16 December 1959 - At the annual African National Congress (ANC) conference, Chief Albert Luthuli declared that 1960 would be the "Year of the Pass", with a nation-wide anti-pass campaign to start on 31 March - the anniversary of the 1919 Anti-Pass Campaign
16 March 1960 – At a press conference, Robert Sobukwe informs the Commissioner of Police, Major General Rademeyer, that the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), which is a breakaway group from the ANC, will be protesting against the Pass Laws starting on 21 March. According to “his testimony about the launch of the Campaign,” Sobukwe declared that the campaign was made known on the 18th of March via circulars that were printed and distributed to the members of the organization.
18 March 1960 – the PAC calls on Black South Africans to leave their pass books at home and give themselves up at the nearest police station. This was done in an attempt to clog the system. Sharpeville residents awoke to find letters in their mail box instructing them to leave their pass books at home and join the PAC in handing themselves over to the Sharpeville police stations. “…when we woke up in the morning we found out that it was written that on the 21st March 1960 we should not got to work. “These letters were telling us that. We never went to work on that day”, said Elizabeth Mabona in her first public testimony about the Sharpeville massacre at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
20 March 1960 – Men were called to a meeting at the football ground, a main public space in Sharpeville, to talk about the anti pass campaign. Security policemen attended the meeting disguised as local residents and call for police reinforcements to break up the meeting. . “On the evening of the 20th, people came round to my house. They woke me…I joined the large group, marching to the police station. A crowd was already gathered there,” Says George Myubu, a police constable at the Vereeniging police station and Sharpeville resident. Task Forces ‘abducted’ Sharpeville bus drivers the previous evening so there were no buses to take people to work. So even if people wanted to go to work, they could not. 21 March 1960 –. Early on the morning residents who were on their way to work were stopped by groups of activists who were on their way to the police station and told to join them.
March in Sharpeville lead by the Pan Africanist Congress is attacked by police leading to the death of 69 people. Moments before the shooting began, witnesses positioned in front of the crowd observed the arrival of a senior officer who gave the policemen an order to open fire.
After the shooting, Segametsi Mahkanya, watched from the window of her friend’s home how the policemen inspected the dead and created evidence that would support their actions.
“I saw policemen putting stones, knives in the dead people’s hands, to make it look like they were armed and violent,” says Mahkanya. When the news reached Cape Town, a group of 1 000 to 5 000 protestors gathered in Langa. This event led to the death of two protesters by the police.
“I don’t know how many we shot”, said Colonel Piernaar, the local commander at Sharpeville. “…My car was struck by a stone. If they do these things they must learn their lesson the hard way.” African students loyal to the ANC established the African Students’ Association (ASA). Pan Africanist Congress students formed the African Students’ Union of South Africa and students who where loyal to the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM) formed other organizations. However, such organization didn’t suvive for very long since affiliation to political movements was dangerous and university authorities became hostile to student political groups.
22 March 1960 – Prime Minister Verwoerd addresses parliament and claims that the protests have nothing to do with pass laws or unhappiness with apartheid. Instead he stated the march as a ‘periodic phenomenon’ and further thanked the police for their ‘courageous and efficient manner’ in handling the situation.
Contradicting the Sharpeville residents reports of peace in Tom Lodge’s book, Sharpeville: An apartheid massacre and its consequences, South African Prime Minister, Dr. Verwoerd, tells the House of Assembly that the thousands who marched through Sharpeville kicked open doors of peace-loving people’s homes and intimidated them into marching.
Verwoerd declares a state of emergency and claims that protestors ‘shot first’
23 March 1960 – Robert Sobukwe, Kitchener Leballo and 11 other high-ranking PAC members are charged with incitement to riot. Phillip Kgosana a high school student activist leads a protest march from the Cape Town African townships to Cape Town city centre.
24 March 1960 – The apartheid government bans all gatherings of more than twelve people until 30 June in an effort to disrupt the growing protests.
Police increases presence in Sharpeville and frequent home inspections are carried out. Residents are paid to listen for and report any political conversations or organizing.
25 March 1960 - Representatives of 29 African and Asian member-states request an urgent meeting of the United Nation Security Council to consider ,"the situation arising out of the large-scale killings of unarmed and peaceful demonstrators against racial discrimination and segregation in the Union of South Africa".
27 March 1960 - The Commissioner of Police announces that the pass laws are to be suspended until “normal situation has been restored”, Chief A. J. Luthuli announced that he will burn his pass. The Police Commissioner says, “that the pass laws are not being suspended to appease the unfounded protests of Bantu agitators, but because the jails can no longer accommodate the many Africans who present themselves for arrest by openly violating the pass laws.”
28 March 1960 - ANC calls a nation-wide stay-at-home in protest against the events in Sharpeville.
Pass books are burned across the country. O. R. Tambo leaves South Africa illegally on the instruction of the ANC to lobby for intensification of economic and political sanctions
Chief Albert Luthuli publicly burns his pass.
30 March 1960 – A state of emergency is declared and over 11 000 people are detained. The United Nations Security Council begins discussions on South Africa
31 March 1960 – The government mobilizes four more regiments of the white’s only Citizen’s Force
1 April 1960 – The United Nations Security Council adopts Resolution 134 that calls upon the South African government to abandon its apartheid policies and general discrimination. The resolution was passed with nine in favour and France and the United Kingdom abstaining. The Sharpeville incident changed the worldwide view of South Africa. The Security Council recognized apartheid as a threat to world peace and security.
5 April 1960 – The Torch and The New Age newspapers are banned by the government
6 April 1960 – The pass law is reinstated 7 April 1960 – The government passes the Unlawful Organisations Act which will allow the minister to ban any organisation that it deems furthering the ideas of communists).
The introduction of the Extension of University Education Amendment Act, Act No 34, which prohibits Black students from attending White universities and for the government to establish separate universities for Indians and coloureds and ethnic universities for black South African students.
8 April 1960 – The ANC and PAC are banned. Justice Minister Erasmus states there can be no political organisation among urbanised Africans
9 April 1960 – David Pratt attempted to assassinate prime minister Verwoerd . Verwoerd made a full recovery. Foreign consulates were flooded with requests for emigration and fearful whites rush to buy arms. The Minister of Native Affairs declared that apartheid was a model for the world. The Minister of Justice called for calm and the Minister of Finance encouraged immigration.
11 April 1960 – In a further clampdown on the press Myrna Blumberg, a correspondent for the New York Post and London Daily, was detained and restricted