Wednesday, 21 March 2007
Sharpeville Massacre 1960, Inzamam and the End of a Glorious Career
On March 21st, 1960, policemen of the apartheid South African state opened fire on innocent civilians participating in a Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) organised protest against the notorious segregationist pass laws. The demonstration which numbered around 5 000 - 7 000 was a peaceful one but turned violent when the police force, unprovoked, opened fire and slaughtered sixty-nine people, including eight women and ten children. Of the 180 people who were wounded, thirty-one were women and nineteen were children. Many of the bullets fired had hit the victims in their backs, further indication that they had been trying to escape and were not attacking the police as the government claimed. The massacre was followed by protests and demonstrations and on March 30th, 1960, the apartheid regime declared a state of emergency and detained thousands of people. It also banned the PAC and the African National Congress (ANC). The Sharpeville Massacre was also greeted by international protests.
While the years leading up to Sharpeville had seen a marked increase in resistance against apartheid, the massacre proved to be a watershed as black South Africans realised that non-violence could not solely be relied on to defeat the forces of the apartheid regime. Speaking during his trial in October 1962, Nelson Mandela stated: “Government violence can do only one thing and that is to breed counter-violence. We have warned repeatedly that the Government, by resorting continually to violence, will breed in this country counter-violence among the people till ultimately if there is no dawning of sanity on the part of the Government, the dispute between the Government and my people will finish up by being settled in violence and by force”.
On this day also in 1992, a young man playing in his first World Cup would slam a 37-ball 60 against New Zealand and lead his team to a win in the semi-finals. He may not have reached anywhere near his heights of 1992 in subsequent World Cup campaigns in 1996, 1999 and 2003 but in the fifteen years since, Inzamam ul Haq proved himself over and over as one of the all time one day international batting greats. His test record is even better! Exactly fifteen years later to that semi-final game in which he announced his arrival on the big stage, Inzamam played his final one-day international. It was a far cry this March 21st from that March 21st in 1992, as this World Cup has gone from bad to worse for the great man and his team: defeated by West Indies in the first game, embarrassed by minnows Ireland and then the suspicious death of their coach Bob Woolmer in his hotel room. As captain, Inzamam may be public enemy number one in cricket crazy Pakistan at the moment, but I am sure the sight of him walking off the field in tears as he bid farewell to the cricketing world today would have softened hearts towards a man who give so much to Pakistani cricket. He was a joy to watch when in full flow and beyond his cricketing prowess he was a character, from the chubby beardless young man prone to running out his partners to the bearded elder statesman who began all his interviews and press statements with a “First of all thank you to Allah” and interspersed them with numerous “Inshaallahs”. Thank you Inzamam.