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TRC Conclusions about the Sharpeville Massacre

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, Vol 3, Chapter 6


"The Commission finds that the police deliberately opened fire on an unarmed crowd that had gathered peacefully at Sharpville on 21 March 1960 to protest against the pass laws. The Commission finds further that the SAP (South African Police) failed to give the crowd an order to disperse before they began firing and that they continued to fire upon the fleeing crowd, resulting in hundreds of people being shot in the back. As a result of the excessive force used, 69 people were killed and more than 300 injured. The Commission finds further that the police failed to facilitate access to medical and/or other assistance to those who were wounded immediately after the march.

"The Commission finds that many of the participants in the march were apolitical, women and unarmed, and had attended the march because they were opposed to the pass laws. The Commission finds, therefore, that many of the people fired upon and injured in the march were not politicised members of any political party, but merely persons opposed to carrying a pass.

"The Commission finds that many of those injured in the march were placed under police guard in hospital as if they were convicted criminals and, upon release from hospital, were detained for long periods in prison before being formally charged. In the majority of instances when persons so detained appeared in court, the charges were withdrawn.

"The Commission finds the former state and the minister of police directly responsible for the commission of gross human rights violations in that excessive force was unnecessarily used to stop a gathering of unarmed people. Police failed to give an order to disperse and/or adequate time to disperse, relied on live ammunition rather than alternative methods of crowd dispersal and fired in a sustained manner into the back of the crowd, resulting in the death of sixty-nine people and the injury of more than 300."

From the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report, Vol 3, Chapter 6, October 1998.

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