Johannesburg - The ANC has sought to dispel the notion that Human Rights Day on Wednesday is mainly about commemorating the Sharpeville massacre. "South Africans must accept that Sharpeville is a shared history," ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza said in Johannesburg on Tuesday. "South Africans lost fellow South Africans."
Human Rights Day was previously known as Sharpeville Day to commemorate the shooting of 69 black protesters by the police in 1960. Khoza said Human Rights Day was a national day commemorated across the country. "It is a lesson to all South Africans that what happened [in Sharpeville] should not happen today."
Asked about the protests that occured in Sharpeville the previous evening because the main Human Rights Day celebrations were being held in Soweto, he said service delivery protests had become a common feature in South Africa. Residents of Sharpeville, in southern Gauteng, burnt tyres and marched on Tuesday. "It [the public holiday] is over the Sharpeville massacre. The people from Sharpeville are striking because they don't understand why [the celebrations] are now in Kliptown," said Constable Tshishiwa Mitileni.
Mitileni said the police had blocked off the main roads into Sharpeville to stop the protesters from damaging property. He said the crowd was not violent. There were service delivery protests elsewhere in the country on Tuesday.
"We know people are impatient with the pace of service delivery but government is constrained," said Khoza. One of the ANC's priorities at its last lekgotla was to release resources in order to improve services, he said."People must understand there may be delays, but the commitment was there."
Public representatives also needed to step in and engage with the people and acknowledge that they had been heard, Khoza said.