Chronography of South Africa
Page last modified 6/11/2021
For events in the rest of Africa see Africa
See also Racial Equality
Boer War (& prior events)
18/12/2017, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa defeated Ms Dlamini-Zuma in elections for the Presidency of the ANC, South Africa.
5/12/2013, Nelson Mandela died, aged 95.
16/8/2012, Striking mineworkers were fired upon by police at Marikana, South Africa. 34 miners were killed.
2004, The Africa National Congress won over two thirds of the vote; Thabo Mbeki was re-elected President.
1/6/2004, Nelson Mandela announced his retirement from public life.
2/6/1999, Thabo Mbeki (Afirca National Congress) became President of South Africa.
24/9/1993. The USA and Commonwealth lifted trade sanctions against South Africa.
16/8/1993. South Africa agreed to return Walvis Bay, its last colonial possession, to Namibia.
22/3/1993, South Africa officially abandoned its nuclear weapons programme. President de Klerk announced that the country's 6 warheads had already been dismantled in 1990.
23/6/1992, In South Africa the ANC withdrew from constitutional talks in protest at the Boipatong violence.
20/6/1992, Police fired on Black residents in Boipatong.
18/6/1992, 39 people were killed in South Africa in the Boipatong Massacre, which was allegedly by Inkatha supporters.
17/3/1992. South African Whites voted for constitutional change.
15/12/1991. F W de Klerk was under pressure at it emerged that the South African Government had given money and other assistance to the Zulu Inkatha organisation, an arch-enemy of the ANC, and had organised for Inkatha members to travel to Israel for military training.
13/12/1991, The UN ended a ban on sporting, scientific and academic links with South Africa.
20/9/1991, Clashes in South Africa between Blacks and Right-wing Whites.
14/5/1991, In South Africa, Winnie Mandela, wife of ANC leader Nelson Mandela, was sentenced to 6 years for kidnap and accessory to assault.
13/5/1991, In South Africa, Winnie Mandela was convicted of kidnapping 4 Black people.
14/12/1990. Oliver Tambo, ANC President, returned to South Africa after 30 years exile.
18/9/1990, In South Africa, Winnie Mandela was charged with kidnapping and assault.
21/8/1990, 400 killed in clashes between the ANC and the Inkatha Zulu in the Transvaal townships, South Africa.
15/8/1990, 150 were killed in violent clashes in townships outside Johannesburg, South Africa.
2/7/1990. ANC called a national strike in South Africa.
6/5/1990, P W Botha resigned from South Africa�s ruling Nationalist party in protest at talks with the Africa National Congress.
29/10/1989. 60,000 took part in an ANC (Africa National� Congress) rally in South Africa.
21/2/1989. Two members of Winnie Mandela�s bodyguard were charged with the murder of 14-year-old Stompie Mocketsi.
7/12/1988. Nelson Mandela was moved to a luxury house within the grounds of Pollsmoor Prison.
29/2/1988. In South Africa, Archbishop Desmond \Tutu was arrested for illegally demonstrating outside the Parliamentary building in Cape Town. He was protesting against the death sentence imposed on the Sharpeville Six for killing a Black Councillor.
31/12/1986, Esso announced that it was disinvesting in South Africa.
2/10/1986, The US imposed sanctions on South Africa.
7/9/1986. Bishop Desmond Tutu was appointed Archbishop of Cape Town, the first Black head of the South African Anglicans.
23/8/1986. Riots continued in Soweto, South Africa, with 13 dead and over 70 injured.
1/5/1986. 1.5 million Black workers went on strike in South Africa.
7/3/1986, South Africa lifted the State of Emergency imposed in July 1985.
2/11/1985, The South African Government imposed emergency restrictions on the reporting of unrest.
20/7/1985. State of Emergency imposed in 36 areas of South Africa.
21/3/1985. In South Africa, 19 died when police opened fire on a crowd of Black people on the 25th anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre.
3/9/1984, 14 died in rioting in Sharpeville and other Black townships around Johannesburg.
4/12/1981, South Africa created the �independent� Republic of Ciskei as a �homeland� for Black people; this was not recognised outside South Africa.
28/8/1981, South African troops invaded Angola.
23/9/1979, A US satellite recorded a brilliant double flash over the ocean between South Africa and Antarctica. A South African Navy ship was in the area, but South Africa denied it had tested a nuclear weapon. Since the 1960s, South Africa had invested in nuclear power technology, despite having abundant coal reserves.
29/9/1978, Johannes Vorster became President of South Africa.
28/9/1978. Peter Botha became Prime Minister of South Africa.
20/9/1978, B J Vorster resigned as Prime Minister of South Africa due to ill-health.
1977, The Gleneagles Agreement was signed, by Commonwealth leaders, in Scotland. It aimed to discourage sporting links with South Africa in protest at the Apartheid policy.
4/11/1977. The UN banned arms sales to South Africa.
26/10/1976. Transkei became the first South African Black homeland to gain �independence�. The UN called the exercise a sham; South Africa had effectively deprived the 1.3 million Xhosa in Transkei of South African citizenship.
6/7/1976, After the Soweto riots of 16/6/1976, the South Africa Minister for Education announced that plans for compulsory teaching in Afrikaans were to be dropped.
16/6/1976. Schoolchildren in the black township of Soweto, South Africa, began protesting against having to learn Afrikaans, the language of the then ruling white minority. Police open fire and killed a 13 year old, Hector Peterson. Nationwide demonstrations began, met by more police brutality. By February 1977 over 570 people, mostly black schoolchildren, had been killed. Resistance against apartheid hardened. Apartheid had developed in the 1930s by the Afrikaans rulers as a way of segregating blacks and whites. When the Afrikaaners gained power in 1948 they made apartheid part of the South African legal system.
1972, The AWB (Afrikaanse Weestand Beweging), or Afrikaner Resistance Movement, was formed, led by Eugene Terre�Blanche. Its aim was to preserve White control of South Africa by force if necessary.
5/2/1973, 20,000 Black workers went on strike in
22/7/1970, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia threatened to leave the Commonwealth if Britain sold arms to South Africa. On 20/7/1970 Britain had said it was willing to sell arms to South Africa for coastal defence.
22/5/1970, The Middlesex Cricket Club, under UK Government pressure, cancelled a South African tour of England.
15/5/1970, The International Olympics Committee expelled South Africa.
5/11/1969, Anti-Apartheid demonstrators invaded the pitch at Twickenham, during a game by the touring South African Springboks.
30/3/1966, In South Africa, the National Party won a large majority in elections.
6/9/1966, South African Prime Minister Dr Hendrik Voerwoerd, aged 65, was assassinated, stabbed four times in the chest by a White Parliamentary messenger, with a stiletto, because �his Government didn�t do enough for Whites�. Voerwoerd had, since 1950, created semi-independent and poverty stricken �homelands� for South Africa�s 73% Black majority, covering just 13% of South African territory; effectively creating a White majority in the remainder of the country.
17/11/1964, The UK imposed an arms embargo on South Africa because of its apartheid policy.
9/10/1964. A planned tour by the Rolling Stones to South Africa was cancelled due to the British Musician�s Union�s anti-apartheid embargo.
20/8/1964. South Africa was banned from the Olympics because of its apartheid policy.
12/5/1962, The South African General Law Amendment Bill imposed the death penalty for sabotage. A few months later it was made a criminal offence to publish anything said by a Black or White journalist whose works had been banned. In October 1962 those banned from speaking or writing publically could be put under house arrest for 5 years; they could not receive visitors or use the telephone, or communicate with any other banned person. By the end of 1962 18 such orders had been issued.
9/4/1960, David Pratt, a 52-year-old White man, fired two shots at South African President Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, wounding him.
30/3/1960, State of Emergency in South Africa after the Sharpeville riots.
25/3/1960, Following Sharpeville, all non-White political organisations, including the ANC, were banned in South Africa.
21/3/1960. South African police killed 67 Black Africans at Sharpeville, and wounded 186. The demonstrations were against the hated 'Pass Laws'. All over South Africa, Black people deliberately left their passes at home and awaited arrest. Versions of what provoked the shooting at Sharpeville, a township 5 miles north of Vereeniging, varied. According to police, a crowd of 20,000 Black people were about to storm the police station. Black witnesses said only 5,000 Blacks were present and had gone peacefully to the police station to discuss the Pass Laws. A medical expert testified that 70% of the victims were shot from behind. On 30/3/1960 South Africa declared a State of Emergency following the Sharpeville riots.
3/2/1960, UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan upset his hosts in South Africa when he called for racial equality; Macmillan was concerned that the newly independent ec-colonies of Africa and Asia would align themselves with the USSR, not the former European colonisers.
29/1/1960. Race riots in Johannesburg.
13/11/1959, In South Africa, the South African Progressive party was founded at a conference in Johannesburg.
5/7/1959. Ghana began a boycott of all South African products.
18/6/1959. There was serious rioting in Durban when police moved in on Black settlements. The police were destroying illicit stills discovered during an operation to resettle some 100,000 Black people. Rioting continued throughout June, and 4 Black people died. Property damage was estimated at �250,000. More deaths occurred in September 1959 when police opened fire on rioters.
3/9/1958, Hendrik Verwoerd became Prime Minister of South Africa.
24/8/1958, J G Strijdom, Prime Minister of South Africa, died 65. He was succeeded by Hendrik Verwoerd on 3/9/1958.
3/5/1957. South Africa dropped �God Save the Queen� as its national anthem.
5/3/1957, The Union Jack ceased to be one of the official flags of South Africa.
4/7/1955. Britain said it would return the Simonstown military base to South Africa by 31/3/1957, whilst retaining the rights to use the base.
6/4/1951, Robert Broom, Scottish-South African palaeontologist, died in Pretoria, South Africa.
11/9/1950, Death of Jan Smuts, the Boer guerrilla leader who became a British field-marshal.
16/12/1949, A quarter of a million Afrikaners attended the unveiling of the Voortrekker Memorial to South Africa�s Boer pioneers in Pretoria.
21/11/1942, J B M Hertzog, South African politician, died aged 76.
16/12/1938, The foundation stone of the Voortrekker Memorial was laid in Pretoria, see 16/12/1949.
30/3/1933, In South Africa, J B M Hertzog formed a National Coalition Government, with J C Smuts as deputy Prime Minister.
28/12/1931, Georg Marais, economics adviser to the South African Government, was born.
7/10/1931, Desmond Tutu, Anglican
priest, was born in
1927, The first traffic light was installed in Johannesburg. It was soon knocked down by a car.
30/6/1924, In South Africa, J B Hertzog, Nationalist leader, formed a Government with Labour support, following the defeat of J C Smuts� South African Party in elections.
8/5/1924, Afrikaans became the official language of South Africa.
12/3/1922, White Nationalists seized control of The Rand, South Africa�s industrial area, in protest at job losses as Whites lost their jobs to cheaper Black labour.
8/2/1921. Jan Smuts was elected Prime Minister
27/8/1919, Louis Botha, South African Boer general and first Prime Minister from 1910, died.
18/7/1918. Nelson Mandela, South African Black Rights campaigner and leader, was born (died 2013).
9/2/1916, Former Boer leader General Jan Smuts was appointed Commander of British and South African troops in East Africa.
12/1/1916, Pieter Botha,
South African President, was born in Paul Roux in the
13/12/1915, B J Vorster, President of South Africa, was born.
9/7/1915. German South West Africa (
14/4/1915. South African troops began
an offensive to clear the Germans from German South-West Africa (now
For main events of World War One see France-Germany
13/1/1915. South African troops occupied Swakopmund in German South West Africa.
14/11/1914. Lord Roberts, Boer War
commander, died whilst visiting British troops in the field in
13/11/1914. General Botha�s forces crushed the rebellion of General Christaan de Wet in the Orange Free State, opening the way to march on the German colonists of South West Africa.
13/10/1914, The Boers in South Africa, under Christian de Wet, rebelled against British rule.
1913, South Africa passed the Natives Land Act; this set aside 90% of the country for White people, who comprised less than one third of the population. Black people were pushed into �homelands�.
25/11/1913, In Natal, police opened fire on demonstrators protesting against the imprisonment of Mahatma Ghandi, killing 2 and injuring 20.
8/1/1912, The Africa National Congress (ANC) was formed in Bloemfontein, South Africa. It was originally known as the South Africa Native National Congress (SANNC), changing its name in 1923. Its aim was to restore the Zulu Nation, which had been reduced to virtual slavery by the British after the war of 1879. Pixley ka Isaka Seme was one of the founders, along with Alfred Mangena, D Montsoia and RW Msimang.
1/7/1910. South Africa became a
dominion of the
31/5/1910. The colonies of the Cape of Good Hope, Natal, the Transvaal, and the Orange River Colony united to form the Union of South Africa, see 31/5/1902.
7/12/1909, A proclamation was read on the steps of the Royal Exchange, London, announcing the creation of the self-governing Union of South Africa.
20/9/1909, The South Africa Act received the Royal Assent.
16/8/1909, The Conservative leader Arthur Balfour argued that giving equal rights to South African Black people would undermine White civilization.
27/7/1909, MPs gave the South African Union Bill its second reading, but deplored the fact that the Bill would deny the Black population the right to vote.
30/1/1908. Mohandas Ghandi, who led a campaign against the requirement for all Asian people to register, was released from a South African prison by General Smuts.
12/12/1907, Dinizulu, King of the Zulus, surrendered to the British; a Zulu rebellion had been triggered by the imposition of a poll tax.
22/3/1907. Mohandas Ghandi
1869-1948) started a civil disobedience
12/12/1906, In South Africa, the Transvaal was given autonomy with White male suffrage.
6/12/1906, Self government was granted to
23/7/1906, 1,000 Zulu rebels surrendered to British
19/7/1906, Alfred Beit, South African financier, died.
6/5/1906, British soldiers killed 60 Zulus at
26/1/1905. The world�s largest diamond
was found at the Premier Mines in
28/9/1902, 15,000 requests a week for South African gold mining permits.
4/8/1901. Gold was discovered in the South African Rand.
26/3/1902. Statesman and colonial administrator, Cecil John
Rhodes, died aged 48 in
17/7/1890. Cecil Rhodes became Prime Minister of the Cape Colony.
29/10/1889. Britain granted a charter to the British South Africa Company, under Cecil Rhodes, to colonise Bechuenaland and other parts of southern Africa.
20/9/1886. The city of Johannesburg was founded.
8/9/1886, Thousands flocked to Witwatersrand, South Africa, as public gold digging was permitted.
6/2/1886. An English carpenter, George Walker, discovered gold in the Transvaal, South Africa. Whilst digging the foundations for a cottage for a gold prospector, his shovel uncovered a seam of gold; specks of the metal had been found in rivers for the past 30 years but geologists now believed the Witwatersrand Ridge, in the Boer Republic, contained large gold fields. Boers feared a large influx of foreigners.
8/2/1884, King Cetywayo, former ruler of the Zulus, died, see 29/1/1883.
23/1/1894, King Lobengula of Matabeleland was killed.
16/4/1883, Paul Kruger became President of South Africa.
29/1/1883, King Cetywayo of the Zulus was restored to a (part of) his old kingdom by the British under Shepstone, as decided by PM Gladstone.� However Cetywayo�s enemies attacked within the week, and after a year�s fighting Cetywayo was defeated and fled to a native reserve at Ekowe, see 8/2/1884.
9/12/1881, Thomas Burgers, President of the Transvaal Republic, died (born 15/4/1834).
5/4/1881, The Convention of Pretoria; the Transvaal became effectively independent, with only nominal British sovereignty.
27/2/1881. The Boers defeated a British force at the Battle of Majuba in Northern Transvaal, killing 359 men. This was part of a force of 1,500 men that had marched into the Transvaal in December 1880.
30/12/1880, The Transvaal became a Republic, headed by Paul Kruger.
9/12/1880, After Britain had annexed the Transvaal in 1877, on this day 9,000 Boers fought for their freedom and won, see 9/12/1838, 16/12/1949.
16/12/1879, The Transvaal Republic was founded.
28/7/1879, King Cetywayo of the Zulus was captured by the British.� He was brought to London in August 1882, where Gladstone decided upon his restoration, but only to a part of his old Kingdom.� See 29/1/1883.
4/7/1879, The British routed the Zulus at Ulundi, see 11/1/1879 and 28/8/2879.
22/1/1879, Battle of Rorke�s Drift, where a few British soldiers fought off a large Zulu army. Eleven VCs were awarded for this action.
11/1/1879. The British-Zulu war began.� Lord Chelmsford entered Zululand, with 13,000 troops.� The British accused the Zulu King, Cetywayo, of fomenting revolt against the Boers and British.� The British, in December 1878, demanded reparations from Cetywayo, whilst awarding him the territory he claimed from the Boers.� See 4/7/1879..
12/4/1877. Britain annexed the South African Republic of Transvaal, to the anger of the Boer farmers. The Transvaal treasury was bankrupt following false hopes of gold and a costly war against the Black population. At the Sand River Conference in 1852 Britain had recognised the Transvaal, but now Britain claimed that the republic was unable to defend itself and that British subjects there were in danger. The Boers offered non-violent resistance, and their leader, Paul Kruger, went to London to present their case.
22/5/1874, Daniel Malan, the South African politician who was responsible for the apartheid policy, was born in Riebeck West, Cape Province.
27/10/1871. In South Africa, Britain annexed the diamond-rich region of Griqualand West.
1870, Diamonds were discovered at Kimberley.
24/5/1870, Jan Christian Smuts, South African soldier and Prime Minister, was born in Malmesbury, Cape Colony.
12/2/1869, Sir John Brand, President of the Orange Free State, concluded a second Treaty with the Basuto, thye Treaty of Aliwal North, after they had resumed hostilities following the Treaty of 3/4/1866.
3/4/1866, Sir John Brand, President of the Orange Free State,� concluded the Treaty of Thaba Bosigo with the Basuto people of South Africa, against whose incursions he had been fighting since 1865. See 12/2/1869.
27/9/1862, Louis Botha, South African military commander and first President of the country in 1910, was born near Greytown, Natal.
12/7/1856, Natal was made a British colony.
1855, The city of Pretoria was founded. The ground on which it stands was purchased from the Boers by Martinus Pretorius.
7/10/1854, Christian de Wet, Boer General, was born.
23/3/1854, Alfred Milner, British colonial administrator of South Africa, was born.
17/2/1854, Britain signed the Convention of Bloemfontein, agreeing to withdraw from territory in South Africa north of the Orange River. This left the Orange Free State for Boer settlers.
5/7/1853, The colonial administrator Cecil Rhodes, Prime Minister of Cape Colony 1890-96, was born at Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, the 7th of 11 children..� His father was a vicar.
17/1/1852, Britain recognised the independence of the Transvaal Boers.
15/7/1842, The Dutch signed a treaty agreeing that Durban was under British rule.
16/12/1838 �At the Battle of Blood River, 500 Boers defeated the Zulus under Dingaan. This was in revenge for the killing of Boer leader, Piet Retief, and other Zulu attacks on Boer settllements in February 1838. See 6/2/1838, 9/12/1838, 9/12/1880, 16/12/1949.
9/12/1838, Boer commander Andries Pretorius and his 460 men vowed to observe an annual Day of Thanksgiving if God granted them victory over the Zulus. Seven days later they met 10,000 Zulus in battle; 3,000 Zulus died for the loss of 2 Boers, and Pretorius kept his vow.
15/4/1834, Thomas Burgers, President of the Transvaal Republic, was born (died 9/12/1881).
22/9/1828, Shaka, the Zulu King who founded the Zulu Kingdom in southern Africa, was murdered, aged 41, by his brothers Dingane and Mhlangane; they now ruled jointly.
25/7/1838, Harry Escombe, South African politician, was born (died 27/12/1899).
12/4/1838, British settlers in South Africa heavily defeated the Zulus at the Battle of Tugela.
17/2/1838, The Weenen Massacre. Voortrekkers were slaughtered by Zulus near the town of Weenen, South Africa.
6/2/1838, The Boer leader, Piet Retief, was executed by the Zulu Chief Dingaan.
16/12/1837, The Zulu Chief Dingaan was defeated by a small force of Boers at Blood River.
1835, The township of Durban was laid out, named after Sir Benjamin D�Urban, then Governor of Cape Colony.
1/12/1834, The slaves of the British Cape Colony were freed; this caused resentment amongst Boer farmers who were not consulted over the move.
20/1/1834, Petrus Joiubert, South African statesman, was born (died 28/3/1900).
10/10/1825, Paul Kruger, South African politician and Boer leader, was born in Colesberg, Cape Colony.
1824, English colonists first settled at what is now Durban (see 1835).
6/12/1823, Sir John Brand, President of the Orange Free State, was born in Cape Town (died 14/7/1888).
13/8/1814, The British took over the colony of Cape of Good Hope from the Dutch.
24/1/1814, John Colenso, Bishop of Natal, was born (died 20/6/1883).
10/1/1806. Britain seized the Cape Colony (South Africa) from the Dutch, whose government in Europe was a puppet of Napoleon. The Boers were defeated at the Battle of Blaawberg. However the Boers, despite having little love for the French, seemed to like the British even less; Britain seized this colony in 1795, at the Battle of Muizenberg, but faced a Boer rebellion there in 1801 and gave it up at the Treaty of Amiens, 1802.
16/9/1795, In June 1795 a British fleet with 4,000 soldiers arrived off the Dutch Cape Colony (South Africa) to prevent the French from taking the territory. This day the British soldiers landed at Muizenberg, and the Dutch soldiers, under Governor Sluysken, largely fled without a fight. Sluyksen managed to negotiate a truce with the British, but was soon evicted from power by settlers in the interior who resisted his rule.
6/6/1781. Dutch Boer settlers in South Africa massacred black Xhosa tribesmen for the third time in three years. Dutch settlers were been expanding eastwards, and successfully enslaving or driving away the Khoisan tribes, but the Xhosa put up more resistance.
31/12/1687, The first boatload of Huguenots sailed from Holland to settle in South Africa. They took vines to start a wine industry in the new colony.
7/4/1652. The first permanent European settlement in Africa was founded by the Dutchman Jan Van Riebeck, at Table Bay. For decades earlier, since the 1500s, ships, mostly Dutch and English, had anchored here to refit their vessels for the voyage to the east. In 1620 two Englishmen, officers of the East India Company, took it upon their own initiative to possess Table Bay in the name of King James, for fear that the Dutch would claim the area and charge English ships to refit there. But London did not approve of their action and it had no effect. The Portuguese influence was declining and they were not in a position to resist the Dutch. The English seized St Helena island as a halfway house to the east. France took colonies in Madagascar and elsewhere. The Dutch settlement was the beginning of the Boer, farmer, settlers.
21/4/1634, Jan van Riebeck, Dutch surgeon and founder of Cape Town, was born in The Netherlands.
29/5/1500, Bartholomew Diaz, the Portuguese explorer who discovered the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, was drowned during a storm at sea.
23/5/1498. Vasco da Gama arrived at Calicut, southern India, after discovering a route via the tip of southern Africa.
25/1/1498, Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama visited Quelimane and Mozambique in southeastern Africa.
25/12/1497, The Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama reached the part of South Africa which he called Natal.
22/11/1497. The Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope in his search for a route to India. His fleet comprised the St Gabriel, the St Raphael, the Berrio, and a store ship. See 24/12/1524. He had set sail from Lisbon on 8/7/1497.
8/7/1497, Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama set sail from Lisbon to attempt to find a sea passage to India.
3/2/1488, Bartholomew Diaz of Portugal landed in Mossel Bay, after rounding the Cape of Good Hope (which he called the Cape of Storms).� He was the first known European to travel this far south.