1948 — Policy of apartheid (segregation on a racial basis) implemented when National Party (NP) comes to power.

1949- Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act passed.

1950 — The Population Registration Act demands all South Africans be registered according to their racial group: White, Black or Coloured. (According to this act, Indians fell under the Coloured category). Group Areas Act passed to residentially segregate blacks and whites. Communist Party banned. African National Congress (ANC) protests with campaign of civil disobedience, led by Nelson Mandela.

1960 — Sharpeville massacre: Police shooting at peaceful demonstrators, against laws for Africans, in Sharpeville: 69 men, women and children were killed and about 200 wounded. ANC is banned.

1961 — South Africa withdraws from the Commonwealth and proclaims itself a Republic.

1963- Mandela leads ANC’s new military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, which launches sabotage campaign against government.

1960s — International pressure against government intensifies. United Nations (UN) calls on nations to stop sale and shipment of arms and equipment until apartheid is abolished. South Africa excluded from Olympic Games.

1964 — Rivonia trial- Mandela and other ANC members sentenced to life imprisonment.

1966 — Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd assassinated.

1970s — Bantu Homeland Citizenship Act (1970) passed. More than 3 million people forcibly resettled in black ‘homelands’.

1974- South Africa expelled from the UN because of apartheid.

1976 — More than 600 killed in violent clashes between black protesters and security forces during uprising which starts in Soweto. Head of Soweto Student Representative Council (SSRC) and Black consciousness leader Steve Biko killed in police custody.

1978 — P.W. Botha, outspoken apartheid supporter, replaces John Vorster as Prime Minister.

1984-89 — Township uprising (1984-5), state of emergency.

1989 — F.W. de Klerk replaces PW Botha as president, meets Mandela. Public facilities desegregated. Many ANC activists freed.

1990 — ANC ban is lifted. Mandela released after 27 years in prison. Namibia becomes independent.

1991 — Multi party talks begin. De Klerk repeals remaining apartheid laws, international sanctions lifted. Major fighting between ANC and Zulu Inkatha movement.

1992- A referendum on ending apartheid held in South Africa on March 17, 1992. The referendum is limited to white South African voters.

1993 — New interim constitution establishing a democratic system of one person one vote. F.W. de Klerk and his successor, Mandela, win the Nobel Peace Prize for peaceful dialogue, negotiation and their joint effort to bring an end to the policy of racial segregation.

1994 — ANC wins first democratic elections. Mandela becomes president, Government of National Unity formed, Commonwealth membership restored, remaining international sanctions lifted. South Africa returns to UN General Assembly after 20 years.

1996 — Truth and Reconciliation Commission chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu begins hearings on human rights abuses committed during the apartheid era by former government and liberation movements.




Nelson Mandela at the Rivonia trial (April 20, 1964):

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society, in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”


Nelson Mandela in June 1980:

“Between the anvil of united mass action and the hammer of the armed struggle we shall crush apartheid and white minority racist rule.”



Steve Biko:

“The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”


“Apartheid- both petty and grand- is obviously evil. Nothing can justify the arrogant assumption that a clique of foreigners has the right to decide on the lives of a majority.”


Bishop Desmond Tutu, speech 1985.

“We don’t want apartheid liberalised. We want it dismantled. You can’t improve something that is intrinsically evil.




F.W. Klerk:

“The question that we must ask is whether we are making progress toward the goal of universal peace. Or are we caught up on the treadmill of history, turning forever on the axle of mindless aggression and self-destruction.”


— The writer is an intern at Gulf News