Death toll: 3,149 (since 1987)
What is Genocide?
The term “genocide” was coined by legal scholar Raphael Lemkin in 1943, writing:
‘Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.
Names of people notified as murdered in rural and peri-urban areas of South Africa – dates, sources
updated March 19 2010
At an early morning prayer meeting in Sharpeville’s Roman Catholic Church, an impassioned congregation raised their voices in song in the stained glass dawn light.
“All we could see were people falling down. It was like a storm … bullets tearing their clothes,” the Rev. Mary Senkhane recalled of her own experience on that day 50 years ago.
Police officers killed 69 black South Africans in Sharpeville, where people had gathered to protest the pass books that the white apartheid government required them to carry at all times. Police shot demonstrators including women and children as they ran away.
At the cemetery, neat concrete slabs mark the graves of the 69 massacre victims amid rows of mismatched tombstones covered with unkempt grass and faded artificial flowers. Hundreds of people assembled Sunday to pay their respects.