Book review: Sharpeville by Tom Lodge

By Gemma Ware
Posted on Wednesday, 12 October 2011 13:56

A masterful work on the 1960 massacre and its impact on the anti-apartheid campaign

As ambulances carrying the dead and injured departed from the site of the Sharpeville massacre, the heavens opened, washing away the blood from the streets. History lives on in the detail, and Tom Lodge’s masterful work on the killings brings it alive through the words of those who witnessed the chilling events of 21 March 1960.

His retelling of a well-known part of the anti-apartheid story is, at its heart, a history of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), which had chosen that Monday morning as the start of its campaign of civil disobedience. Lodge traces the reasons for the PAC’s splintering away from the African National Congress in 1959 under leader Robert Sobukwe, the social and political motivations behind Sharpeville’s bands of young, unemployed ‘Task Forces’ that spurred on the 1960 protest, and the movement into fractious exile of those PAC leaders not imprisoned in the massacre’s aftermath.

Alongside the international reaction to the killings and the birth of a global anti-apartheid movement, Lodge examines the Hendrik Verwoerd regime’s reaction to Sharpeville and the political currency it gave their racist and repressive policies.

Most interesting is his treatment of Sharpeville’s impact on the later stages of the anti-apartheid campaign. Fifty years on, Lodge explores how its memory plays a central role in the narrative of the South African struggle.

Sharpeville: An Apartheid Massacre and its Consequences
 by Tom Lodge is published by Oxford University Press

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options