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50 Years Ago: Sharpeville

Recent events in South Africa, which began with the shootings at Sharpeville, have brought condemnation of Dr. Verwoerd and the Nationalist Government's policy of apartheid from the press all over the world. The absenteeism of Africans from their work for many days afterwards caused great inconvenience to the Europeans, but, more important, it has cost South African capitalists millions of pounds in lost output. Even the Chairman of the Wool Board, representing an industry dominated by Afrikaans-speaking pro-Nationalist farmers, said the Government must change its policies ". . . or else."

The opposition (United Party) want to see a complete review of the Government’s policy towards the Africans as soon as the situation simmers down, and 12 "Elders" of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa have spoken out against apartheid, saying there is no justification for it in the Scriptures, as Dr. Verwoerd claims. It seems that even sections of this Church are awakening to the fact that changes are taking place, and that apartheid is an anachronism in a developing capitalist country. But the Nationalists' desire to keep their cheap supply of labour mainly in the country districts is, at the moment, still dominant.

(from ‘News in Review’, Socialist Standard, May 1960).