On the 21st of March in 1960 thousands of South Africans rose against the tyranny of the pass laws. As a result of their unarmed uprising, white police men shot and killed 69 of them. This occurred in two places, Sharpeville and Langa.
So many years have passed since then and the day in question has since been make a national holiday – Human Rights Day – in South Africa to commemorate the brave spirits of those people who sacrificed their lives for a just and humane South Africa.
The pass laws effectively made indigenous black South Africans foreigners in the country of their birth. All black South Africans were systematically tribalised and restricted to separate homelands. In order to live or even visit the urban areas they had to carry a pass.
This strategy was meant to keep them from the urban rich metropolitan centres while also keeping them from uniting under one black nation which would pose a threat to the white republic.
Tired of this very demeaning law, South Africans rose in one voice on the 21st of March 1960 and openly defied the law by turning themselves in for arrest. Many also burned the passes as a way of protest.
In our tiny corner of Southern Africa, Swaziland, we are faced with pretty much the same type of oppression. Although it might not be a case of one race oppressing another, the same philosophy of exclusion between so-called commoners and royalty is the heart of the country’s politics.
Ordinary Swazis can only aspire, at best, to be part of a rubber stamp parliament. They are not allowed to choose their own government and are restricted in the manner in which they can group themselves politically.
It is therefore the greatest commemoration of the Sharpeville/Langa uprisings for Swazi people to have their own uprising. It is an act which by far keeps alive the memory of those who died in that massacre.
No amount of words or speeches, no matter how brilliantly written, can ever be a better salute to the martyrs of Sharpeville/Langa than the continued fight for human rights everywhere that they are threatened.
We therefore know that on the 12th of April 2011, 41 years after Sharpeville, the spirits of our departed brothers and sisters will be marching with Swazi people as they fight for their own rights. We say unto them, Nilale ngelucolo. Kodvwa Nisisingatse natsi emzabalazweni.