Apartheid Sources Questions
A).Source A is a letter written to the Cape Town commissioner of police by Robert Sobukwe, who was the president of the Pan African Congress.
The purpose of the letter was to make the police aware of the protest by the Black Africans on the 21st of march, against Pass Laws and to make sure that they understood that it was to be ” a sustained, disciplined, non-violent campaign.”
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The letter was written 5 days prior the event so the police have been told that this was intended to be a peaceful event and that the crowd would ” not allow themselves to be provoked into violent actions by anyone”. Having read Sobukwe’s letter it was clearly planned for the campaigns march to a trouble-free environment, and the letter seeks to avoid confrontation with the white police.
B). Source B gives an account on evidence presented at the inquiry held by the South African government into the massacre.
The evidence given differs dramatically. The first statement is about the number of people outside the Sharpeville police station at 8.ooam on the 21st of March. The statements were made by a police officer and a newspaper photographer.
The police man estimates 20,000 black African taking part in the praest he also describes the crowd as “aggressive and armed with weapon and stones.”
In the other hand the newspaper photographer estimates 5000 prtestors giving a 15,000 discrepancy between the 2 vines . In addition the photographer,
“The crowd were in idle, holiday atmosphere …”
“…With no weapons.” So he states that no weapons were shown in his photos whereas the police officer states that weapons were included.
ii) Clearly the two pieces of evidence are contradictory.
There are a variety of possible explanations for the discrepancy in the two men’s evidence.
Firstly, although both of these statements relate to the same event at 8.00am, they were given some time later and such would be influents by what happened later at 1:15 when the shooting commenced.
Secondly the physical position in which the two witnesses were standing, might explain the huge difference in the estimates. When standing in front of a crowd it makes it seem larger then it really is, While standing it can make smaller.
A third reason for the disagreement would he the position of responsibility each man holds. The policeman would have been keento play up the crowds hospitality to justify his actions otherwise charges might have been made against him and hi s men.
Where as the newspaper photographer has nothing obvious to gain or lose if he spoke the truth at the inquest.
Overall a variety of explanations can be suggested for the discrepancy in the evidence given by the 2 men at the tribunal. However the policeman’s need to justify his actions and so protect and as such the photographer is most convincing cannot on the other possibilities.
Definitely both of the statements were influenced because different information from different sides would’ve effected their evidence.
by the time passed.
Their physical position wouldn’t make much difference because the police shouldn’t have started the shooting anyway.
C) Source C is not a very reliable source to be used as evidence of the situation in Sharpeville on the morning and early afternoon of 21st March 1960. Because source C is an extract from a report and published in the ‘Rand daily mail ‘ Could be seen as a clear piece of presenting a pro- government picture of events.
The journalist clearly states that it was mostly the Africans fault for the rights in Sharpeville.
“Police were compelled to open fire”
By using vocab such as ‘compelled’ It makes it seem that the police .
The journalist also has numbers to identify how many Africans were shot or injured “one African was shot dead…”
“four Africans ” were injured.
By doing that he makes the reader think which damage is done, but when he says” several policeman were injured”
The ‘several’ high light shot the Africans were ruthless, It also follows with” causing casualties among the police” at the end of the source. So he starts article by mentioning that the police were helpless and ends up with the same subject reminding the reader that it was not the polices fault.
The article was reporting the protest outside the police at 8.00am,
Therefor the reporter would have been influenced by what happened later.
Source D is an account made by Modiehi Mahabane, who was living in Sharpeville in March 1960, describing an event in the morning of 21st March1960. The source is eye witnessed by it is also not very reliable because the information told may be incorrect due to her speaking 30 years after the event, certainly the passing of five may have had the lady to forget or exaggerate events.
The witness might also be influents by other information and probably due to age details would be forgotten. The source could also be biased because the witness is a black African.
The statement made by the police suggests pre-meditated ” we are going to start shooting.” Making the whole event planned. So the police would have started the shooting even if the Africans didn’t make trouble. However as stated earlier the source is dubious reliability.
However I find source E to be the most reliable source and of C and D. It was describing the arrival of the Saracen armored car which accompanied lieutenant, colonel planner at 11:15pm.
This source is probably the most accurate because both of the statements made by the police caption and the sergeant would’ve been taken under oath and in the face of the face of cross- examination.
The police sergeant driving the armored car clarified that the Africans were calm and he had no difficulty in passing through the crowd. “I had no difficulty. Many people were sitting at the side of the road.” In the other hand one police caption stated that the crowd were very aggressive and had problems driving through “..The greatest difficulty could we drive …” ” the hostile crowd.” Experience driving through The white policeman driving the car is backing up and supporting the blacks, he’s also more experienced in driving through the crowd than the caption, which would make his statement more accurate and since he is at lower status than the caption, there would be more chance of him telling the truth as there is not as much for him to lose when it came to me question of blame later is the inquest.
But the caption would have been obliged to lie due to high position and he would have too much to loose. Also racism was part of it as well, his hatred of the blacks may have pushed him to lie.
Finally, source E gives clear evidence that the crowd was not hostile or aggressive and that therefore other reports may be distorted by it.
This is an example of conflicting evidence.
D). Overall these sources f,G,H andJ suggest that the shooting begun ‘suddenly’ and with ‘no warning’.
Source F was a report published in the Times on the 22nd March 1960- a day after the shooting. The source states that ” after sporadic shooting in the morning in which one African was killed and another seriously wounded, a crowd of several hundred Africans began stoning the police armored cars”
It clearly tells us that there was intermitted shooting earlier on that morning which caused very serious casualties. The source also mentions that the “Africans began stoning the police armored cars” but then it goes on proving that the shooting was sudden “…. Quite suddenly there were burst of firing”, the journalist also included the number dead which reports to be more than fifty, while the injured exceeded one hundred and fifty. “including more than twenty women and children”.
A statement also included from charles Channon, who was a press photographer with a history of war experience saying that the scene was “the bloodiest he had ever seen”.
The tone of this source is more sympathetic towards the blacks, although the journalist states that the Africans attacked the police, but he probably gained the information from white contacts in africa becausr the report is from an English newspaper. However the source remains neutral. This source presents the facts quite clearly and points towards the shooting being sudden and without warning.
Source G is an extract from an 1960 article in the ‘Drum’ by journalist Humpherey Tyler who was present at the shooting which makes him an eye witness. ‘Drum’ was a magazine read largely by the black population.
The source begins actively; “then the shooting started”.
Tylor suggests that the crowd did not take it seriously due to some of them laughing” he continues “they must have thought the police were firing blanks”.
Tylor gives an example of an incident that happened in the surprise shooting, of a reaction of a young man as his companion is shot, he thought she had simply stumbled, not realizing they were being shot at.
Tylor says that he personally did not hear any warning before the shooting “there was no warning volley”. He also says that the police ‘claimed’ that they were in desperate situation and the crowd were aggressive. So Tylor did not witness any danger towards the police, in fact only the police said that they were in danger, there were no other witnesses to this. He also quotes when the police say “ferocious weapons” because the language is neutral, despite the fact that he “looked carefully, and afterwards studied the photographs of the death scene” he saw no weapons.
Source H is a photograph taken at Sharpeville on the 21st March 1960, just after the shooting started in the afternoon.
It is a depressing photograph showing the dead protesters lying in pools of blood. The important thing to notice is that there are no signs of weapons or any threatening objects in sight. This allows us to contemplate whether there were weapons in the possession of the demonstrators.
Source I is a report on the Sharpeville massacre written in 1960 by Bishop Ambrose Reenes who was a member of the UN unit on Apartheid.
This the first piece of medical evidence, and the fact that it is, it makes it an extremely reliable source. And because it is by a bishop who is considered trustworthy and he is a member of the United Nations which is supposed to be a neutral party in international affairs.
The source tells us a number of important things; the police fired longer then they were needed to because according to the medical reports, the source states “it is clear that the police continued firing after the people began to flee.” This evidence is backed up by the fact that “while thirty shots had entered the wounded or killed at the front of their bodies, no less than 155 bullets had entered the bodies of the injured and killed from their backs”.
The evidence of my previous quotation is very important. Approximately 30 shots entered the bodies of the killed and injured from the front of their bodies. But at least 155 of the bullets found in the bodies had entered from their backs. This means that 30 shots entered from the front as the crowd faced forward, but as the crowd turned and ran, the police continued firing landing 155 bullets into people as they turned and started to flee. This should not have happened. By the time the police realized that the crowd are retreating and running away they should’ve stopped shooting, but it is clearly shown that they did not, due to the evidence.
Source J is an extract from the evidence given at the inquest in to the Sharpeville massacre held by the South African government. It consists of a question from the judge “why had a policeman of thirty years experience not considered a baton charge?”
Which follows an answer by lieutenant Colonel Pianeer ” this would have been useless. Native mortality does not allow Africans to gather for peaceful demonstrations. For them it means violence”.
This statement is a clear example of a racist attitude, stereotyping the blacks that it is not possible for them to get together for a non-violent protest because their “native mortality” does not allow it.
I have analyzed sources F,G,H,I and J and I have come to a conclusion.
Source F supports the statement that the shooting was ‘sudden’ and with ‘no warning’ as the source quotes “quite suddenly there were burst of firing…”
Source G also supports the statement that the shooting began suddenly.
“before the shooting I heard no warning to the crowd to disperse”.
Source H is not conclusive enough to suggest whether or not it supports the statement. It shows victims lying either dead or injured, so it is not enough to support that the shooting was sudden.
Source I also supports that it was sudden “police continued after the people began to flee.
Source J is a negative report which does not state that it was sudden attack. Because it does not mention the shooting. But what is telling about the source is that the lieutenant is racist enough to shoot the Africans without warning, his anti-black attitude is not at all disguised.
Including my own knowledge I have come to the decision that the shooting was sudden. There was clear evidence from independent witnesses, and it was obviously the opinion of the judge, that the shooting took place without warning. The use of Sten guns implies that the shooting was designed to have maximum effect rather than to frighten or deter.
“No one heard warning shots or an order to shoot , but suddenly the police opened fire on the crowd and continued to shoot as the demonstrators turned and ran in fear.” This is a quote from Nelson Mandela’s ‘long walk to freedom’. A book he wrote describing what happened during the Sharpeville shooting. The quote clearly indicates that the shooting was sudden. It is also by an eye witness who experienced the whole event. Nelson Mandela also states “sixty nine Africans lay dead, most of them shot in the back as they were fleeing”. Proving that the even after the demonstrators started to flee the policemen kept on shooting.
All of this can be backed up the fact that the whites were extremely racist towards the blacks. The whit people refused to live with or near the black Africans, so the white government set up the Batustans where blacks are separated from the whites.
Many Bantus lived in the countryside. The black people were made foreigners in their own country living in unpleasant conditions.. Clearly the white policemen were racist enough to start shooting without warning
However opinions towards the situation would vary. White setters in South Africa would blame on the blacks and state that there was lots of warning before the shooting, but the blacks were aggressive and refused to move. That is was I gathered from all the sources. “some Africans are laughing as they think it is all a huge bluff”, a quote from “Sharpeville shooting 1960′.
E). at the end of the inquiry the court came to the conclusion that the shootings were ‘deliberate and unnecessary’.
After studying all the sources I have come to the same conclusion as the court.
In source A Sobukwe mentions in his letter about the polices lack of experience at dealing with protests, their tendency to be “trigger happy”.
There were racist attitudes among the policemen, including Pianeer.
In source J when he was asked by the presiding judge ” why had a policeman of thirty years experience not considered a baton charge?”
Lt col Pieneer replied: “this would’ve been useless. Native mortality does not allow Africans to gather for peaceful demonstrations. For them to gather means violence”. In this source Pieneer is clearly stereotyping the blacks by stating that they cannot come together without the use of voilence.his reply is a racist statement and not a fact. It reflects the attitude many white people who had grown up in South Africa had. It was part of their culture, and established legally through aparthied.
The racist attitude by the white policemen can also be illustrated by the earlier evictions from Sophiatown. It was a suburb on the western edge of Johannesburg. Late in 1953 the Africans were to be moved out of Sophiatown and into the meadowlands.
The Afrikaner government reason for this was that Sophiatomn was a slum and the Africans would be much better off in the meadowlands. But it was clear that the whites did not want to live with Natives. The other the reason was that in Sophiatown many Africans owned the land they lived on. It was obvious that the blacks were having their rights attacked.
African families defended themselves by protesting against moving but the military force was used to gather up and remove the large number of remaining Africans.
The Sharpeville protest was against ‘Pass laws’. A system called Aparthied was set up the faculties designed for whites. And so Pass laws were introduced.
There was obviously a very detailed medical examination of the dead and wounded which enables an accurate picture of the event making it hard facts.
According to the medical evidence it was clear that the police continued firing even after the people began to flee, as most them were found shot in the back proving that they were fleeing. Source h is a photographic evidence which clearly shows no signs of weapons or any other threatening objects. And it shows lots of Africans dead shot in the back which proves the previous point.
There’s also evidence of which a whole variety of witnesses who had nothing to gain from lying about what happened . source E is where the white policemen states “I had no difficulty” while driving through the crowd. He was supporting the blacks. Also the white photographer in source G ‘Humpherey Tylor’ states “before the shooting I heard no warning to the crowd to disperse” making it clear that the shooting was sudden.
Another eye witness was Nelson Mandela who experienced the Sharpeville shooting. he states “the demonstrators were controlled and unarmed . so no danger was shown towards the policemen. He also says “no one heard warning shots..” “…it was a massacre”.
There were obviously children there and people were not prepared for what happened.
The evidence suggest that the attack was premeditated and intended to do the maximum damage, only Lt Col Pieneer and the other police witness gave any evidence to the contrary; the judge clearly believed that other methods could and should have been used.