On 21 March 1960, in Transvaal, South Africa, the South African Police of the apartheid regime massacred 69 people protesting against pass laws, which restricted freedom of movement for black indigenous South Africans. The event stirred almost universal condemnation, including from the United Nations that proclaimed the day the “International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.” The day has been commemorated ever since.
The event led to the promulgation of laws that did more than restrict movement—under the Ninety-Day Detention Law, political activists who advocated for racial equality could be and were indefinitely detained. The law allowed anti-apartheid political figures from members of the African National Congress to the South African Communist Party to be imprisoned, leaders like Robert Sobukwe for close to twenty years or Nelson Mandela for close to thirty years.
As a sign of the times, however, some supported the massacre of innocent and defenceless protesters of all races and walks of life. The Mississippi House of Representatives voted a resolution in support for the South African apartheid and anti-communist regime “for its steadfast policy of segregation and the stanch adherence to their traditions in the face of overwhelming external agitation.”
Only in 1994 did the spectre of apartheid finally give up the ghost. After more than seven years of negotiations, free elections were called in South Africa and Nelson Mandela was elected president in the post-apartheid era, leading to a new constitution that was promulgated in 1996.
Today, Sandus adds the holiday to its list of “days of recognition,” holidays in Sandus that are meant to serve a political and social purpose. The holiday will be known in Sandus as “Anti-Apartheid Day” and will highlight the struggle of South Africans against the apartheid regime and of Southern African peoples in their anti-imperialist struggle for independence.
The holiday is one of many that seeks to highlight the importance of racial and ethnic equality. 12 February is African Diaspora Day in Sandus already, while 12 October is Indigenous People’s Day. Meanwhile, the second Monday of October, in Sandus, is the inclusive pan-American holiday, Day of the Americas.
On this day, Sandum citizens will reflect on the history of Apartheid in South Africa and of segregation and racialist violence around the world. They will advocate for the end of imperialism and of racism, and will educate themselves and others about how to disrupt white supremacy in their daily lives, whether directly or as a bystander. One day may not make much of a difference, but it will raise the consciousness of our citizens to be aware of humanity’s past and oppressed peoples’ struggles.
The poster for the holiday shows the African continent in the colours of an askew South African flag over a sombre textual background. The text on the back bears various slogans in English and French: “End Apartheid,” “Destroy Racism,” “Free Unjustly Detained Prisoners,” “Do Away with Violence,” “Dissolve White Supremacy,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “Put an End to Segregation.”