Table B. Chronology of Important Events

South Africa Table of Contents

Period Description
EARLY HISTORY  
ca. 50,000 B.C. Date of archaeological remains of Homo sapiens in southern Africa.
ca. 25,000 B.C. Earliest rock art paintings in southern Africa.
ca. 14,000 B.C. Earliest archaeological evidence of San hunter-gatherers.
ca. 500 B.C. Earliest archaeological evidence of sheep and cattle herding.
ca. A.D. 300 Archaeological evidence of Iron-Age settlements south of the Limpopo River.
FIFTEENTH CENTURY  
1488 Portuguese navigator Bartholomeu Dias rounds Cape of Good Hope. Khoisan-speaking herdsmen and hunters establish trade with Europeans.
1497 Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama arrives at Cape of Good Hope en route to India.
SIXTEENTH CENTURY Portuguese ships land at Table Bay; Bantu-speaking farmers and herdsmen establish trade with Europeans.
SEVENTEENTH CENTURY  
1652 First permanent Dutch settlement at Cape of Good Hope.
1658 Dutch import slaves from Angola and West Africa.
1659 Khoikhoi revolt against Dutch encroachment.
1663 European settlement at Saldanha Bay.
1673-77 Warfare between Khoikhoi and Dutch.
1688 French Huguenots begin to settle at Cape.
EIGHTEENTH CENTURY  
1713 Smallpox epidemic devastates Khoikhoi.
1779-81 Frontier warfare; Afrikaners defeat Xhosa.
1793 Frontier warfare: Xhosa defeat Afrikaners.
1795 Britain seizes control of the Cape.
1799 First of a series of Xhosa-British wars.
NINETEENTH CENTURY  
ca. 1800 Drought- and famine-produced upheaval in Natal.
1803-06 Dutch Batavian Republic controls Cape.
1806 Britain regains control over Cape.
1807 Britain ends its slave trade; British missionaries arrive in southern Africa.
1809 Pass laws enacted.
1810 Shaka defeats Buthelezi chiefdom.
1814 London Convention; Dutch formally cede Cape to British.
1815 Afrikaner rebellion against British rule at Slachters Nek.
1816 Shaka assumes control over Zulu.
1817-28 Mfecane (or crushing); Zulu expansion, decade of upheaval.
1819 British defeat of Xhosa; expulsion of Africans between Great Fish and Keiskama rivers.
1824 First white settlement at Port Natal.
1828 Shaka assassinated, succeeded by Dingane.
  Mpondo repulse Zulu attacks; Zulu power wanes.
1828-34 Consolidation of Swazi kingdom under Sobhuza I, Sotho under Moshoeshoe I, Ndebele under Mzilikazi.
1834-35 British and colonial forces defeat Xhosa.
1834-38 Emancipation of slaves in Cape Colony after Britain abolishes slavery in its possessions.
1836-40 Great Trek begins: 6,000 Afrikaners migrate eastward from Cape Colony.
1838 Battle of Blood River on December 16 avenges Afrikaner deaths earlier that year.
1839 Voortrekker Republic of Natalia established.
1843 Britain annexes Natalia, renamed Natal.
1850 Last surviving San rock artists killed.
1852 Sand River Convention; Britain recognizes Transvaal as the independent Afrikaner South African Republic.
1854 Bloemfontein Convention; Britain recognizes Orange Free State as independent Afrikaner republic.
1856-57 Xhosa cattle sacrifices lead to famine.
1867 Diamonds discovered in Orange Free State and Kimberley.
1868 Britain annexes Sotho territory of Basutoland.
1870 Death of Sotho King Moshoeshoe I.
1872 Introduction of pass laws to control labor force in Kimberley diamond mines.
1873 Diamond diggers exceed 50,000.
1877 Britain annexes South African Republic, renamed Transvaal. Xhosa-Mfengu warfare.
1878 Britain claims Walvis Bay.
1879 Zulu defeat invading British force; British and colonial forces destroy Zulu army at Isandhlwana. Griqualand East annexed to Cape Colony.
1880 First Anglo-Boer War erupts. Cecil Rhodes establishes De Beers Consolidated Mines.
1881 Pretoria Convention recognizes Transvaal independence.
1883 Paul Kruger president of South African Republic.
1885 Cape-to-Kimberley railroad completed.
1886 Gold discovered at Witwatersrand; Johannesburg established.
1890 Rhodes prime minister of Cape Colony.
1891 German headquarters established in South-West Africa.
1892 Property qualifications reduce coloured voters in Cape.
1894 Cape Colony annexes Mpondo territory.
1895-96 Unsuccessful Jameson Raid against Afrikaner dominance in Transvaal.
1897 Part of Zululand incorporated into British colony of Natal; King Solomon ka Dinizulu exiled.
1897-98 Rinderpest epidemic decimates livestock.
1899 South African (Anglo-Boer) War.
TWENTIETH CENTURY  
1900 Britain claims Transvaal (South African Republic).
1902 May British victory; Peace Treaty of Vereeniging ends South African War.
1905-06 Last Zulu uprising against British.
1907 White miners strike against Chinese labor.
1909 British Parliament enacts the South Africa Act, proposed constitution of Union of South Africa.
1910 Self-governing Union of South Africa established within British Commonwealth.
1911 Legislation reserves skilled jobs for whites.
1912 Land Bank established to assist white farmers. South African Native National Congress (later African National Congress--ANC) formed.
1913 Natives Land Act limits black ownership to reserves.
1913-14 Campaign of civil disobedience led by Indian human rights activist Mohandas Gandhi.
1914 Government foils coup plot by Afrikaner military officers. South Africa invades German South-West Africa, Germans surrender.
1914-19 South Africa supports Allies in World War I.
1918 Founding of Afrikaner Broederbond.
1920 South Africa receives League of Nations mandate to administer former German colony, South-West Africa.
1921 Communist Party of South Africa established (later--after 1953--the South African Communist Party).
1922 Army quells miners' strike, killing 214.
1923 Natives Urban Areas Act authorizes segregation in urban areas. South African Indian Congress established. South African Native National Congress becomes African National Congress (ANC).
1925 Afrikaans recognized as South Africa's official language.
1927 Segregation compulsory in twenty-six urban areas.
1929 National Party wins national elections.
1931 Britain's Statute of Westminster affirms autonomy of South African parliament.
1934 South African parliament enacts Status of Union Act claiming full sovereignty for South Africa.
1936 Black voting rights revoked in Cape; black land ownership expanded, but still restricted to 13 percent of land.
1939 Ossewabrandwag (Ox-wagon Guard) Afrikaner paramilitary group established.
1939-45 South Africa supports Allies in World War II.
1943 ANC Youth League formed. United Party wins general elections.
1946 Army quells gold mine strikes.
1947 South Africa rejects United Nations (UN) oversight in South-West Africa.
1948 May National Party (NP) election victory based on racial issues.
August Government ends military training for blacks.
1949 January Asian-Zulu clashes in Durban and Rand area.
May South Africa rejects UN concern over treatment of Indians.
June Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act.
December Opening of Voortrekker Monument.
1950 April South Africa severs judicial appeals channels to British Privy Council.
May Population Registration Act authorizes racial classification.
June Suppression of Communism Act bans anti-apartheid activities. Communist Party of South Africa disbands (reemerges in 1953 as South African Commnunist Party).
July International Court of Justice supports League of Nations oversight in South-West Africa. Group Areas Act authorizes residential segregation.
August South African Air Force assists UN in Korean war effort, flies 10,000 missions in three years. NP election victory in South-West Africa.
December South Africa rejects UN criticism of apartheid, reasserts claim to South-West Africa. Black political organizations unite to oppose apartheid.
1951 February Britain blocks incorporation of Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland into South Africa.
May Separate Representation of Voters Act separates voting lists for whites, coloureds.
November United States-South Africa military agreement under Mutual Defense Assistance Act.
December ANC leaders petition for direct parliamentary representation, end to apartheid. UN calls for South-West African independence. South Africa suspends participation in UN General Assembly.
1952 March South African Supreme Court invalidates removal of coloureds from voting lists.
June Passive resistance campaign by ANC and South African Indian Congress; 8,000 arrested.
November Interracial violence flares. Black Defiance Campaign leaders convicted of "statutory communism."
1953 October Reservation of Separate Amenities Act strengthens apartheid in public places. Bantu Education Act limits black education. Communist Party of South Africa reactivated as South African Communist Party (SACP).
1954 August South Africa proclaims South-West Africa a province.
1955 February International condemnation of forcible resettlement of Sophiatown (most residents moved to area later named Soweto).
April South Africa quits United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) after protests over apartheid.
June Congress of the People adopts Freedom Charter based on UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights; signers later charged with high treason.
1956 February South Africa expels Soviet diplomats.
March Tomlinson Commission recommends formation of Bantustans in reserved areas.
May Industrial Conciliation Act reserves most skilled jobs for whites.
December Police arrest 156 for signing Freedom Charter.
1957 September Forty die in Sotho-Zulu violence.
1958 April Parliamentary elections increase NP majority.
1959 April Pan-Africanist Congress established.
June Racial violence erupts in Durban, lasts several months.
November Queen Elizabeth II appoints Charles Swart governor general of South Africa.
1960 February British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's "Winds of Change" speech.
March Sharpeville protests over pass laws; at least sixty-seven deaths, several thousand arrested.
1961 January UN Secretary General Dag Hammerskj÷ld visits South Africa, expresses racial concerns.
March Pretoria court acquits twenty-eight activists, including ANC leaders Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu.
May Republic of South Africa established on May 31, quits Commonwealth. Month-long police raids, 8,000 arrested.
June ANC establishes military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation); PAC establishes armed wing Poqo (blacks only).
November UN General Assembly refuses to recognize South Africa.
December ANC leader Albert Luthuli receives Nobel Peace Prize. Nelson Mandela announces campaign of sabotage against government buildings.
1962 November UN General Assembly calls for sanctions against South Africa. Nelson Mandela sentenced to five years in prison for inciting unrest, travelling abroad without a passport.
1963 May Military wings of ANC, PAC banned.
  Newly established Organization of African Unity (OAU) charter condemns apartheid.
August UN voluntary embargo on arms shipments to South Africa. Libya joins Algeria and Egypt, prohibits South African overflights.
October Rivonia trial of ANC activists begins.
1964 January Odendaal Commission recommends apartheid in South-West Africa.
March OAU funds liberation fighters in southern Africa.
June Eight ANC activists, including Nelson Mandela, sentenced to life in prison in Rivonia trial.
1966 June Government snubs visiting United States Senator Robert Kennedy.
September Prime minister Verwoerd assassinated, succeeded by John Vorster. Bechuanaland independence from Britain as Botswana.
October Basutoland independence from Britain as Lesotho. UN General Assembly terminates South Africa's mandate to administer South-West Africa.
1967 May Last British-appointed governor general and first president, Charles Swart, steps down.
September Malawi first black African state to establish diplomatic ties to South Africa.
December World's first heart transplant operation performed by South African surgeon, Dr. Christian Barnard, at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town.
1968 September Swaziland independence from Britain.
1969 May Pan-Africanist Congress founder Robert Sobukwe released after nine years in prison.
October Herstigte (Reconstituted) National Party established by white extremist wing of NP.
December International Monetary Fund agrees to $35-an- ounce "floor" for South African gold.
1970 February Black Homelands Citizenship Bill authorizes withdrawal of South African citizenship from blacks.
May International Olympic Committee (IOC) refuses recognition of South Africa (participation suspended since 1964).
1971 December Zulu Prince Goodwill Zwelithini installed as king.
1972 Black People's Convention founded to coordinate black consciousness movement role in politics. Afrikaner intellectuals protest against apartheid.
1973 November Sixteen Arab countries implement OAU embargo against oil to South Africa.
1974 NP increases parliamentary majority in April elections. Coup in Portugal signals impending independence for colonies in Africa. UN General Assembly rejects South African participation.
1975 May First television transmissions in South Africa.
November Reports of white South Africans killed in fighting in Angola.
1976 June Worst racial violence in history in Soweto; 575 reported dead.
August Turnhalle Constitutional Conference sets Namibian (South-West African) independence December 1978 (subsequently postponed repeatedly until March 1990).
1977 January Government acknowledges 2,000 South African troops in Angola.
March US corporations adopt Sullivan Principles to counter effects of apartheid.
September Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko dies in police detention; thousands attend funeral.
November UN mandatory embargo against arms shipments to South Africa. Pretoria adopts Total Strategy to counter internal and external threats.
1978 Ministry of Information scandal leads to Vorster resignation; succeeded by P. W. Botha.
1979 Government recognizes black labor unions.
1980 June Largest conventional military assault since World War II on South-West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) bases in Angola.
1981 February Asian, coloured populations win representation on President's Council.
1982 February Labor activist Neil Aggett first white to die in police custody.
March NP expels extremist wing; Andries Treurnicht forms Conservative Party of South Africa.
1983 September Parliament approves multiracial representation, excluding blacks.
November New constitution approved by whites-only referendum.
1984 Extension of UN sanctions barring military purchases from South Africa.
March Koeberg nuclear power station operational after 1982 sabotage. Nkomati Accord nonaggression pact with Mozambique.
May South Africa, Mozambique, Portugal agreement to build Cahora Bassa dam in Mozambique.
August Elections for tricameral parliament; escalating township unrest.
September P. W. Botha named state president. Implementation of 1983 constitution establishing tricameral parliament.
October Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu awarded Nobel Peace Prize.
1985 June United States ban on computer, nuclear exports to South Africa for security forces. South African commando attacks on ANC in Botswana. First in a series of nationwide states of emergency.
July Britain blocks Commonwealth sanctions.
1986 January President Botha opens Parliament with reference to "outdated concept of apartheid." Parliament repeals Pass Laws, Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act.
May Military attacks on ANC in Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
October US Congress passes Comprehensive Antiapartheid Act (CAAA) over presidential veto. Mozambican President Samora Machel killed in plane crash in South Africa. Lesotho Highlands Water Project undertaken to provide water to South Africa. Dutch Reformed Church synod declares apartheid an error.
November United States bans direct US-South Africa air travel.
1987 United States bans new investments, bank loans to South Africa. National (white) elections name Conservative Party as parliamentary opposition. Mineworkers strike by 250,000.
1988 December Angola-Namibia Accords signed in New York.
1989 January Botha suffers stroke, Frederik W. (F. W.) de Klerk succeeds him as NP leader in February; as state president in August.
February Democratic Party established as alternative to ANC. UN Transitional Assistance Group (UNTAG) prepares for Namibian elections.
July President Botha, ANC leader Nelson Mandela meet for first talks in person.
September White, coloureds, Indians vote in parliamentary elections.
October Walter Sisulu and other activists released after 25 years in prison.
November Last South African troops withdraw from Namibia.
1990 February Mandela released on February 11, after twenty-seven years in prison.
March Violent antigovernment demonstrations in Ciskei, Bophuthatswana.
April ANC exiles begin return to South Africa.
July First official meeting of Mandela and de Klerk.
August ANC declares end of armed struggle.
October Parliament repeals Reservation of Separate Amenities Act.
1991 June Repeal of Population Registration Act, Land Acts, Group Areas Act; and release of political prisoners.
July Most sanctions under US CAAA lifted. "Inkathagate" revelations of government funding for IFP. Nelson Mandela elected ANC president. IOC readmits South Africa.
September National Peace Accord agreement.
December Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) begins on December 20.
1992 January Most European sanctions lifted; UN General Assembly ends restrictions on cultural, academic exchanges.
March Whites support political reforms in referendum.
April Arms manufacturing company, Denel, formed out of portion of Armaments Corporation of South Africa (Armscor) and subsidiaries.
June Kenyan president Moi visits, signals end of African boycott. ANC withdraws from Codesa because of IFP attack on Boipatong and sub-rosa support for IFP by police. Negotiations suspended.
July Mandela charges government with state terrorism before UN and OAU; fact-finding visit by UN envoy Cyrus Vance; arrival of UN observers.
September Ciskei Defence Force fires on ANC protesters; at least 29 deaths, 200 injured.
1993 March Government proclaims nuclear weapons dismantled. Constitutional negotiations resume.
April SACP leader Chris Hani murdered by white radical. Death of ANC president Tambo.
June White radicals storm constitutional negotiations.
July President de Klerk, ANC leader Mandela visit US, jointly receive Liberty Medal. IFP, conservatives withdraw from constitutional negotiations.
August Political violence surges. US citizen Amy Biehl killed in township unrest. ANC acknowledges human rights' abuses in Angola, Tanzania.
September De Klerk, Mandela visit United States. Joint mission of ANC and South African Defence Forces (SADF) to United States to discuss military reorganization.
October Most UN sanctions lifted. Two whites sentenced to death for Hani murder.
November US CAAA repealed. Interim constitution signed by nineteen political parties, provides for 5-year Government of National Unity.
December Constitution of the Republic of South Africa ratified on December 22. Transitional Executive Council (TEC) established.
  De Klerk, Mandela receive Nobel Peace prize.
1994 January National Peacekeeping Force (NPKF) mobilized, disbanded in May. PAC suspends armed struggle, agrees to participate in national elections.
February South Africa formally relinquishes Walvis Bay to Namibia.
March TEC assumes control over Bophuthatswana after deaths in pre-election violence, and over Ciskei after police mutiny. Zulu demonstration erupts into violence at ANC headquarters (Shell House), Johannesburg; eight demonstrators killed. State of emergency in Natal, KwaZulu. Goldstone Commission report forces senior police suspensions.
April First democratic national elections held April 26-29 (April 27 first day of nationwide voting). Interim constitution implemented for five-year transition period on April 27. Violence subsides.
May Legislators elect Mandela president. Government announces Reconstruction and Development Programme. UN Security Council lifts arms embargo.
June South Africa joins Organization of African Unity, rejoins British Commonwealth of Nations, resumes participation in United Nations. British Military Advisory and Training Team assists military integration. Government proposes Truth and Reconciliation Commission to consider amnesty, compensation for human rights violations under apartheid.
July French president Franšois Mitterrand first foreign head of state to visit. Resignation of Minister of Finance Derek Keys. South African Operation Mercy shipments to Rwanda. Mandela's first state visit (Mozambique).
August Mandela speech marking 100 days in office interrupted by labor unrest.
September New Air Force Headquarters opened in Pretoria. British Prime Minister's first address to South African parliament since 1960. Violent protests by coloureds against government racial bias.
October President Mandela on state visit to United States, addresses joint session of Congress. South African officials accept salary cuts to help fund development.
November Soweto forgives US$400 million unpaid rent, utility fees. South Africa hosts first conference in Africa on implementing Convention on Chemical Weapons.
December ANC conference reelects Mandela as president. South African Ambassador Franklin Sonn arrives in Washington.
1995 January Death of Joe Slovo, minister of housing, former SACP leader.
February Constitutional Court sworn in by President Mandela. Mandela disavows reelection plans in 1999.
March Winnie Mandela dismissed as deputy minister for arts, culture, science, and technology. Unification of two-tier exchange rate; financial rand abolished. Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging (PWV) province renamed Gauteng (Place of Gold).
June Mandela claims responsibility for March 1994 Shell House shootings of IFP demonstrators. Constitutional Court abolishes death penalty.
August South Africa agrees to lease oil storage space to Iran.
November Archbishop Desmond Tutu named chair of Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Mandela denounces Nigeria's execution of human rights activists, including Ken Sarowiwa.
1996 January Mandela initiates urgent peace talks in KwaZulu-Natal aimed at ending political violence and resuming IFP participation in Constitutional Assembly.
April First public hearing of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in East London, April 15. White extremists sentenced to prison for 1994 bombings intended to derail national elections.
May Parliament approves draft final constitution. Constitutional Assembly Chair Cyril Ramaphosa resigns from parliament to join private sector.
June NP quits Government of National Unity to become official parliamentary opposition. Nearly 28,000 striking platinum mineworkers fired for defying court order to return to work.
September Former police colonel implicates former government and security officials in wide-ranging atrocities, illegal acts under apartheid.
October Former senior military officials (including a former minister of defense) acquitted of charges related to murders of antiapartheid activists.
November Free State provincial premier and Executive Committee resign following allegations of corruption and nepotism.
December President Mandela signs legislation approving final constitution, to be implemented in stages by 1999. South Africa announces plans to sever diplomatic ties with Republic of China (Taiwan) and to recognize People's Republic of China (Beijing), 1997.
1997 January Five former policemen apply for amnesty before Truth and Reconciliation Commission for 1977 killing of Steve Biko.
February South Africa's first offshore oil field, south of Mossel Bay, begins production.
March South African Navy celebrates seventy-fifth anniversary in joint naval exercises with Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay. Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, in Zaire, urges rebel-government cease-fire.

South Africa Table of Contents

Source: U.S. Library of Congress