fb

Remembering forgotten hero, Nyakane Tsolo from the Sharpeville Massacre

David O’Sullivan 

This past weekend, we marked Human Rights Day and remembered the 61st anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre.

The photograph below was taken 61 years ago today in Sharpeville. It was taken about 90 minutes before police at the Sharpeville police station opened fire on a group of Pan Africanist protesters, who had gathered to protest against the hated pass laws, resulting in one of the bloodiest and most significant events in South Africa’s turbulent political history.

The young man on the left of the photograph should be remembered for his important role that day. Sadly, history has forgotten him and there are no memorials to him, no schools nor streets named after him. His name is Nyakane Tsolo.

Image: Ian Berry

Tsolo was a laborer at African Cables, who had left school in Standard 8 (Grade 10). He became a trade unionist at the age of 20 and, despite his youth, was good at mobilising people. He helped set up the Sharpeville branch of the PAC and was its secretary.

On the 21st of March, Tsolo played a prominent role in organising protestors to gather at the Sharpeville police station from early in the morning as part of the planned nationwide anti-pass protest. The PAC leader Robert Sobukwe was leading protesters in Soweto at the same time.

The photograph of Tsolo was taken by Drum photographer Ian Berry sometime between 12h00 and 13h00. It was published in Bishop Ambrose Reeves’s book “Shooting at Sharpeville”.

The photographs were printed in the sequence in which they were taken and the crowd appears peaceful, as witnesses later told the commission of inquiry into the massacre. The caption of the photograph did not identify Nyakane Tsolo.

 

A time for reflection

Three years ago, I broadcast my Kaya 959 radio show from Sharpeville and interviewed numerous survivors. As they looked through the photographs in my copy of Reeves’s book, they excitedly pointed at the image of the beaming young man and confirmed it was Nyakane Tsolo. The caption reads: “This is what the police described as an armed mob. One man has a stick and there are a few umbrellas”.

By 12h00, an estimated 3 000 people were standing outside the Sharpeville police station. Tsolo tried to negotiate with the police, demanding to be arrested at which point he would instruct the crowd to disperse. The officer commanding the police station, Sergeant Wessels, refused to arrest him and his colleagues, saying he had no authority and, in any event, there was no room in the cells.

For Tsolo, the PAC campaign was supposed to be a continuous series of protests in which people would openly defy the law and be arrested. He had said if the police had simply arrested him and his colleagues, the crowd would have moved off.

In Tom Lodge’s book Sharpeville: an apartheid massacre and its consequences, Lodge quotes a witness at the commission of inquiry describing Tsolo as having “the whole crowd in the palm of his hand because whenever he raised his hand, it enveloped the whole crowd, he would raise his hand for silence and for Africa.”

At around 13h00, Nyakane Tsolo tried again to talk to the police. By now, a senior officer, Colonel “Att” Spengler, a notorious policeman, had arrived. Spengler wanted the PAC men to call off the protest, failing which the police should open fire over their heads. His colleague Lieutenant-Colonel G.D. Pienaar wanted the police to shoot into the crowd.

Yet again Tsolo tried to defuse the situation by negotiating with the police about arresting him. He attempted to talk to Spengler, who cut him short and ordered him to tell the crowd to back off. Tsolo refused, saying only Sobukwe had such authority.

The short-tempered Spengler promptly arrested Tsolo – something he had been demanding all morning. More PAC men stepped forward demanding to be arrested. As the crowd surged forward, stones were thrown at the police. Lt-Col Pienaar had ordered the police to load their weapons and wait for his order. Suddenly, without warning, the gunfire started. 168 policemen fired 1 344 rounds of ammunition into the crowd, killing 69 people and wounding 180.

Tsolo was quickly locked up. Police raided his house that evening but found nothing of importance. He was held at the Fort for a year, and was brutally tortured by the security police. After a year, he appeared in court along with a small group of other PAC leaders charged with incitement and public violence. He was granted bail and promptly fled to Maseru in Lesotho where a small group of PAC supporters tried to set up a new headquarters.

Later he made his way to Cairo where he received military training from the Egyptian special forces. He then lived in East Germany and later in Rotterdam in the Netherlands where he worked as a PAC representative with local anti-apartheid organisations. He returned home briefly in 1991 for a visit. He was a candidate for the PAC in the 1994 elections, but remained in Rotterdam before coming home permanently in 2001. He died a year later from a stroke.

His efforts on the morning of Monday 21st of March 1960 to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the protests outside the Sharpeville police station are largely forgotten. Tsolo lived long enough to see the memorial being unveiled near the police station (now a community centre), and he would have seen that his contribution on the day of the massacre was barely mentioned.

    Don’t miss out on the latest local news, interviews and competitions.

    Don’t miss out on the latest local news, interviews and competitions.

    Receive the latest news

    Subscribe To Our Newsletter

    THE KAYA 959 APP NOW AVAILABLE

    DOWNLOAD YOURS NOW

    Copyright Notice

    1. COPYRIGHT

    1.1 The contents of this Website, including but not limited to its compilation and arrangement, is the exclusive property of Kaya 959, alternatively the suppliers of content to Kaya 959, and accordingly remain protected by South African and International Copyright and Trademark laws.

    1.2 Any person accessing this Website, may not, save for downloading one copy for their personal computers and solely for their private and non-commercial use :

    1.2.1 Copy, disseminate, distribute, advertise, publish, adapt, modify or in any way reproduce the contents of this website for commercial purposes, unless this notice and any disclaimer attached thereto is published in its entirety, or unless the permission of Kaya 959 is obtained in writing.

    Privacy Policy

    THIS PRIVACY STATEMENT FORMS PART OF KAYA 959’S TERMS OF USE POLICY. IF YOU DO NOT AGREE WITH ANY TERM OF THIS PRIVACY STATEMENT, YOU MUST CEASE YOUR ACCESS OF THIS WEBSITE IMMEDIATELY. 

    POPIA ActTo promote the protection of personal information processed by public and private bodies; to introduce certain conditions so as to establish minimum requirements for the processing of personal information; to provide for the establishment of an Information Regulator to exercise certain powers and to perform certain duties and functions in terms of this Act and the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000; to provide for the issuing of codes of conduct; to provide for the rights of persons regarding unsolicited electronic communications and automated decision making; to regulate the flow of personal information across the borders of the Republic; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

    RECOGNISING THAT—

    • section 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, provides that everyone has the right to privacy;
    • the right to privacy includes a right to protection against the unlawful collection, retention, dissemination and use of personal information;
    • the State must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights;

    AND BEARING IN MIND THAT—

    • consonant with the constitutional values of democracy and openness, the need for economic and social progress, within the framework of the information society, requires the removal of unnecessary impediments to the free flow of information, including personal information;

    AND IN ORDER TO—

    • regulate, in harmony with international standards, the processing of personal information by public and private bodies in a manner that gives effect to the right to privacy subject to justifiable limitations that are aimed at protecting other rights and important interests,
    1. Definitions and Interpretation

    1.1.“Personal Information” means information relating to an identifiable, living, natural person and where it is applicable, identifiable, existing juristic person, including all information as defined in the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013. 

    1.2  Parliament assented to POPIA on 19 November 2013. The commencement date of section 1Part A of Chapter 5section 112 and section 113 was 11 April 2014. The commencement date of the other sections was 1 July 2020 (with the exception of section 110 and 114(4). The President of South Africa has proclaimed the POPI commencement date to be 1 July 2020.

     
    1.3. “Processing” means the creation, generation, communication, storage, destruction of personal information as more fully defined in the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013.  

    1.4. “You” or the “user” means any person who accesses and browses this website for any purpose. 

    1.4. “Website” means the website of the KAYA 959 at URL www.kaya959.co.za or such other URL as KAYA 959 may choose from time to time.   

    1. Status and Amendments

    2.1. KAYA 959 respects your privacy. This privacy policy statement sets out KAYA 959’s information gathering and dissemination practices in respect of the Website. 

    2.2. This Privacy Policy governs the processing of personal information provided to KAYA 959 through your use of the Website. 

    2.3. Please note that, due to legal and other developments, KAYA 959 may amend these terms and conditions from time to time.  

    1. Processing of Personal Information

    3.1. By providing your personal information to KAYA 959 you acknowledge that it has been collected directly from you and consent to its processing by KAYA 959. 

    3.2. Where you submit Personal Information (such as name, address, telephone number and email address) via the website (e.g. through completing any online form) the following principles are observed in the processing of that information: 

    3.2.1. KAYA 959 will only collect personal information for a purpose consistent with the purpose for which it is required. The specific purpose for which information is 
    collected will be apparent from the context in which it is requested. 

    3.2.2. KAYA 959 will only process personal information in a manner that is adequate, relevant and not excessive in the context of the purpose for which it is processed. 

    3.2.3. Personal information will only be processed for a purpose compatible with that for which it was collected, unless you have agreed to an alternative purpose in writing or KAYA 959 is permitted in terms of national legislation of general application dealing primarily with the protection of personal information. 

    3.2.4. KAYA 959 will keep records of all personal Information collected and the specific purpose for which it was collected for a period of 1 (one) year from the date on which it was last used. 

    3.2.5. KAYA 959 will not disclose any personal information relating to you to any third party unless your prior written agreement is obtained or KAYA 959 is required to do so by law. 

    3.2.6. If personal information is released with your consent KAYA 959 will retain a record of the information released, the third party to which it was released, the reason for the release and the date of release, for a period of 1 (one) year from the date on which it was last used. 

    3.2.7. KAYA 959 will destroy or delete any personal information that is no longer needed by KAYA 959 for the purpose it was initially collected, or subsequently processed. 

    3.3. Note that, as permitted by the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002, KAYA 959 may use personal information collected to compile profiles for statistical purposes. No information contained in the profiles or statistics will be able to be linked to any specific user.    

    1. Collection of anonymous data

    4.1. KAYA 959 may use standard technology to collect information about the use of this website. This technology is not able to identify individual users but simply allows KAYA 959 to collect statistics. 

    4.2. KAYA 959 may utilise temporary or session cookies to keep track of users’ browsing habits. A cookie is a small file that is placed on your hard drive in order to keep a record of your interaction with this website and facilitate user convenience. 

    4.2.1. Cookies by themselves will not be used to identify users personally but may be used to compile identified statistics relating to use of services offered or to provide KAYA 959 with feedback on the performance of this website. 

    4.2.2. The following classes of information may be collected in respect of users who have enabled cookies: 

    4.2.2.1. The browser software used; 

    4.2.2.2. IP address; 

    4.2.2.3. Date and time of activities while visiting the website; 

    4.2.2.4. URLs of internal pages visited; and 

    4.2.2.5. referrers. 

    4.3. If you do not wish cookies to be employed to customize your interaction with this website it is possible to alter the manner in which your browser handles cookies. Please note that, if this is done, certain services on this website may not be available. 

    1. Security

    5.1. KAYA 959 takes reasonable measures to ensure the security and integrity of information submitted to or collected by this website, but cannot under any circumstances be held liable for any loss or other damage sustained by you as a result of unlawful access to or dissemination of any personal information by a third party. 

    1. Links to other websites

    6.1. KAYA 959 has no control over and accepts no responsibility for the privacy practices of any third party websites to which hyperlinks may have been provided and KAYA 959 strongly recommends that you review the privacy policy of any website you visit before using it further. 

    1. Queries

    7.1. If you have any queries about this privacy policy please contact us by emailing [email protected] 

    Competition Terms and Conditions

    • The competitions are open to all persons over the age of 18 years; except directors, partners, employees, agents, service providers, and consultants of Kaya 959, the sponsor and all its subsidiaries and its holding company, if any, as well as all spouses, life partners, parents, children, siblings, business partners and associates of such persons.

    • The outcome of the competition is subject to the decision of the judge/presenter, whose decision is final and no negotiation will be entered into thereafter. Neither Kaya 959, sponsors nor their agents will be held responsible or answerable to any dispute arising from the competition or prize awards.

    • Participants/listeners enter or take part in competitions at their own risk and Kaya 959 bears no responsibility for any loss, damage or harm suffered as a result of participation in any of Kaya 959 competition.

    • One listener is entitled to winning one prize in a period of 3 months. Kaya 959 reserves the right not to award a prize if the listener has won a prize prior during the 3 month window period. This also applies to listeners who provide family or friend’s contact details.

    • Kaya 959 reserves the right to redistribute all unclaimed prizes if not claimed after 3 months after being given away On Air or on the website.

    • Prizes are not transferable and may not be exchanged for cash.

    • Finalists will forfeit their participation in the competition if they fail to attend the draws.

    • The competition will run during the period advertised on Kaya 959; entries received outside of the competition period will not be considered for the competition draw.

    • Kaya 959 and their sponsors reserve the right to cancel, modify or amend the competition at any time if deemed necessary in their opinion, or if circumstances arise outside of their control.

    • By entering the competition, entrants agree to accept these rules and to be bound by them.