How far do these two sources agree about what happened in Sharpeville on the morning of 21 March

The events, which occurred in Sharpeville on 21st March 1960, are disputed a lot. Some people argue that the police opened fire for no reason, whereas, others think the police were under attack and only opened fire in self-defence.

Source A and Source B show a strong difference in opinion as to what happened on that major day in South African history. There are many opposing ideas and statements from both texts as to who was really to blame.

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Source A was written by a journalist from a South African magazine. At the beginning of his report he comments on how they were “driving behind a big grey police car and three Saracen armoured cars.” This infers that the police were dominating the scene and were in control of the situation. In contrast with this is the statement from Source B, which was published in an English newspaper. The reporter states how “as soon as they got through (the crowds), the Africans closed the way again.” This is suggesting another side to the story and how it was the Africans who were dominant. The use of the word “again” makes the readers think that it had happened many times before.

Tyler, the journalist from Source A, explains how the protestors “were grinning and cheerful. Some kids waved to the policemen … and two of them waved back.” The source also explains that “the Africans did not appear to be alarmed by the cars.” This suggests that they were unaware anything was going to happen as there was no escalation in tension between the two sides. However, Source B states how “there was a shooting in the morning” and “trouble was expected.” This infers that the demonstrators did have a warning.

Both Sources give different statistical evidence about the ratio of police men and protestors. In Source A, Tyler said, “There were crowds in the streets…there were plenty of policemen too, well armed.” This portrays an equal balance in numbers. However, Source B states there were “A dozen Saracens… thousands of Africans.” This infers that there were too many demonstrators for the small police force to handle.

Both Sources also seem to have a contrasting opinion as to who initiated the violence. Tyler, from Source A, comments that “there were bullets in the Saracen’s guns” and “the policemen were now all inside the Saracens, with the hatches battened down.” This portrays that the police were prepared for violence and had organised their defence. It shows they knew something was going to happen because of their need to protect themselves. However, the reporter from Source B explains how the police had to “force a way in using the Saracen’s.” This suggests that the demonstrators were putting up a strong resistance. The report also infers that they used violence when “a motor car from the council… emerged as a wreck and the people inside were injured.”

In Source A, Tyler talks of threats made against him. “A constable shoved his rifle against my windshield. Another pointed his rifle at my chest.” This portrays the police being violent and aggressive, which suggests they could have been capable of anything. In contrast with this, Source B states that “police reinforcements were sent,” to control the crowd. This shows a difference in opinion as to the cause of the ensuing violence.

Although, these two sources were describing the same incident, both writers always managed to deflect the blame onto the other party. Source A saw the police as having reacted violently without provocation whilst, Source B saw their actions as necessary self-defence in the face of the aggressive crowd. Both Sources emphasised arguments, which would support their own interpretation of events and absolved their own side from blame.

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