Old apartheid police station now place of hope

Kitso Information Development Centre offers training courses and hot meals

By Masego Mafata (GroundUp)

On 21 March 1960, apartheid police opened fire on people protesting against the pass laws in Sharpeville, south of Gauteng. Today, the old Sharpeville police station is a place of hope.

The Sharpeville Massacre of 1960, in which 69 people died, is commemorated on Human Rights Day.

The township, 75 kilometres south of Johannesburg, has potholed roads and problems with water supply and refuse collection.

The museum commemorating the massacre and the graveyard where those killed by the police are buried are in a dilapidated condition.

But the old police station is a hive of activity. Since 2020, the Kitso Information Development Centre has been housed here, offering computer courses and life skills courses to the community. The computer courses are accredited by the Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT SETA)

A big, white sign at the main gate of the police station welcomes visitors to the centre with its motto “empower inspirationally”.

People come from all over the township, including three informal settlements, says centre manager Nicho Ntema.

“We also run a nutrition programme, providing one hot meal per day to community members, as well as breakfast and lunch for students attending our courses,” says Ntema. It provides about 270 plates of food a day.

High unemployment, poverty and food insecurity are ever present in Sharpeville, according to Ntema.

Monyane Matsose stands inside one of the greenhouses built by volunteers at the Kitso Information Development Centre.

Monyane Matsose, 31, completed the life skills and computer training programme last year and is now responsible for the centre’s vegetable garden. Vegetables are donated to community members in need and used in the kitchen for the daily meals provided.

“Before coming here, I didn’t know anything about growing and planting seedlings. Kitso helped me learn about agriculture. I have learnt skills that will help me improve my life,” says Matsose.

Kitso secretary Nkapu Ranake says the centre is funded by the Department of Social Development. She said Kitso would like to expand the number of courses offered and cater for older people as well as youth.

A mural located at the entrance of the Sharpeville Exhibition Centre.

A few metres away from the old police station are the Sharpeville Exhibition Centre and Garden of Remembrance, where monuments display the names of those who died in the 1960 massacre. The sites were opened in 2002.

Visitors to the Exhibition Centre are greeted by an old sign with fading names of heritage sites in Sharpeville. There is a bright wall mural of former ANC president Oliver Tambo, but the centre’s walls are cracked and paint is peeling.

The Sedibeng District Municipality is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the museum. In May 2010, the District Municipality awarded a contract of over R9-million to construction companies to upgrade the Exhibition Centre and its Garden of Remembrance.

Asked what was being done to maintain the site, museum guide Phoebe Rabohlale declined to comment, though the decay of the site was obvious.

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