CB28. SOUTH AFRICA. TIMELINE 1900 TO THE PRESENT

24 May CB28. SOUTH AFRICA. TIMELINE 1900 TO THE PRESENT

South Africa has 60 million people. About 80% of South Africans are Black Africans (48 million). During the apartheid years (1948 to 1994), the Black people lived on only 13% of the land. The Whites, Indians and Coloureds (multiracial ethnic group native to South Africa) making up 20% of the population lived on 87% of the land. Apartheid was characterised by an authoritarian political culture based on White supremacy, which ensured that South Africa was dominated politically, socially, and economically by the nation’s minority White population. According to this system of social stratification, White citizens had the highest status, followed by Indians and Coloureds, and then Black South Africans. After its introduction, apartheid became increasingly controversial, and many countries particularly those in the West began to boycott doing business with the South African government because of its racial policies. The Black South Africans were disenfranchised until 1994. Lawyer, freedom fighter and natural leader, Nelson Mandela at 71 years of age, was released in 1990 after 27 years in jail, and proceeded to unite South Africa – he never took revenge on the White people who put him in jail. Nelson Mandela’s party, the African National Congress has been in power ever since – but crime, poverty and inequality remain widespread. Many of the poor are also the White people, not only the Black people.

  1. In about 2,000 words, I will describe major events that affected South Africa from 1900 to the present.
  2. 1900 – (1902). The second Anglo-Boer War that started in 1899 continues. Britain claims Transvaal and Orange Free State from the Boers (predominantly Dutch). Treaty of Vereeniging ends the second Anglo-Boer War – the British won.
  3. 1907 – (1922) White gold workers in Transvaal strike against a plan ‘to reduce their wages and hire cheaper African and Chinese labour’. Prime Minister Louis Botha suppressed this strike. Later, the strike became a national strike, and Prime Minister Smuts sent in 10,000 troops of the newly created Active Citizens Force and declared martial law.
  4. 1910 – Following the passage of laws limiting or excluding Chinese immigration to USA (1882), Canada (1885), New Zealand (1881), and Australia (1901), the Transvaal Colony (and later the Union of South Africa) likewise barred all Chinese from immigration.
  5. 1910 – Union of South Africa – a self-governing dominion of the British empire – is formed consisting of the Cape, Natal, Transvaal and Orange Free State.
  6. 1910 – The South Africa Act enfranchised White people, giving them complete political control over all other racial groups while removing the right of Black people to sit in parliament.
  7. 1911 – Legislation is made that reserved skilled jobs for Whites. The wages of Black mine workers earned is about a tenth of the wages of a skilled White worker.
  8. 1912 – A Black civil rights movement, the Native National Congress is formed, known after 1923 as the African National Congress.
  9. 1913 – The Natives’ Land Act of 1913 defined less than one-tenth of South Africa as Black “reserves” and prohibited any purchase or lease of land by Blacks outside the “reserves”.
  10. 1913 – (1914) Campaign of civil disobedience led by Indian human rights activist Mohandas Gandhi. Gandhi led a mass movement against restrictions on Indians’ freedom of movement. After the arrest of women defying travel restrictions, 20,000 Indian workers came out on strike in their defence, closing down sugar mills, hotels and restaurants.
  11. 1914 – The National Party, a party that promoted Afrikaner (White) interests, is formed. Afrikaners are an ethnic group descended predominantly from Dutch settlers (also known as Boers).
  12. 1918 – Secret Broederbond (Brotherhood) is established to advance the Afrikaner cause. The rise of apartheid is largely designed and implemented by Broederbond members. Between 1948 and 1994, many prominent figures of South African political life, including all leaders of the government, were members of the Afrikaner Broederbond.
  13. 1919 – After World War One, ‘South West Africa’ was mandated by the League of Nations to ‘South Africa’. South West Africa remained under South African control until it attained independence in 1990 under the name of Namibia.
  14. 1923 – The Urban Areas Act introduced residential segregation and provided cheap labour for industry led by White people.
  15. 1934 – The Union of South Africa parliament enacts the Status of the Union Act, which declares the country to be “a sovereign independent state”. It removed British legal authority over South Africa.
  16. 1936 – Black voting rights revoked in the Cape; black land ownership expanded, but still restricted to 13% of land.
  17. 1944 – African National Congress Youth League is formed by freedom fighter Nelson Mandela and similar minded members.
  18. 1948 – National Party wins the elections by White electorate. Policy of apartheid (apartness) institutionalising racial segregation is adopted. Government ends military training for blacks.
  19. 1949 – The Prohibition Mixed Marriages Act is introduced that prohibited marriage between persons of different races. South Africa rejects United Nation concern over treatment of Indians.
  20. 1950 – The Immorality Act made sexual relations with persons of different races a criminal offence. Population is classified by race. Group Areas Act passed to segregate Blacks and Whites. The government tightened laws compelling Blacks to carry identity documents. Communist Party is banned. Suppression of Communism Act bans anti–apartheid activities. African National Congress Youth League responds with campaign of civil disobedience, led by Nelson Mandela.
  21. 1951 – Britain blocks incorporation of Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland into South Africa.
  22. 1951 – South Africa suspends participation in UN General Assembly.
  23. 1952 – Campaign of defiance by African National Congress Youth League begins.
  24. 1953 – The Reservation of Separate Amenities Act sets out that municipal grounds could be reserved for a particular race, creating, among other things, separate beaches, buses, hospitals, schools and universities. Signboards such as “whites only” applied to public areas, even including park benches. Black South Africans were provided with services greatly inferior to those of Whites, and, to a lesser extent, to those of Indian and Coloured people.
  25. 1956 – Nelson Mandela and 155 others are arrested for treason. Found not guilty in 1961.
  26. 1958 – Hendrik Verwoerd becomes Prime Minister.
  27. 1960 – 70 Black demonstrators are killed at Sharpeville. African National Congress is banned.
  28. 1960s – International pressure against South African government begins. South Africa is excluded from the Olympic Games.
  29. 1961 – UN Secretary General Dag Hammerskjöld visits South Africa and expresses racial concerns.
  30. 1961 – South Africa is declared a republic, and leaves the Commonwealth. Nelson Mandela heads African National Congress’s new military wing, which launches sabotage campaign. UN General Assembly refuses to recognise South Africa. African National Congress leader Albert Luthuli receives Nobel Peace Prize.
  31. 1963 – Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and 154 others are charged with treason.
  32. 1964 – 8 African National Congress activists, including its leaders Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu are sentenced to life in prison
  33. 1966 – Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, commonly regarded as the architect of apartheid, is assassinated. A uniformed parliamentary messenger named Dimitri Tsafendas (an anti-apartheid individual) stabbed Hendrik Verwoerd in the neck and chest four times before being subdued by other members of the Assembly. Hendrik Verwoerd is succeeded by John Vorster.
  34. 1970 – Black Homelands Citizenship Act authorises withdrawal of South African citizenship from Blacks. This denaturalization law made Black South Africans become citizens of (only) one of the self-governing territories.   
  35. 1970s – Black South Africans are subjected to a massive programme of forced relocation. 3.5 million people were forced from their homes, many being resettled in the Bantustans (Black homelands).
  36. 1973 – 16 Arab countries implement embargo against oil to South Africa.
  37. 1976 – Worst racial violence in history in Soweto. More than 600 killed in clashes between Black protesters and security forces during an uprising.
  38. 1977 – Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko dies in police detention; thousands attend his funeral.
  39. 1978 – Ministry of Information scandal (plan to use government resources to fight a propaganda war for the apartheid government) leads to Prime Minister John Vorster’s resignation. He is succeeded by P W (Pieter Willem) Botha.
  40. 1979 – P W Botha’s administration made concessions towards political reform, but internal unrest saw widespread human rights abuses at the hands of the government. Government recognises Black labour unions.
  41. 1983 – Parliament approves multiracial representation, excluding Blacks.
  42. 1984 – (1989) Township revolt and state of emergency. P W Botha named state president. 1983 Constitution is implemented. Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
  43. 1986 – Military attacks on African National Congress in neighbouring countries of Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. USA passes ‘Anti-Apartheid Act’, and bans direct USA-South Africa air travel.
  44. 1989 – P W Botha suffers a stroke. F W (Frederik Willem) de Klerk succeeds him as National Party leader and then as state president. As president, F W de Klerk meets with Nelson Mandela. Public facilities become desegregated. Many African National Congress activists are freed. White, Coloureds and Indians vote in parliamentary elections. Walter Sisulu and other activists released after 25 years in prison.
  45. 1990 – African National Congress becomes unbanned. At age 71, Nelson Mandela is released after 27 years in prison. The South African government, under a UN brokered peace initiative, finally agreed to give up control of Namibia (and Namibia becomes independent). African National Congress exiles begin to return to South Africa.
  46. 1991 – Start of multi–party talks. F W de Klerk repeals remaining apartheid laws. International sanctions lifted. Major fighting between African National Congress and Zulu Inkatha movement occurs.
  47. 1993 – Agreement on interim constitution. President F W de Klerk and Nelson Mandela receive the Nobel Peace Prize
  48. 1994 – African National Congress wins first non–racial elections with 63% of the vote. Nelson Mandela becomes president; and F W de Klerk becomes one of the two vice-presidents. Government of National Unity is formed. Commonwealth membership is restored. Remaining sanctions are lifted. South Africa takes seat in UN General Assembly after 20-year absence.
  49. 1995 – Nelson Mandela says he does not wish to be a candidate for president in the 1999 elections.
  50. 1996 – Truth and Reconciliation Commission chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu begins hearings on human rights crimes committed by former government and liberation movements during apartheid era.
  51. 1996 – Parliament adopts new constitution. After 2 years, the National Party (of the Whites) withdraws from coalition, saying it is being ignored. It becomes the official parliamentary opposition. Constitutional Assembly Chair Cyril Ramaphosa resigns from parliament to join the private sector.
  52. 1997 – 5 former policemen apply for amnesty before Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the 1977 killing of Steve Biko.
  53. 1998 – Truth and Reconciliation Commission report brands apartheid a crime against humanity and finds the African National Congress accountable for human rights abuses.
  54. 2000 – African National Congress prevails in general elections. Thabo Mbeki takes over as president. Recently-formed Democratic Alliance captures nearly a quarter of the votes. The Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party wins 9%.
  55. 2001 – 39 multi–national pharmaceutical companies halt a ‘legal battle to stop South Africa importing generic Aids drugs’. The decision is hailed as a victory for the world’s poorest countries in their efforts to import cheaper drugs to combat the virus.
  56. 2001 – Durban in South Africa hosts UN race conference.
  57. 2002 – Court acquits Dr Wouter Basson – dubbed “Dr Death” – who ran apartheid–era germ warfare programme. Basson had faced charges of murder and conspiracy. African National Congress condemns verdict.
  58. 2002 – Constitutional court orders government to provide key anti-Aids drug at all public hospitals. Government had argued drug was too costly.
  59. 2002 – Bomb explosions in Soweto and a blast near Pretoria are thought to be the work of right-wing extremists. Separately, police charge 17 right–wingers with plotting against the state.
  60. 2003 – Walter Sisulu, a key figure in the anti–apartheid struggle, dies aged 91. Thousands gather to pay their last respects.
  61. 2003 – Government approves major programme to treat and tackle HIV/Aids. It envisages network of drug-distribution centres and preventative programmes.
  62. 2004 – Ruling African National Congress wins landslide election victory, gaining nearly 70% of votes. Thabo Mbeki begins a second term as president.
  63. 2005 – Investigators exhume the first bodies in a Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigation into the fates of hundreds of people who disappeared in the apartheid era.
  64. 2005 – President Thabo Mbeki sacks his deputy, Jacob Zuma, in the aftermath of a corruption case. Around 100,000 gold miners strike over pay, bringing the industry to a standstill.
  65. 2006 – Former deputy president Jacob Zuma is acquitted of rape charges by the High Court in Johannesburg. He is reinstated as deputy leader of the governing African National Congress.
  66. 2006 – Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits and promises to limit clothing exports to help South Africa’s ailing textile industry.
  67. 2006 – Corruption charges against former deputy president Jacob Zuma are dismissed, boosting his bid for the presidency.
  68. 2006 – South Africa becomes the first African country, and the fifth in the world, to allow same-sex unions.
  69. 2007 – President Thabo Mbeki, often accused of turning a blind eye to crime, urges South Africans to join forces to bring rapists, drug dealers and corrupt officials to justice.
  70. 2007 – Cape Town mayor Helen Zille is elected as new leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA). Hundreds of thousands of public-sector workers take part in the biggest strike since the end of apartheid. The strike lasts for 4 weeks and causes widespread disruption to schools, hospitals and public transport. Jacob Zuma is elected chairman of the African National Congress, placing him in a strong position to become the next president. Prosecutors bring new corruption charges against him.
  71. 2008 – Wave of violence directed at foreigners hits townships across the country. Dozens of people die and thousands of Zimbabweans, Malawians and Mozambicans return home. A judge throws out a corruption case against ruling African National Congress party chief Jacob Zuma, opening the way for him to stand as the country’s president in 2009. President Thabo Mbeki resigns over allegations that he interfered in the corruption case against Jacob Zuma. African National Congress deputy leader Kgalema Motlanthe is chosen by parliament as president. A new political party is launched in Bloemfontein, in the first real challenge to the governing African National Congress. The Congress of the People – or Cope – is made up largely of defectors from the African National Congress and is headed by former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota.
  72. 2009 – Appeals court rules that state prosecutors can resurrect their corruption case against African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma, opening the way for Jacob Zuma’s trial to be resumed, just months before general election. Public prosecutors drop corruption case against Jacob Zuma. African National Congress wins general election. Parliament elects Jacob Zuma as president. Economy goes into recession for the first time in 17 years. Township residents complaining about poor living conditions mount violent protests.
  73. 2010 – South Africa hosts the World Cup football tournament, the first time it has been staged in Africa. Civil servants stage nation-wide strike.
  74. 2011 – Local elections, with opposition Democratic Alliance nearly doubling its share of the vote since the last poll. President Jacob Zuma mediates in Libyan conflict. Jacob Zuma sacks two ministers accused of corruption. Opposition Democratic Alliance picks a black woman – Lindiwe Mazibuko – as its leader in parliament. The African National Congress suspends its controversial and influential youth leader, Julius Malema, for 5 years for bringing the party into disrepute. National Assembly overwhelmingly approves information bill accused by critics of posing a threat to freedom of speech. The African National Congress says it is needed to safeguard national security.
  75. 2012 – Member of white extremist group found guilty of plotting to kill Nelson Mandela and trying to overthrow government. Police open fire on workers at a platinum mine in Marikana, killing at least 34 people, leaving at least 78 injured and arresting more than 200 others. Prosecutors drop murder charges in September against 270 miners after a public outcry, and the government sets up a judicial commission of inquiry. Former African National Congress youth leader Julius Malema is charged with money laundering over a government tender awarded to a company partly owned by his family trust. Julius Malema says the case is a politically motivated attempt to silence his campaign against President Jacob Zuma. Platinum mine owner Amplats fires 12,000 striking miners as wave of wildcat strikes shows little sign of abating.
  76. 2013 – Nelson Mandela dies, aged 95. Tributes to “the father of the nation” flood in from throughout the world.
  77. 2013 – The anti–corruption ombudsman heavily criticises President Jacob Zuma for a $20 million upgrade to his private home.
  78. 2014 – Ruling African National Congress party wins a majority in general elections. Paralympics athlete Oscar Pistorius – nicknamed the ”Blade Runner” because of his prosthetic limbs – is sentenced to 5 years in jail for killing his girlfriend.
  79. 2015 – President Jacob Zuma announces plans to limit farm sizes and ban foreign farmland-ownership in an attempt to redistribute land to black farmers – a longstanding African National Congress pledge. Power utility Eskom rations electricity to prevent power cuts, blaming years of poor maintenance. A spate of anti–immigrant attacks leave several people dead. Government receives unwelcome international attention over allegations of bribery to disgraced international footballing body FIFA to secure the 2010 World Cup, and allowing Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to visit despite International Criminal Court arrest warrant over genocide and war-crimes charges.
  80. 2016 – Supreme Court rules President Jacob Zuma violated the constitution for not repaying public money used to improve his private residence.
  81. 2017 – President Jacob Zuma dismisses widely-respected Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, leading to the country’s credit rating being cut to junk status.
  82. 2018 – President Jacob Zuma resigns under pressure over corruption charges. The African National Congress chooses veteran trade unionist and businessman Cyril Ramaphosa as his successor.
  83. 2018 – President Cyril Ramaphosa is known to be one of the richest people in South Africa, with an estimated net worth of more than US$450 million.
  84. 2020 – (to 2021) COVID–19 pandemic caused more than 55,000 deaths in South Africa.
  85. 2021 – South Africa has 60 million people.

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