Photograph — Vice

In 1960, South Africa was characterized by a lot of violence as a result of marginalisation. Some historians have said that blacks were more on the receiving end of the negative effects of such violence, even though that is subject to other points of view. Placing bans were not irregular at that time, as there were bans placed on individuals and groups. For the most part, the Sharpeville massacre was a major catalyst for the banning of political parties, which is one of the reasons why today is remembered around the continent.

The Sharpeville massacre occurred as a result of violence unleashed on about 5,000 to 7,000 people, who had gathered at the Sharpeville police station to protest against the pass laws which were reflective of restrictions of blacks in white residential areas. The pass laws required all black men and women to carry reference books containing their personal details including name, tax code and employer details and if they failed to comply while in public places, they could be arrested and detained for 30 days.

The Sharpeville massacre led to the death of 69 people, while 180 people sustained various injuries. Days after the massacre, 77 hospitalized Africans were arrested for questioning. No police officer involved in the Sharpeville massacre was ever convicted though. Following the massacre, on the 24th of March, the government banned all public meetings in 24 magisterial districts of South Africa and on the 8th of April, the PAC and the African National Congress (ANC) were banned and a state of emergency was declared in the country.

Shortly after the 1960 Sharpeville massacre, the ANC party was banned by the Nationalist government. From 1961 organized acts of sabotage began, marking the emergence of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC. The ANC was to be an underground and exiled organization for the next 30 years. In February 1990, the government unbanned the ANC and released Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, which led to the ANC once again openly recruiting members and establishing regional structures.

Despite the fact that the PAC broke away from the ANC in an attempt to pursue its own goals as influenced by Kwame Nkrumah, the party was still banned after the Sharpeville massacre. Leaders of the party were either exiled or detained for long periods of time. These included Robert Sobukwe, its founder and leader, who was incarcerated in Robben Island until 1969 and then placed under house arrest until his death in 1978.

Many have suggested that the banning of political parties was


a strategic move by the apartheid government to suppress liberation movement by the blacks. This they employed actions like imprisonment, torture and indefinite detention.

According to Overcoming Apartheid, between 1948 and 1991, the apartheid government banned more than 1,600 men and women. These people endured severe restrictions on their movement, political activities, and associations intended to silence their opposition to the government’s apartheid policies and stop their political activity.

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