South African Constitutional Development Timeline 1902 - 1997

1902
31 May, The Peace Treaty of Vereeniging ends the Anglo-Boer War that began in 1899. The Treaty is signed between Boer and British leaders.
1908
12 October, The first National Convention representing the exclusive interests of whites sits to negotiate South Africa's first constitution.
1909
19 August, The South Africa Act, South Africa's first constitution is passed by the British House of Commons despite petitions and protests from the African majority.
1910
31 May, The Union of South Africa is inaugurated. This marks the political disenfranchisement of the African majority.
1912
8 January, The African National Congress (ANC) is formed.
1928
December, The South African Communist Party (SACP).sows the seeds of the concept of black majority rule with their rallying call of a ‘Native Republic’
1941
August, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill sign the Atlantic Charter. This Charter laid the basis for a bill of rights in South Africa.
1955
26 June, The Congress of the People adopts the Freedom Charter.
1957
28 May 1957 - Chief Albert Luthuli writes to J. G. Strijdom, South Africa's Prime Minister, pleading for the establishment of a non-racial convention.
1960
16 December, The Consultative Conference of African Leaders is held in Orlando, Soweto. This Conference makes a call to all African people to attend an All-in Conference, the purpose of which would be to demand a National Convention representing all the people of South Africa.
1961
25-26 March, The All-in African Conference is held in Pietermaritzburg, Natal. This Conference resolves:
1. We declare that no constitution or form of government decided without the participation of the African people who form an absolute majority of the population, can enjoy moral validity, or merit support either within South Africa or beyond its borders. 2. We demand that a National Convention of elected representatives of all adult men and women on an equal basis irrespective of race, colour, creed or other limitation, be called by the Union government no later than 31 May 1961; that the convention shall have sovereign powers to determine, in any way the majority of the representatives decide, a new non-racial democratic constitution for South Africa.'
20 April, Nelson Mandela writes to H. F. Verwoerd, referring to the rising tide of unrest in many parts of the country. In his letter Mandela states that he was directed to write that 'It was the earnest opinion of Conference that this dangerous situation could be averted only by the calling of a sovereign national convention representative of all South Africans, to draw up a new non-racial and democratic Constitution.'
31 April, South Africa is declared a Republic.
1976
16 June, Uprisings (known as the 16 June Uprisings) by pupils protesting against the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of teaching in schools.
1985
November, Mandela writes to his prison warden. His request for a meeting with the government is ultimately positively received.
1989
1 April, United Nations Resolution 435 of 1978 is implemented, beginning Namibia's transition to independence.
5 July, Nelson Mandela meets with P. W. Botha. In a document prepared for this meeting, Mandela states that 'I now consider it necessary in the national interest for the African National Congress and the government to meet urgently to negotiate an effective political settlement.'
21 August, The African National Congress's Harare Declaration is adopted by the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
September, A Defiance Campaign and marches are organized by structures of the Mass Democratic Movement in the United Democratic Front.
15 October, Several African National Congress leaders are released from prison.
8 December, The Conference For A Democratic Future takes place with a meeting of 6000 representatives of the Mass Democratic Movement, and passes a resolution in favour of negotiation.
12 December, Nelson Mandela writes his first letter to F. W. de Klerk after a meeting with Ministers Kobie Coetsee and Gerrit Viljoen. Once again, Mandela warns of an urgent need for negotiations to take place. The ANC's National Executive Committee (NEC) meets in Lusaka and resolves to consider the option of a negotiated settlement.
1990
2 February, F. W. de Klerk delivers a speech at the opening of Parliament announcing the unbanning of the African National Congress, the South African Communist Party, and other liberation movements.
12 February, Nelson Mandela is released from prison.
27 April, The first group of African National Congress leaders returns to South Africa from exile.
2-4 May, The Groote Schuur Accord: the National Party (NP) and the African National Congress (ANC) agree on a common commitment to the resolution of the existing climate of violence and intimidation as well as a commitment to a process of negotiations. Temporary immunity is granted to members of the National Executive Committee and other specific members of the ANC. The NP undertakes to review security legislation, to work towards lifting the state of emergency, and to establish channels of communication between themselves and the ANC.
6 August, The Pretoria Minute: the National Party (NP) and the African National Congress (ANC) agree that further releases of political prisoners will start on 1 September 1990; indemnity will be granted to persons as of 1 October 1990. The ANC unilaterally agrees to suspend all armed actions ‘In the of moving as speedily as possible towards a negotiated peaceful political settlement. Finally the way is open to proceed towards negotiations on a new constitution.
1991
12 February, D.F Malan Accord; the African National Congress’s (ANC) undertaking to suspend all armed action is further defined to mean that there will be no armed attacks, or threats of attacks, infiltration of personnel and material, creation of underground structures, statements inciting violence, and training inside South Africa. It is further agreed that: membership to uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the ANC's military wing, will not be unlawful; individual weapons will be licensed in terms of existing legislation; and the right to peaceful demonstrations will be maintained.
June, The 'Inkathagate Scandal' and revelations about South African Defence Force involvement in death squads and the ongoing violence emerge. In response, the African National Congress suspends all bilateral meetings with the regime.
31 July, An ANC National Executive Committee meeting demands the installation of an Interim Government. The African National Congress’s National Working Committee is instructed to begin laying the basis for the convening of the All Party Congress.
August, The National Working Committee of the African National Congress establishes the Negotiations Commission as a sub-committee.
14 September, The National Peace Accord is signed. This is the first multi-party agreement.
25 September, Ideas on Interim Government are developed. The African National Congress's Negotiations Commission holds a workshop to develop its position on an interim government.
October, The Process of Multi-Party Negotiations is initiated: the National Working Committee NWC instructs the Negotiations Commission to arrange bilateral talks with all other parties about the convening of the All Party Congress. Bilateral discussions are then initiated with, inter alia, the National Party (NP), the Labour Party, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), parties operating in the homelands, and the governments of Venda and the Transkei. Bilateral meetings take place between the African National Congress and the NP government on 17, 24, and 31 October.
25-27 October, The Patriotic Front (PF), a loose alliance of parties which have held an anti-apartheid position is launched. The PF Conference agrees on a joint programme for the negotiated transfer of power. It is agreed that: only a constituent assembly elected on the basis of one-person-one-vote in a united South Africa could draft and adopt a democratic constitution; a sovereign interim government will be established, which should at the very least control security forces and related matters, the electoral process, state media, and defined areas of budget and finance, as well as secure international participation; the All Party Congress should be held as soon as possible.
2-12 November, The African National Congress (ANC) prepares for the All Party Congress (APC). Towards this end, the ANC consults with the Pan-Africanist Congress, the Azanian Peoples Organisation, the Democratic Party, homeland leaders, Mass Democratic Movement organisations, religious leaders, and the National Party government. Broad agreement is reached. The first meeting of the APC is scheduled for 29 and 30 November 1991; its agenda includes: a climate for free political participation; general constitutional principles; a constitutional-making body; interim government; the future of TBVC (Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, Ciskei) states; the role of the international community, if any; and time frames.
15 November, The first scheduled All Party Congress (APC) cannot take place: the preparatory meeting for the APC scheduled for 15 November does not go ahead. The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) insists that this meeting be attended by only the oanl National Party, the IFP, and the African National Congress (ANC). The ANC proposes that all parties be allowed to attend. This meeting is postponed to 20 November.
20 November, The scheduled All Party Congress (APC) preparatory meeting is again postponed, this time to 29 November. The Inkatha Freedom Party I(FP) is opposed to the convenors of the All Party Congress including two religious leaders, Johan Heyns and Stanley Mogoba; the IFP wants the Chief Justice to convene this meeting on his own.
29-30 November, The All Party Preparatory meeting takes place. Twenty organisations and parties attend. It is decided that the name of the All Party Congress be The Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). It is agreed that the first meeting of CODESA will take place on 20 and 21 December 1991. For instances in which consensus fails to emerge, the principle of 'sufficient consensus' as a decision-making mechanism is agreed to. The Pan African Congress walks out of CODESA ten minutes before the end of the meeting, accusing the African National Congress of 'selling out'.
20-21 December,The first meeting of Convention for a Democratic South Africa takes place. The meeting adopts a Declaration of Intent. All parties with the exception of the Inkatha Freedom Party and the Bophuthatswana government sign the Declaration, The National Party apologizes officially for the policy of apartheid and confirms for the first time that the party is prepared to accept an elected constituent assembly provided that it also acts as an interim government. Nelson Mandela also launches his fiercest public attack on F. W. de Klerk.
1992
February, The NP accepts the ANC's demand for an Interim Government and the principles that a new South Africa be non-racial, non-sexist, and democratic. Working Group 2 produces an initial agreement on general constitutional principles. The regime, however, remains insistent that uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) be disbanded. The ANC's position is that only an Interim Government can decide the fate of MK.
17 March, An All-White Referendum is held. The NP government receives overwhelming support for reform.
March, The ANC submits proposals for a two-phased Interim Government. Phase 1 should see the appointment by CODESA of an Interim Government Council to oversee the activities of the present government. Multi-party committees should take control of key functions such as law and order, defence, finance, and foreign affairs. Phase 2 (after elections) would then see the establishment of the constituent assembly and the interim government.
23 March, The ANC tables proposals for an Interim Media Structure. The proposals argue that the media has a central role to play in levelling the political playing field. It is proposed, therefore, that an Independent Media Commission be established.
7 April, Initial agreements emerge. Negotiations produce initial agreement that interim government should take place in two stages: the first stage would consist of the formation of a Transitional Executive Council (TEC); the second stage would commence after the elections and consist of the interim government and constituent assembly The TEC would be multi-party in form and would function alongside the existing tricameral parliament. Multi-party sub-committees of the TEC with executive powers would be established for key areas of government.
27 April, A special sub-committee recommends special, but not equal, participation by Traditional Leaders in the negotiations.
4 May, On the question of reincorporation, the CODESA task group dealing with reincorporation recommends unanimously that the TBVC states be reincorporated into South Africa provided that the will of those states is tested in the upcoming non-racial elections.
May 1992 (first week) - Parties prepare for CODESA II. (CODESA's second plenary session) to take place on 15 and 16 May. Many issues still remain unresolved. The ANC hopes to achieve agreement at CODESA II on a two-phased interim government.
15-16 May, CODESA II deadlocks on the question of a constitution-making body. Technically, the deadlock manifests itself around the question of the special majorities required to adopt a final constitution. After consultations with other members of the Patriotic Front, the ANC puts forward a compromise proposal.
26 May, The ANC holds its National Negotiations Consultative Forum. This meeting confirms the withdrawal of the ANC compromise position.
28-31 May, The ANC holds its national Policy Conference. The Conference provides guidelines for the transfer of power to the majority leading to the transformation of society. The Conference insists on various conditions before an election and a single-chambered Constitutional Assembly allowing for a two-thirds majority for decision-making. It also asks for the drafting of a ‘Transition to Democracy Act' as the transitional constitution.
17 June, A massacre of more than forty people occurs at Boipatong.
23 June, Bilateral and multilateral negotiations are broken off. The ANC's National Executive Committee holds an emergency meeting to discuss the implications of the massacre. While it reaffirms its commitment to a negotiated settlement, it also resolves to break off all negotiations (both bilateral, with the NP government, and multilateral), makes fourteen demands, and accuses the regime of complicity in the violence.
26 June, The ANC sets out its demands in a memorandum to F.W de Klerk.
2 July, de Klerk responds to the ANC'S 26 June memorandum, denying government complicity in the violence and refusing to commit the government to the principle of majority rule. Nevertheless, the NP disbands Battalions 31 and 32, and Koevoet; refers the future of hostels to the Goldstone Commission; issues a proclamation banning dangerous weapons; and agrees to international monitoring of the violence.
15-16 July, In the announcement of an unprecedented Mass Action campaign, the Tripartite Alliance (the ANC, the SACP, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions) commits itself to a month of rolling mass action in support of its demands.
2 August, The United Nations Security Council holds a special session to debate the violence in South Africa. The UN adopts special resolution 765 calling for a special representative of the Secretary General, Cyrus Vance, to visit South Africa.
August, The United Nations Monitoring Committee arrives in South Africa to monitor the ANC's Mass Action Campaign. They attend various marches and demonstrations. Vance meets Pik Botha and voices concern over political prisoners, asking for their release. Botha responds by linking this to the question of a general amnesty, the abandonment of armed struggle, MK arms caches and ANC underground units.
31 August - 2 September 1992 - The National Working Committee of the ANC chooses its Secretary General to establish a channel of communication between the ANC and the apartheid regime. This 'channel' of communication replaces the official bilateral meetings and is meant to enable necessary communication between the ANC and the NP to continue.
7 September, Massacres occur at Bisho where many protesters opposing the government of Ciskei are killed when soldiers open fire.
26 September, At a summit between the apartheid regime and the ANC a Record of Understanding is agreed to. This Record of Understanding deals with agreements relating to the Constitutional Assembly, interim government, political prisoners, problematic hostels, dangerous weapons, and mass action.
23-25 November, The ANC and the NP come to an agreement to resume bilateral negotiations. As part of the process of resuming negotiations, the ANC embarks on a series of meetings with various parties. The ANC meets with the members of the Tripartite Alliance, the Patriotic Front, the DP, and the Afrikaner Volksunie (AVU). The National Executive Committee of the ANC meets at a special session focusing on negotiations and the heed to curb violence. This meeting adopts a position paper on strategic perspectives, signalling the ANC's willingness to make compromises.
28 November - Four dinner guests killed and 23 guests injured by mainly hand grenade shrapnel at King Williamstown Golf Club.
5 December, Parties involved in discussions toward an interim government hold ‘bosberade’ (secluded meetings). The first of a two-part bilateral is held between the ANC and the NP regime. The first part deals with matters relating to security and violence, and the second part to elections, media, regional and local government, TBVC states, and the transitional constitution. The second part of the bilateral with the NP takes place between 20 January and 4 February 1993. The discussions are divided into two parts. It is agreed to propose to each of the principals that a multi-party negotiation planning conference be held in March. The purpose of this conference would be to plan the resumption of multilateral negotiations.
16-18 February 1993 - The ANC's National Executive Committee (NEC) meets and adopts a Resolution On Negotiations And National Reconstruction. The NEC also endorses proposals for the holding of a multi-party negotiation planning conference on 5 and 6 March with a view to the resumption of multi-party negotiations.
4-5 March 1993 - The Negotiations Planning Conference is held at the World Trade Centre in Kempton Park, Johannesburg. Twenty-six parties, administration, organizations, and traditional leaders attend. A resolution calling for the resumption of negotiations is adopted. It is agreed that a multi-party negotiating forum will take place on 1 and 2 April 1993. The purpose of this meeting is to chart the path of the multi-party negotiations.
1993
27-28 March, The Patriotic Front meets. This meeting serves to secure consultations with all structures of the Mass Democratic Movement in developing a common perspective on the way forward in talks toward an interim government and a resolution is adopted accordingly. The PAC and AZAPO refuse to attend this meeting.
1 April, The Multi-Party Negotiating Forum meets. Twenty -six participants meet including the PAC, the Conservative Party (CP), and the Afrikaner Volksunie (AVU). The success of this meeting is reflected in the fact that it is able to complete two days of scheduled work in one. The meeting defines the issues to be dealt with at the multi-party negotiations.10 April 1993
Chris Hani is assassinated.
22 April, The Tripartite Alliance meets, and resolves to make the following demands: that there be an immediate announcement of a election date; that the Transitional Executive Council (TEC) be installed as a matter of urgency; and that all armed formations be placed under immediate joint multi-party control. The ANC also calls for the negotiations to be sped up.
26 April, The First Planning Committee of the Multi-Party Negotiations process meets and prepares a report relating to all agreements and discussions of CODESA.
30 April, Technical committees in the Multi-Party Negotiations process are formed: the report of the Planning Committee contains proposals on violence, the Independent Electoral Commission, state and statutorily controlled media, repressive and discriminatory legislation, and the TEC and its sub-councils. The Negotiating Council resolves to establish six Technical Committees to consider the various issues. The Technical Committees are composed of six people each, none of whom are representative of any political organisations or parties. This marks a change from the style of negotiations adopted during the CODESA period.
18 May, In working toward an interim government, the Negotiating Council considers a further report by the Planning Committee. The report proposes the establishment of two further Technical Committees. The Planning Committee also approves a draft resolution to be adopted noting an urgent need to inspire confidence in the negotiating process and the ability to resolve problems peacefully. Accordingly, the resolution commits parties to ensuring that the negotiating process makes progress such that an election date is set within the following five weeks; also, that the election should take place no later than the end of April 1994.
1 June, In working toward an interim government, the Negotiating Council agrees that sufficient progress has been made to enable it to agree to 27 April 1994 as the date for South Africa's first ever non-racial elections. The Council instructs the Technical Committee on Constitutional Matters to draft a transitional constitution that will lead to the drafting and adoption of a final, democratic constitution by an elected Constitutional Assembly.
15 June, The entire Concerned South Africans Group (COSAG) stages a walkout from the Negotiating Council, only to return to the next meeting of the Negotiating Council. The IFP submits a resolution calling on the Council not to consider any of the constitutional principles recommended by the Technical Committee, and to consider proposals for a federal constitution. This is rejected in a vote. The PAC abstains from this vote. Parties have been given the opportunity until this day to secure greater consensus for the resolution calling for an election for 27 April 1994. The resolution is accordingly confirmed.
22 June, In working toward an interim government, the Negotiating Council unanimously adopts a resolution constituting a Declaration on the suspension of hostilities, armed struggle, and violence. The Negotiating Council accepts the recommendations made by the Technical Committee on Violence and passes a resolution in terms thereof. In a Resolution on the Independent Electoral Commission and the Independent Media commission, the Negotiating Council calls for the establishment of these Commissions.
23 June, After several months of preparation a summit between Nelson Mandela and Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the IFP takes place. A joint undertaking that would pave the way for free political activity, joint rallies, agreement on the strengthening of the Peace Accord, and greater liaison between the ANC and the IFP in negotiations arises from this meeting.
2 July, In working toward an interim government, the Negotiating Forum meets at last, vindicating the calls made in the Harare Declaration. Agreement is reached at this meeting on the following steps towards a new constitution:
(1) The Multi-Party Negotiating Process (MPNP) shall adopt constitutional principles providing for both strong regional government and strong national government;
(2) these constitutional principles shall be binding on the constituent assembly and shall be justiciable by a constitutional court;
(3) a Commission on Delimitation/Demarcation will make recommendations on regional boundaries for the purposes of elections and regional government during the transitional period;
(4) the MPNP shall agree on legislation to make provision for the levelling of the playing field and promoting conditions conducive to the holding of free and fair elections;
(5) the MPNP shall agree on details of discriminatory legislation to be repealed;
(6) the MPNP shall agree on a transitional constitution (i.e., a Transition to Democracy Act).
26 July, In working toward an interim government, the Technical Committee on Constitutional Matters produces its Draft Outline of a Transition Constitution for discussion by the Negotiating Council.
31 July, In working toward an interim government, the Commission for Delimitation of Regions tables its report for discussion in the Negotiating Council on 2 August 1993. This report contains various criteria on the basis of which it recommends nine regions: Northern Transvaal, PWV (Pretoria, Witwatersrand, Vereeniging), Eastern Transvaal, KwaZulu/ Natal, Orange Free State, Northwest Transvaal, Northern Cape, Western Cape, and Eastern Cape/Kei.
25 August, In working toward an interim government, the Technical Committee dealing with the TEC Draft Bill tables its eleventh working draft for discussion in the Negotiating Council.
25-28 October, In a Bilateral between the ANC and the NP to finalize agreements on the interim constitution, agreement is reached on a Government of National Unity, a provision agreeing to two deputy presidents, the required percentage to elect a deputy president, and the right to membership in the cabinet. The NP abandons its claim to a veto over decisions of cabinet.
16 November, In a last-minute bilateral between Nelson Mandela and F. W. de Klerk, agreement is reached on the final issues required to complete the interim constitution. The agreements reached come to be known as the 'Six-Pack' Agreement.
18 November, The ratification of the Interim Constitution by the plenary of the MPNP comes in the early hours of the morning of 18 November 1993.
1994
January, In working toward an interim government, the Transitional Executive Council is established.
1 March, The ANC agrees to International Mediation. This agreement is reached with Nelson Mandela and Mangosuthu Buthelezi on condition that the latter agrees to provisionally register the Inkatha Freedom Party for the elections: Before the international mediators can begin, however, disagreement wrecks the initiative.
March, Ciskei and Bophuthatswana collapse under the pressure of internal discontent and are reincorporated into South Africa.
27-28 April, South Africa's first ever non-racial, democratic election takes place.
9 May, The Constitutional Assembly is established, made up of 490 elected members.
August, Constitutional Assembly Administration is established to support and facilitate the process of negotiation.
June, The Constitutional Committee is established. This becomes the premier multi-party negotiating body in the Constitutional Assembly.
September, Six theme committees are established to receive and collate the views of all parties on the substance of the constitution.
1995
January, An advertising campaign inviting public views on the new constitution is launched.
19 September, The first consolidated draft of the new constitution is produced.
November, The first refined working draft of the new constitution is published. This provides the public with its first glimpse of what the complete text will look like.
1996
15 February, Sixty-eight outstanding issues require settlement before the new constitution is complete.
14 March, Five deadlock issues require agreement: the death penalty, the lockout clause, the clause on education, the appointment of judges, and the Attorney General.
20 March, Concern about completing the constitution in time is mounting. The fourth edition of the working draft is produced, and many issues remain unresolved. It is uncertain whether the Constitutional Assembly will be able to complete its work by 8 May 1996, its deadline.
1-3 April, In working toward an interim government, the Arniston Multilateral is held. This multilateral turns out to be vital in ensuring that parties resolve their differences without the glare of the media. It is extremely successful.
16 April, In working toward an interim government, the Channel Bilateral between Cyril Ramaphosa and Roelf Meyer is reinstated to find solutions to differences between the ANC and the NP.
22 April, Several issues remain deadlocked and require agreement: the death penalty, the lockout clause, the property clause, the appointment of judges and the Attorney General, language, local government, the question of proportional representation, and the bar against members of parliament crossing the floor.
23 April, The draft constitution is tabled. The plenary debate to finalize the constitution begins without key outstanding issues being resolved.
25 April, In working toward an interim government, negotiators table 298 amendments to the final draft text. However, most amendments are of a technical rather than substantial nature.
8 May, The final text of the constitution is adopted.
1July, The Constitutional Court's hearing on certification begins.
6 September, The Constitutional Court refuses to certify the text. The Court finds that the text does not comply with the required constitutional principles in eight respects.
The amended text of the constitution is adopted by the Constitutional Assembly and tabled with the Constitutional Court.
18 November, The Constitutional Court's second hearing on certification begins.
4 December, The Constitutional Court certifies the final text of the constitution.
10 December, The President, Nelson Mandela, signs the final constitution into law in Sharpeville, Vereeniging. This date also marks International Human Rights Day. The Constitution is to come into effect on 4 February 1997.
1997
17-21 March, This week is named national Constitution Week. More than seven million copies of the Constitution are distributed in all eleven languages in a national campaign. This campaign culminates in activities on 21 March 1997, South Africa's national Human Rights Day.
30 April, The Constitutional Assembly closes its administration after accounting for all moneys spent.