21 Mar 2010

South Africa's Sharpeville recalls 1960 massacre

"We were shot at in cold blood - there was no warning," recounts Ike Makiti, a survivor of the Sharpeville massacre, as he stands by the graves of the township cemetery.

It's being hurriedly spruced up in time for Sunday's 50th anniversary and the arrival of VIPs.

Mr Makiti, was just 17 at the time of the shooting, a schoolboy and an active member of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).

He was heading back to school just after lunch on Monday, 21 March 1960, when he heard the sound of gunfire.

"We thought it was just firecrackers at first, then it became clear when we saw the blood that they were shooting at the people. Most of them were shot in the back, as they were trying to run away. It was clear that this was something serious."

Fifteen minutes of shooting transformed the massacre into one of the most iconic moments of the liberation struggle.

It marked the start of armed resistance and the banning of both the PAC and the African National Congress (ANC).

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