still vividly remembers this tragic event, where the South African police killed 69 black protesters in Sharpville.
She had participated in a march in the area the night before the massacre and she recalls that she didn’t sleep that night. “Early the following morning, the municipal police who were called ‘Green Beans’ by the community because of their green uniforms demanded that everyone who had participated in the march must report to the Sharpeville police station,” she recalled.
Ndamane’s husband, cousin and two sons headed to the station and she followed and stood on the outskirts of the crowd that had already gathered and included small children. All of a sudden she heard guns firing and water cannons being used on the crowd and she immediately started looking for her family members.
Once she had located her cousin and sons she went home to cook food for her children but did not know the whereabouts of her husband. She saw three tanks entering the area and heard more shooting. Ndamane returned to the police station and found a gruesome scene. Bodies littered the ground and she witnessed a policeman walking between them fatally shooting survivors. She could not find her husband but thankfully, he returned home a little while later.
Hellen Zille said: “We are in Sharpeville today to make sure that the men, women and children who paid the ultimate price in the struggle for freedom and equality are never forgotten. This includes the 69 people who lost their lives fifty-three years ago, only a few kilometres from where we are standing, after police opened fire on protestors who were marching against the pass laws imposed by the apartheid government”.
Zille added “Many regard this day as the first major turning point in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa. But this day also has a different meaning for members of the Sharpeville community who witnessed the brutal violence carried out by police officers against unarmed civilians”.
According to Zille, Ndamane and her loved ones were lucky to escape with their lives. Ndamane and hundreds of others still carry with them the gruesome images they witnessed on that fateful day. “It is critical, however, that these memories are passed down to future generations so that we ensure that we honour the victims and the survivors by doing everything we can to uphold and protect the human rights they fought for and which are enshrined in the Constitution,” explained Zille.
She added: “Crucially, our Bill of Rights states that everyone has the right to freedom and security, which includes the right to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources. The Constitution also lays down that the South African Police has a responsibility to protect and secure citizens and to prevent anything that may threaten the safety and security of any community”.
“It is clear that our Constitutional negotiators wanted to make sure that a massacre like the one that took place here in Sharpeville never happened again. It is therefore tragic that we now face an equally serious problem of increasing incidents of police brutality across our country,” explained Zille.
According to Zille, many people have compared the Marikana tragedy last August, where 34 protestors were shot dead by the police, to what happened here 53 years ago.
Zille concluded: “Most of us here today also read about the brutal assault by police officers of Emidio Macia that took place in Daveyton and which, resulted in his death in a police cell. Less than a week ago, the press reported on another incident in Lomanyaneng in the North West Province, where a police officer in a vehicle allegedly grabbed a court interpreter by the neck and dragged him 100m down the road”.
The DA entourage, led by their leader Hellen Zille, took centre stage and did their part in commemorating the 53rd Sharpeville Massacre. They then lay the wreath at Sharpeville monument.