4/ Source "E" could be clouded by the writers emotions and though this helps us to understand the effect the massacre had it does not actually help us with understanding the facts. As a news article it may have been dramatised a little, good stories make bigger profits after all and there are no other reports to compare his to. He is an eye witness however and this primary source, however emotive is a first hand account. We still to have remember this was only one man's interpretation and he could not possibly have seen everything going on.
Photograph "G" is obviously real. This is a genuine captured image but not a lot is visible. Everyone is running away and someone in the foreground appears to be carrying someone else over their back. I can see no bodies or distinguish who the police are, though presumably they are in the middle of the scene behind the people who are running with their backs towards the police. The angle from which this picture was taken suggests the photographer was lying in the ground. I think it safe to assume this was because shots were being fired at the time. But like any photograph it is open to interpretation and we can not observe what the police are doing, or what the crowd was doing at that moment in time. I would argue that source "E" is more useful because of its superior detail. "G" does bear out the theory that the crowd was not as huge as the authorities tried to make out but the only other fact that I saw as semi-useful was that the crowd was running away. This joined with the medical evidence that people were shot in the back confirms what we already know. Source "E" coontains a detailed account of the police action, which differs slightly form other sources and testifies to the brutality of the murders.
5/ There was an attitude of racism within the white South African authorities. The regime of apartheid resembles the attitude of Nazis towards Jews in the second World war. The Boers refused to abolish slavery long after their British neighbours had. Their superiority is evident in source "H" where the Sharpeville police commander describes the "native mentality" of the black African and that "For them to gather means violence". He does not even think he might have been wrong. He did not feel that he had to defend his actions and give a reasonable explanation. In his eyes a scratch on his car allowed the murders of 69 protesters.
Though Colonel Piernaar does not even try to cover up the incident at least he is honest, which is more than can be said for the Prime Minister, Dr Verwoerd. Just the next day the crowd had suddenly been multiplied by around five times. He stated that 20,000 violent demonstrators created a serious disturbance and the number of fatalities was also reduced in the interests of public and international relations. In his statement he says "the police had to answer fire", blatantly ignoring the facts of the situation and skipping the more gory detail.
Five days later source "J" was issued from foreign embassies which lied about the protesters carrying "assorted weapons, including fire arms". Whether this was a planned conspiracy or if it was just amused by the politicians that these natives who they saw as violent savages, are not capable of gathering for a peaceful protest. The statement also talks of a similar incident of the killing by battering of 9 policemen near Durban. It seems that the authorities are unable to see that just because some blacks were violent, that others may not be. They label a whole culture with a negative stereotype. The white authorities seem to think that they have more rights than the native people of the land who had lived there for centuries.
Sharpeville was not an isolated incident. The authorities appear to have a 'shoot first, ask questions later' disposition. On the same day as the Sharpeville massacre in the Langa township at the Cape, 49 were wounded and two people killed when the police responded with bullets after the crowd through stones as a consequence of being baton charged.
However these three different accounts are not identical. Each has been issued by a different person and for different reasons. Source "H" is a statement issued by the police commander, Colonel Piernaar. He was speaking soon after the shootings and to me appears stupid. He not only ordered the merciless shooting of 69 people but does not see the consequences that his actions have. He does not appear to realise how the international community would react to such a statement and is simply recounting the events of the day, and to put across his views that natives mean trouble. He is working, or more likely beating the people everyday and he does not see this as anything out of the ordinary.
Source "I" is the Prime Minister, Dr Verwoerd, addressing parliament. He can see that he must give a reason to justify the disaster at Sharpeville. He invents a bigger crowd and makes the situation sound as though a confrontation was unavoidable. He has to answer the question "why" and win over his own people and try to convince his political opponents. He would have also been aware of the possibilities of attacks by black nationalists and by raising the numbers of the crowd it makes the police look more powerful, almost invincible. Even if there were 100 police that still leaves them out numbered 20 to 1.
Source "J" was released from South African embassies around the World. It is aimed at persuading the international community that they have not committed genocide. South Africa relies on other countries for its trade and if other countries were to think that they were in the habit of shooting dead women and children who are protesting for human rights then they might introduce sanctions. Naturally South Africa and its leadership do not want this so they lie about what actually happened at Sharpeville. It also tries to discredit claims that these so called protests are peaceful and renames them "mobs".
6/ I find that the first interpretation, the extract from Nelson Mandela's autobiography, is supported by the majority of the evidence. "The demonstrators were controlled and unarmed. The police opened fire on the crowd and continued to shoot as they turned and ran in fear. It was a massacre". I do not believe that "The police were under attack and opened fire in self-defence" is what really happened .
Though it seems possible that crowd did through a few stones, the evidence only accounts for three policemen being hit (source "E") and one stone hitting the commanders car. That only adds up to 4 stones. That does not constitute "assorted weapons, including fire arms (source "J") or "ferocious weapons" (source "E"). They were not armed, not "even with sticks" (source "F"). The accounts of the event given by the authorities were too exagerrated and creative with the truth.
There is actual physical evidence for the fact that police went on shooting when the people fled. "all those being treated in hospital had been shot in the back" (source "F"), and this was backed up by the people shot, doctors and medical records. Many of the bodies also had the entry wounds on their back. There is also written accounts of the police continuing to shoot when the crowd had turned tail, "One little boy had an old black coat held up behind his head" (source "E").
There was no solid reason for the action of the police, they were not in danger and did not have to respond with deadly force. Sixty nine people were left lying dead, it was a massacre.
7/ There is more than just one reason why people disagree about what happened at Sharpeville on the 21st March 1960. The first is that they do not really know for sure. With only one reporter present, and because it all happened so quickly and unexpectedly, people did not know what was going on. People have interpreted the days proceedings differently and much of the information is second or third hand. Some are a mixture of many peoples memories, which, as we are all only human can be unreliable and fade over time.
The second is reason for the many unknowns about the days events and conflicting and disagreeing views of the attitude of the authorities at the time. The incident was covered up in a conspiracy by the police and government to hide the truth from the World. Crowd numbers and actions were exaggerated. Details were made up, that the crowd was armed for example. If as one source suggests, a young policeman lost his nerve and began firing then the authorities would want to cover up evidence. They also saw an opportunity to discredit peaceful protests and the nationalist movement by suggesting they were violent and forced people to leave passing behind, kicking down doors and forcefully picketing bus depots.
The third is that those who support the nationalist movement may be unwilling to understand that this was anything but a peaceful protest and that there might have been even the smallest amount of a disturbance. They insist that it was all the polices fault and that the crowd was totally innocent.