Republic of South Africa: A Chronology

Sean O'Toole

1700 BP Agricultural revolution in sub-Saharan Africa.
200 AD Early Iron Age communities to be resident in South Africa.
1487 Bartolomue Dias (Portugese Explorer) lands at Mossel Bay near Cape of Good Hope.
1497 Vasco da Gama (Portugese Explorer) lands at Mossel Bay. The Portuguese leave under bad terms, and local inhabitants destroy a cross they had erected on shore.
1652 Jan van Riebeeck (Dutch Merchant) establishes settlement in Cape Town on behalf of Dutch East India company. Cape Town an important port on Europe-India shipping route.
1820 En masse arrival of English nationals to settle & colonise Eastern Cape.
1866 South Africa's massive diamond deposits discovered in Kimberley, Cape Province.
1870 Early "Gold Rushes" to to the Pilgrim's Rest and Barberton areas.
1879 The Zulus defeat the British for the last time in The Battle of Isandlwana.
1884-1885 During the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 European countries plot the complete colonialization of Africa.
1886 Gold discovered on the Main Reef by George Harrison on the western outskirts of present day Johannesburg.
1892 There are more than 40,000 uitlanders (foreigners) living in Johannesburg; larger than the entire Boer population of the then Transvaal Republic.
1895 Jameson Raid fails to start pro-British revolt in Boer territory.
1899 Anglo-Boer War starts. Boers invade British South Africa and besiege Ladysmith, Kimberley and Mafeking. Britain responds with an army twice the size of Wellington's at Waterloo.
1900-1902 Boer commandos respond with guerrilla warfare (a first in military history). General Kitchener puts Boers' civilian sympathisers into concentration camps. Over 20,000 women and children die.
1905 530.20 carat Cullinan I (or Star of Africa) diamond is found near Pretoria. Pear-shaped, with 74 facets, it is set in the Royal Scepter (kept with the other Crown Jewels in the Tower of London). It was cut from the 3,106-carat Cullian, the largest diamond crystal ever found.
1910 Creation of Union of South Africa, a semi-autonomous state under British colonial rule.
1912 An assembly of concerned (mostly middle class) black South Africans held in Bloemfontein in reaction to the abolition of African political rights in the Union of South Africa, and the proposed Natives' Land Bill. Out of this the SANNC (alternatively called the South African Native National Congress or the South African National Native Congress) was born.
1913 Native Land Act curtails rights to ownership of land by Black persons.
1923 The SANNC became the African National Congress (ANC).
1944 A group of University of Fort Hare (prestigious black-only University) graduates establish the ANC Youth League. Their aim was to turn the ANC from a course of passive protest to that of militant nationalism. The emphasis is on African racial pride and cultural autonomy. Prominent figures include Robert Sobukwe, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, and Oliver Tambo.
1948 Nationalist Party comes to power under Dr Malan. Ascendency to power of Afrikaaner ideology.
1949 System of formalised racial segregation (apartheid) comes into effect. Mixed marriages immediately outlawed.
1952 African Liberationist Rebellions. In Kenya the Mau-Mau rebel against British rule and gain independence in 1956, Ghana 1957, Congo 1960, Nigeria 1963.
1952 Albert Luthuli becomes president of ANC, with Nelson Mandela as deputy president. Various non-violent civil disobedience campaigns undertaken to demonstrate against new & oppressive racially biased laws.
1955 The ANC adopts the Freedom Charter which states that South Africa belongs to all those people who live in South Africa, both black and white.
1955 60,000 Black Africans evicted from Sophiatown(in Johannesburg). The area is designated a whites-only area.
1958 Dr Verwoerd elected president. Grand architect of apartheid follows a vigourous campaign of "separate development" by way of separate education, the establishment of Black independent "homelands", protectionist labour laws to ensure white job security, etc.
1960 Sharpeville Massacre in which 76 peaceful demonstrators are killed for protesting against Pass Laws - a law requiring all urban Black persons to have state sanction to be in city.
1960 The ANC & PAC (Pan Africanist Congress) banned by the government.
1961 Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) launched as military wing of ANC to answer violence with violence. Carries out numerous sabotage activities; name of country changes to Republic of South Africa.
1962 Western Deep Levels Mine is opened and becomes the deepest mine in the world reaching nearly 4000 metres (4 kms.) South Africa produces about 60% of the gold mined in the world. Many South Africans depend on gold as it is the country's main export and the nation's largest single industry and second largest employer.
1964 Rivonia Treason Trial. Leadership of ANC sentenced to life imprisonment for treason.
1976 President Vorster extends apartheid policies to Black Education, forcing black students to study some subjects in Afrikaans. Police open fire on a peaceful protest by Soweto students. Many students killed. Leads to national anarchy in which over 1000 people die, 4000 injured and 13000 arrested.
1982 Escalating conflict in Namibia & Angola. South Africa involved in anti-SWAPO efforts, as well as anti-Marxist operations in Angola (and latter Mozambique). Activities are partly funded or assisted by CIA intelligence. Cold War politics in Africa!
1984-1986 De facto civil war in most black residential areas (or townships). Characterised by media black-outs, increased police brutality, police sponsored ethnic factionalism, ANC bombings and secret service assasinations. Many multinational companies withdraw from South Africa.
1989 FW de Klerk assumes Nationalist Party power.
1990 South African government lifts its ban on the ANC. Nelson Mandela released from prison and assumes leadership of the ANC.
1991-1994 Increased tension between ANC supporters and Inkhata Freedom Party (supported largely by Zulu speaking persons). Many politically motivated murders and massacres.
1994 First ever non-racial democratic elections. The ANC, under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, became South Africa's ruling party.
1995 South Africa wins Rugby World Championship in Johannesburg.
1995 to present Truth & Reconciliation Committee (TRC) established to investigate and provide "as complete a picture as possible of the nature, causes and extent of gross violations of human rights". It is an attempt to avoid Nuremburg style trials. The commission has received over 7,000 applications for amnesty, of which 4,500 have been rejected. 125 amnesties granted to date. Revelations of state sponsored terrorism and violence elicit heated debate over the TRC's relevance. It is accused of worsening race relations.
1998 Five African nations compete in the World Cup (Nigeria, Cameroon, South Africa, Morocco and Tunisia).

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