NICHO CAN YOU SHARE A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE HISTORY OF SHARPEVILLE
AND ITS MASSACRE?
Nicho Ntema – Sharpevilleoligist,
historian & future scenario planner
Although a commission of enquiry was held
into the events at Sharpeville, what actually
happened is still subject to a dispute. Only a
few facts came to light, none of the police
involved in the massacre were convicted.
As Sharpeville is turning 75 years this year, so
much has happened since its birth from the
remnants of Top Location; a slum settlement
in the present Duncanville, in Vereeniging,
which ceased to exist in the early 1960’s,
though decommissioned due to the birth of
Sharpeville in 1942.
The Sharpeville Massacre, which occurred 18 years later since the birth of Sharpeville on the
afternoon of Monday the 21st March 1960 (near the old Sharpeville Police Station), instantly put
the name Sharpeville on the headlines of the world’s newspapers as well as engraving this unique
Scottish migrant-named village history within the history books of the world. John Lillie Sharpe;
a Scot who came to work as a Secretary for Stewards and Lloyds and later becoming the Mayor
of Vereeniging, got his name immortalized in Sharpeville as he was known to have been having a
soft spot for black residents’ issues at Top Location.
Some 24 years later after the 1960 Massacre, the Vaal Uprisings which started on the 3rd of
September 1984 and had Sharpeville participating within it through its Sharpeville Rent Crisis
Committee, gave birth to the Sharpeville Six which were five men and a woman sentenced to
death for the murder of Jacob Khuzwayo Dlamini; a local deputy mayor of the Lekwa City Council.
These two significant, though distant events, propelled Sharpeville’s name to the international
discussion platforms of the world. They both generated the only two States of Emergency ever
declared in South Africa, and both also got United Nations’ Resolutions and further kept the name
of Sharpeville within newsrooms of the world for the past 57 years.
LAS VEGAS WAS JUST HOME TO THE DEADLIEST SHOOTING MASSACRE THE
UNITED STATES HAS EVER FACED IN ITS HISTORY. IS THERE ANY ADVICE THE
SHARPEVILLE COMMUNITY CAN SHARE WITH THE COMMUNITY MEMBERS OF
LAS VEGAS SUFFERING THE HEARTBREAK OF SUCH A HORRIFIC MOMENT?
Atrocities like these rebuild communities. Sharpeville is home to almost 40000 residents within
a 4.99 square kilometer radius. The 21 March 1960 Sharpeville Massacre remains the main
collective identity of all these residents even three to four generations apart.
Today this tragic event remains the most common unifier. In all events where hatred is projected
at anyone in mankind, that should drive ALL to yield positivity, to learn from it and continue doing
good for the good of all of mankind.
NINA HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH THE
Nina du Toit Saunders. I became involved with the Sharpeville
community through her 10-year experience as a lecturer for English
Methodology and English Didactics and English Communication at the
then Sebokeng College of Education from 1984 to 1994 (The dawn of
democracy in South Africa). I became the coordinator of a process
instituted at the college for Total Quality Management and
Institutional Self Improvement. As a result, I stepped out of the lecture
room and into bringing community and other relevant stakeholders to
the institution’s processes for greater unity, involvement and
participation and ownership as the college prepared for the demise of
apartheid and dawn of the 1st democratic elections in South Africa in 1994.
As part of this program me and my cofounder Sophie Mokoena (then an SRC student leader and
now heading up the News Desk at the South African Broadcasting Corporation) designed a mass
empowerment program for the approximately 700 students, running values audits and needs
analysis to determine the content of the program. The program consequently incorporated skills
not acquired during the formal tuition program, such as leadership, voter education, financial life
skills, role models in entrepreneurship, nonviolence and conflict resolution which brought me to
seeking and inviting Arun Gandhi to run programs. The nonviolence programs he conducted at
the college and within the community made a significant contribution to ensuring a peaceful
approach and environment for the 1st Democratic Elections in 1994. Arun worked with the youth
brigades of various political parties such as the ANC Youth League, the Inkatha Youth Brigade and
the PAC Youth Brigades. He worked with the students of the college and varied Youth and
Community Structures in an area of South Africa called the Vaal Triangle.
This area incorporates historically white towns such as Vanderbijlpark, Vereeniging, Sasolburg
and the traditionally black townships of Sebokeng, Boipatong, Bophelong, Zamdela, Evaton,
Orange Farm. The programs were supported by local talent and the specific talents of individuals
such as Gamakulu Diniso – a playwright and artist. Young leaders such as Chris Rashoalane and
Joshua Mabaso who ran community based industrial theatre programs on HIV / Aids and Quality
and other relevant topics formed part of the leadership in the program of Mass Empowerment
at the College.
NINA CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT GAMAKULA
DINISO AND HOW YOU MET? Gamakulu Diniso is a
playwright and artist hailing from Sharpeville. I started
working with him on the empowerment programs in
How I met Gamakulu is important to me as he was sent
to me by my father. Gama had gone to Zimbabwe in the
year before we met to conduct his one man play Ikasi
June 1993 which addressed issues of ANC and PAC tug
of war and all other political parties blaming one
another. He says he felt safe to say what he wanted to
One evening after his performance, when he was back in his dressing room he was advised that
there were two white Afrikaans people wanting to see him.
He says he was alarmed. Thinking that the South African Government had sent spies to follow
him. He waited, hoping they would leave, but was again reminded that they were waiting
patiently for him by a backstage hand. When he heard that one of the two was a woman, he says
he felt he would see them, possibly there would not be harm or arrest if a woman was present.
The man and woman waiting for him were my father
Johannes Jurgens du Toit and my mother Tina du Toit.
My father wanted to chat with Gama about the play
and the themes brought out during the play and learn
more about his life and work. When my father heard
that Gama was from Sharpeville he asked him to find
me, his daughter as I was working in Sebokeng, a
neighbouring to Sharpeville township. My father told
Gamakulu to go to the college and ask for Nelina!
This was my full name, but everyone called me NINA. No one but my parents called me Nelina.
So, Gama returned to South Africa and he heeded the request from my father and came to look
for me at the college. Of course, no one in the college administrative staff knew anyone by the
name Nelina, but finally on his instance that there HAD to be such a person, decided that
“Nina” was the most similar name. Thus, they called me in my office and told me that there was
someone looking for a NELINA and could that be me? Well of course I was amazed. Who could
this be who knew my full name?
That is how I met Gama and we started
working together on the mass empowerment
program and we still work together this many
years later and my interest and love and
affinity for the Sharpeville Community grew
through friendships with people whom Gama
had groomed and grown in this theatre.
People such as Nicho Mojalefa Ntema and
I was delighted that Arun Gandhi and the
touring group could return to spend a day
with us in Sharpeville on their last tour in South Africa and that the tour is returning to learn
more about Sharpeville and help to support the work of rebuilding this amazing community.
The work Arun Gandhi did is 1993 was important in laying a foundation for a peaceful transition
to democracy for South Africa and all its citizens. He lived, not only his grandfather’s legacy and
philosophy, BUT more importantly laid down a track of his own work here in the Vaal Triangle
and South Africa and more specifically in Sharpeville and the surrounding communities.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST PASSION PROJECT YOUR PROMOTE AND WHY?
Sharpeville2020 Vision Platform
There is a process underway called the Sharpeville Vision 2020.
It is THE ULTIMATE ECONOMIC REVIVAL, DEVELOPMENT AND
ADVANCEMENT PLAN FOR SHARPEVILLE AND ITS IMMEDIATE
This plan has four major action plans that should be tried, tested
and realized by 2020.
This concept is the brain child of Nicho Ntema; a Sharpeville-
born development strategist and economics enthusiast, with
twenty years’ experience as a tourism player and a visionary
The overall vision of the development plan is the revitalize the Sharpeville “City” with a focus
on socio-economic upliftment and development. Sharpeville is an internationally recognized
City and has a marketable brand. The objectives are to change the city into a place of work,
play, life, relaxation, tourism and entertainment, training and culture.
WHAT IMPACT IS YOUR PASSION PROJECT HAVING ON THE COMMUNITY?
Within the next three years, the four pillars below should generate programs and projects along
other supplementary and complementary existing initiatives that are uniquely Sharpeville based,
focused or oriented.
THE SEEISO STREET AND PRECINCTS ECONOMIC STUDY is underway in partnership with the
North West University Subject Group; Economics led by Prof. Daniel Meyer. This study has
commenced research studies to investigate the viability of economic activity within the
Sharpeville’s Main Seeiso Street and the Human Rights Precinct and develop plans for selected
nodes and operations within those nodes for economic activity enhancement. The development
and advancement of the identified nodes shall precede the Tourism Development that will be
completed by the development and the implementation of the Sharpeville Destination and
Marketing Plan for the five years with reviews every five years thereafter.
Furthermore the program encompasses the dream of establishing a Centre for Liberation,
Consciousness and Non Violence in Sharpeville in a proposed partnership with the University of
The North West Vaal Campus. Please see attached concept document for your insight and
comment and participation / support.
NINA CAN YOU SHARE WITH US ABOUT SMILING AND LAUGHTER?
Laughter is a great and natural stress reliever. Pure natural and
extended laughter without comedy and jokes has proven
scientific impact on the mind, body and soul. Across the world
people are battling with the debilitating effects of stress on
their personal physical and mental health and wellness. So
too, societies are relatedly impacted upon by the stress
burden of the individuals which comprise the community and
society. The effects of stress can be seen in the daily
interaction amongst people, be they family, community,
nations. A stressed person suffers burnout on physical,
emotional and psychological levels and resultantly has low
levels of empathy, tolerance, creativity, compassion, positive
engagement with others. Thus, they are more inclined to
become fearful, desperate, angry, irrational and react with violence. A stressed nation becomes
a danger to itself and others. Stress is the elephant in the room!
I have always been a very positive person and loved communicating hope, peace and love. In
this respect, laughter therapy found a home in my mind and heart, as a tool to actively help at
an individual or group level with the negative effects of stress, helping them to find the way back
to hope, joy and peace.
I was trained as laughter therapist in 2007 and am
one of the longest practicing laughter therapists in
South Africa, possibly in Africa. I have laughed with
pre-schools, schools, university staff, NGO’s, carers,
nurses, pathologists, pharmacists, doctors, lawyers,
bankers, churches and faiths ranging from Christian
to Muslim. Corporate clients large and small and
community organizations, youth and the elderly.
I would love to see everyone practicing laughter
daily as individuals and communities and workplace
integration of a culture of joy and peace. Laughter
therapy is a natural link to the principles of Non –
Violence and provides people with a tool to get the
that point in their minds, where they can see themselves more positively and relate better to
their own and other’s problems. I would love to trial laughter in a school / workplace and measure
the impact over a period of time.
Laughter at Feeding Scheme Schools in Sebokeng with Lebo Mopo and John Mofokeng
Laughter with Construction Workers in Johannesburg
Laughter with Forensic Pathology
HOW CAN PEOPLE SUPPORT YOUR WORK AND EFFORTS?
There is a lot we do. We believe in collaborations and ideas exchange. We can forge partnerships
in various processes and projects that will have an impact on their lives of our people.
One such collaboration is the North-West University Economics and Education Departments
involvement within our concepts.
Please go through the following websites and we can discuss several common interests we may
Book tours through Sharpeville Truth Tours
GANDHI SAID, IF WE ARE GOING TO TEACH REAL PEACE, IT BEGINS WITH THE CHILDREN.
HOW ARE YOU INCORPORATING GANDHI'S PHILOSOPHY OF NONVIOLENCE INTO THE WORK
YOU DO WITHIN THE SHARPEVILLE COMMUNITY?
We have been pushing for the establishment of a Centre for Liberation, Consciousness and
Non-Violence. Please see Centre for Liberation concept document.
WHAT CAN THE SATYAGRAHA TOUR OF SOUTH AFRICA PARTICIPANTS DO TO
COME MORE PREPARED FOR OUR UPCOMING VISIT WITH THE SHARPEVILLE
Plant a Tree:
There is a farm Vukuzenzele within Sharpeville that we have identified as one of the
flagship projects within the Sharpeville Vision 2020 process. It would be great to have a
couple of indigenous trees planted within this farm to symbolize the deep-rooted spirit we
all have on non-violence, peace and reconciliation.
Penpals for Youth
Further it would be great if participants of the tour could establish pen pal relationships
with youth in the community so that their minds can see the larger world and the
possibility of other opportunities.
Bring information about scholarship opportunities.
Support through links and access to funding for the development of commercial urban
hydroponic farm in Sharpeville.
Support of Local Crafters
Support the local crafters and services on the day of the visit.