Johannesburg Timeline 1800-1991

Sir John Barrow indicates on a map that gold is to be found in the approximate vicinity of either the Witwatersrand or the Magaliesberge.
Gold is found near Krugersdorp.
PJ Marais finds small quantities of alluvial gold in the Jukskei River.
September, Fred Struben finds the Confidence Reef on the farm Wilgespruit north of present-day Roodepoort.
12 April, George Walker and George Harrison obtain permission to prospect for gold on the farm Langlaagte, owned by Gert C. Oosthuizen.
5 July, Prospecting licenses are taken out on 36 claims in the centre of Randjeslaagte.
24 July, Harrison signs an affidavit to Kruger announcing the discovery of payable gold on the Witwatersrand.
16 August, J.E De Villiers applies for post of Mining Commissioner and Claims Inspector. He also separately applies for the job of laying out a new mining village.
September, Captain Carl von Brandis is appointed Mining Commissioner for the Witwatersrand.
8 September, Public diggings are declared on the farms Driefontein, Elandsfontein, Turffontein, Langlaagte, Randjeslaagte, Roodepoort, Paardekraal and Vogelstrusfontein.
13 September, F.C Eloff, Presidential Private Secretary, is instructed to visit the goldfields.
14 September, The first large mining company on the Rand, the Witwatersrand Gold Mining Company Limited, better known as Knights, is formed with a capital of £210, 000.
14 September, Jos E. de Villiers completes a survey of Block B, Langlaagte on behalf of JB Robinson.
27 September, Von Brandis proclaims the farms Doornfontein and Turffontein as public diggings, and announces that a tender had been called for the setting out of 600 stands.
3 October , Mining Commissioner Von Brandis requests clarification from Pretoria as to the allocation of dwelling stands to miners on farms other than Randjeslaagte. The State Attorney advises that this is the task of the Mining Commissioner.
3 October, Mining Commissioner von Brandis writes to Pretoria confirming that the Surveyor General had sent him a plan of the stands to be laid out, and that the name of the village is to be Johannesburg.
4 October, Mining Commissioner Von Brandis announces that the survey of a new village is to proceed and that the plan would be made public once a copy had been received.
Randjeslaagte is proclaimed as a village of stands. The name Johannesburg was used for the first time the previous day.
5 October, Tenders to survey the new mining village come before the Executive Council of the ZAR (Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek). The De Villiers tender for the setting out of 600 stands at 10s each is accepted. On the same day, Johann Rissik, Acting Surveyor General, issues De Villiers with a portion of the plan, including instructions that the government offices are to be located on one of the squares.  
Prospecting licences on 36 claims in the centre of Johannesburg are changed for diggers’s licences.
19 October, De Villiers begins the survey of stands on Randjeslaagte. The task is completed on 3 November, and a report is presented on 5 November. At this time his survey includes 748 stands in two consolidated areas north and south of the mining claims. By 8 December this number had increased to 986.
1 November, Petition is signed by HJ Morket and 100 others, objecting to sale of a stand on a preferential basis.
4 November, Von Brandis suggests that preferential rights to each stand be sold for 5 to 10 years with a monthly rental of 10s; Jan Eloff asks for a proclamation prohibiting digging on Randjeslaagte. He is told that he might put such a notice in his office, but could not take away licenses already paid for. A Special Landdrost is appointed for Johannesburg.
8 November, The election of the first Diggers’s Committee takes place.
9 November, The ZAR Government announces the sale of preferential rights to stands for 5 years. This is scheduled to take place on Thursday 18 November in front of the Mining Commissioners’s office.
17 November, Government abandons the sale of stands on a preferential basis and changes the condition to a 99-year lease. The sale of stands is postponed to Wednesday 8 December.
29 November, J.B Kaufman and 20 others peg claims on the site of the village and tender £21 to Jan Eloff, in payment for licenses to mine the site. They object to the sale of stands embracing any of these claims.
7 December, Government defines the area of Johannesburg as the entire area of ground formerly known as Randjeslaagte.
8 December, First sale of stands in Johannesburg, including No 469, purchased for £10.17.6. Subsequent stands went for £10.10 and after the first 25 had been sold, the stands about Market Square come up. At this point, the bidding begins to find its feet with TW Beckett of Pretoria paying £1065 for a block of five stands. Most stands go for between £200 and £280 each. Sales continue until the Friday by which stage some stands were fetching barely more than 3s each, with about 50 stands remaining unsold. All told, the proceeds of the sale realize about £13, 000.
13 December, P.J Meintjes, acting on behalf of the holders of the three amalgamated blocks of 12 claims each, which had formed themselves into a group called the “Randjeslaagte Syndicate”, writes to President Kruger pointing out that their property contains payable gold deposits.
23 December, The Mining Commissioner is instructed to issue trading licences for Johannesburg in same way as for other villages.
29 December, Meintjes proposes to the Government that the survey of the mining land should be on the same basis and scale as the two parts of the village on either side, with the same streets and at least two squares of the same size as the others.
27 January, Meintjes also proposes that the middle of the large square should be set aside for government, and that each church community be given a block of 12 stands each. The auctioneers are to be the Pretoria Auction Agency.
The first fuel and water shortages take place during this period.
The original Diggers’s Committee is replaced by a concurrent Sanitary Board.
February, President Kruger visits Johannesburg for the first time. An official market is opened on Market Square.
18 January, Bok replies to Meintjes, agreeing to the appointment of the auctioneers, but stating that, in line with previous decisions, each religious denomination could only be granted one stand free of the payment of a stand license.
24 February, The first Johannesburg newspaper, The Diggers News, is published.
April, At the beginning of the month, WH Auret Pritchard prepares two plans for the central land, one for the auctioneer, the other for the Mining Commissioner.
April, the first telegraph office is opened in Johannesburg.
1 June, Second sale of land in Johannesburg takes place, on the site of the now-abandoned mining claims in the central city area, between Bree and Pritchard Streets, with a minimum price set at £1.10s per stand.
July, the Johannesburg Waterworks Estate and Exploration Company Ltd is established with a capital of £40, 000.
17 October, The Eastern Star, later known as The Star, is first published in Johannesburg, having been relocated by its owners from Grahamstown. Today it is the only survivor of the mining camps’s early newspapers.
The Johannesburg Lighting Company is formed, and the first telephones are installed on the Rand by Hubert Davies.
16 January, The first Johannesburg Exchange is opened by J.W Sauer.
15 March, The first Hospital Board is created.
23 June, Piped water delivery to homes is turned on for the first time.
 Shortages of food are only relieved after massive food deliveries take place from the coast.
23 March, Wandererss’s Club is founded.
April, Sigmund Neumann obtains a concession from the ZAR Government to establish a tramway system network.
June, The first postal pillar box is erected in Johannesburg.
17 March, The rand steam train to Boksburg is inaugurated. Later on, this is extended to Krugersdorp in the west and to Springs in the east.
May, Thethe MacArthur-Forrest cyanide process of gold extraction is introduced, thus which givesing a new lease of life to the gold mines, whose surface diggings had begun to run out..
November, The first Hospital building is opened by J.M.A Wolmarans, a member of the Executive Committee of the ZAR Volksraad.
Six kilometres of tramway track are opened in Johannesburg with a terminus located in Fordsburg. The first units are horse-drawn, but are later replaced by electrically powered trams in 1906. In July 1904, control of the Tramway Company passed to the Johannesburg Municipality.
16 May, First recorded fall of snow in Johannesburg.
28 May, A swarm of locust descended upon Johannesburg.
11 June, The first telephone line linking Johannesburg to Pretoria came into operation.
23 June, The Johannesburg Gasworks, located at the lower end of President Street, begins production. This plant is in operation until 1920 when new works are completed at Cottesloe.
14 September, The first train from the Cape reaches Johannesburg.
February, An outbreak of a smallpox epidemic affects those living in Johannesburg. The incidence of the disease increases steadily from April onwards and only begins to play itself out towards the end of the year.
8 February, A bye-law is passed prohibiting ‘Nativess’ from using the Johannesburg city's pavements.
2 November, The railway line linking Johannesburg to Lourenco Marques was opened.
13 March, The first Witwatersrand Agricultural Show was held in Johannesburg.
 October, Severe water shortages are experienced from March onwards. Restrictions are imposed in Johannesburg on 23 October, and the drought is broken on 6 November.
16 December, The railway line linking Johannesburg to Durban is opened.
29 December, Jameson's raiders cross the Transvaal-Bechuanaland border. They are intercepted by Republican forces at Doornkop on 2 January 1896, and after a brief skirmish he, together with most of his troops, is taken prisoner.
19 February, A shunting locomotive reverses into two railway trucks containing 1955 tons of dynamite on a siding in Braamfontein. The resultant explosion, later known as the ‘Great Dynamite Explosionss’, levels the nearby residential areas of Braamfontein, Vrededorp, Fordsburg and the Malay Location.
May, The rinderpest epidemic, which affected livestock, spreads to Johannesburg, and its district is declared an infected area. This was followed soon after by a second plague of locusts.
November, The first house-to-house postal delivery service is instituted in Johannesburg.
January, The first motorcar drives through Johannesburg, the Johannesburg Fort is opened and Nkosi Sikelel 'iAfrika is composed by Enoch Sontonga.
September, the Sanitary Board is replaced by a Town Council which, together with its Burgomaster, is nominated by the ZAR. Johannesburg is then raised to the status of a town.
June 30, The new Rissik Street Post Office is opened.
11 October, there is an outbreak of hostilities between Britain and the ZAR.
Timeline: Johannesburg 1900-1976


25 April, Johannesburg is shaken by a large explosion, as the local plant of Begbie's Iron Foundry is sabotaged. This is an important contributor to the Republican war effort.
31 May, Johannesburg surrenders to the British when Dr. Friederick Krause, Military Commandant of the Witwatersrand, hands the symbolic keys of the town to Field Marshal Lord Roberts. Dr Krause is also credited with preventing the destruction of the gold mines shortly before the British take-over.
The first Town Council nominated under the interim British Military Administration takes office.
31 May, A peace treaty is signed in Pretoria, officially bringing hostilities to an end.
22 September, The Rand Daily Mail is printed for the first time. A Sanitary Commission is appointed to investigate the area known as the "Brickfields". The area of Johannesburg increases from 5 to 75.5 square miles.
May, the Rand Water Board is established.
November, Elections are held for Johannesburg's first elected Municipal Council. The Johannesburg Insanitary Area Improvement Scheme Commission tables its report, which leads to the expropriation of the area now known as Newtown. The area of Johannesburg increases to 81.5 square miles.
19 March, An outbreak of bubonic plague at the Johannesburg Brickfields leads to the removal of its residents to a sanitary camp at Klipspruit. In 1934, this area becomes known as Pimville.
22 June, The first indentured Chinese labourers arrive at the New Comet mine.
July, Control of the Tramway Company passes to the Johannesburg Municipality.
August, The Johannesburg Town Council imposes a speed limit of 10mph in the business centre. The Native Affairs Commission criticizes the living conditions that Johannesburg's Black citizens are forced to live under.
Pass Laws for Indians are promulgated in the Transvaal.
14 February, Johannesburg's horse-drawn trams are replaced by electrically powered units. These run for the first time from Market Square to the Siemert Road railway bridge.
20 February, Elections are held for the first Transvaal Parliament.
23 March, The worst locust plague in recorded times reaches Johannesburg.
The Indigency Commission criticizes living conditions of Johannesburg's Black citizens.
The Johannesburg Municipal Commission urges that surveyed land be made available to "natives and other non-Europeans".
March, the last group of indentured Chinese miners are repatriated.
31 May, the Union of South Africa comes into being despite the strong objections of representatives of the Black community, as to their exclusion from constitutional proceedings.
21 January, Johannesburg's tramway workers that report for the morning shift refuse to begin services. This is the first of many labour disputes which culminated in the General Strike of 1922.
8 January, The South African Native National Congress (SANNC) is formed in Bloemfontein. It later changes its name to the African National Congress (ANC)
May, White miners declare a strike at the New Kleinfontein mine. Industrial action spreads and by July the miners are preparing to declare a general strike.
4 July, A strike meeting is called in Market Square. The Government attempts to prohibit the gathering after it had begun and scuffles break out between police and miners. The police are severely assaulted after strikers attack them with stones. Workers then attempted to close down the tramways, the power station and the railways. Park Station is attacked and partly burnt down. The offices of The Star, a strongly pro-management newspaper, are similarly attacked and gutted by fire.
5 July, Unrest continues with minor clashes taking place at various points of the town's centre. By this stage, strikers are beginning to arm themselves and a number of shooting take place. Generals Botha and Smuts intervene personally and arrange for a truce, subsequent to which many of the strikers' demands were met.
8 January, The Railwaymen's Union orders a strike.
9 January, An attempt at sabotage takes place on the Cape mail train.
13 January, A general strike is declared. The Union Government places the Johannesburg district under Martial Law.
15 January, Trade Union leaders and union members, who had gathered at the Union Hall, are surrounded by Government troops armed with a twelve-pounder field gun. The strike collapses and many of the leaders are forcibly placed aboard a mail-ship in Cape Town and illegally deported to Britain. None ever return to South Africa.
5 August, World War I breaks out.
12 October, Outbreak of the so-called "Boer Rebellion" takes place, and Union forces rapidly subdue the insurrection.
26 January, Johannesburgss’s new Town Hall is used for the first time.
21 December, A strike of 2800 Black miners is held at the Van Rhyn Deep Mine.
The Johannesburg Town Council rents a disused mine compound from the Salisbury Jubilee Mine. This is converted to a hostel for 1000 men, and later becomes known as the Mai Mai Bazaar.
May, A bucket strike is held by Black sanitary workers. As a result, 152 strikers are arrested and sentenced to two months hard labour for breach of contract under the “Masters and Servants Act”. The ANC launches a labour campaign and threatens to organize a General Strike. Sanitary workers are released.
11 May, White municipal workers at the Johannesburg Power Station go on strike but their dispute is soon settled.
27 September, The outbreak of the Spanish influenza epidemic becomes critical. Beginning on the mines, it soon spreads to the whole city, and on 8 October alone there were been 69 burials at Brixton Cemetery. In Johannesburg, the Black community is particularly affected by this disease.
11 November, An armistice is signed in Europe, effectively bringing to an end World War I. The Western Native Township is established on a site previously used as a brickfield and a refuse dump.
Some 70, 000 Black miners go on a peaceful strike. Government troops break up workers' meetings, killing 11 people.
1 February, White building trade workers go on strike.
29 March, White power station workers go on strike.
31 March, White municipal workers went go on strike. The Johannesburg Town Council sets up a Provisional Board of Control dominated by the Labour Party and its sympathizers. This Board then takes over the effective running of the town's government.
1 April, The strike is called off.
6 April, A settlement of the strike is reached, and the Board of Control is passed out of existence.
January, Black miners go on strike. Riots break out.
29 February, Black workers riot near Vrededorp.
4 May, White tramway workers go on strike.
21 May, The tramway strike ends.
2 January, White coal miners go on strike.
9 January, White miners' strike is formally declared, following intermittent disputes in 1921.
19 January, Tramway service is reduced to minimum, following a shortage of coal supplies necessary for the running of the Johannesburg Power Station.
27 February, Coal supplies at the Johannesburg power station are exhausted. So-called ‘scabss’ coal is brought in and, as a result, White Power Station workers immediately down tools. Strike-breakers move in under police protection.
7 March, General Strike is called by workersss’ Council of Action. Unions march under banners proclaiming "Workers of the World Unite and Fight for a White South Africa".
9 March, Active Citizen's regiments and Burger commandos are called up.
10 March, Martial Law is declared. Attacks take place on Reef police stations and mines. Strikers ambush detachment of the Transvaal Scottish Regiment at Ellis Park, resulting in the death of 13 soldiers. Newlands and Fordsburg police stations are occupied by strikers' commandos.
12 March, Strikers on Brixton Ridge and in the Brixton School are shelled by Government troops located on Jan Smuts Avenue.
14 March, Fordsburg falls. Strike leaders Fisher and Spendiff commit suicide, and the Rand Rebellion is crushed.
17 March, the Strike is officially called off.
4 October, the University of the Witwatersrand is inaugurated.
18 December, First official radio broadcast takes place in Johannesburg. The ‘Native (Urban Areas) Actss’ is passed, which forces local authorities to take responsibility for the housing of Black citizens who live and work in their areas.
Work begins on extensions to the Western Native Township, involving an additional 1000 houses. This project is completed in 1927.
22 June, The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, visits Johannesburg. Student hoaxers impersonate the Prince and his party, and visit the University.
Work is begun on the Wemmer Barracks Hostel to accommodate 2000 men. This is completed in 1928. The Eastern Native Township is also established.
The Johannesburg Town Council appoints Graham Ballenden as Manager of Native Affairs. Prior to this, the housing of the Black community had been a function of the town's Parks Department.
March, The first traffic light is installed in Johannesburg.
5 September, Johannesburg is accorded city status. Johannesburg Council appoints a Committee to deal with Native Affairs.
The number of houses built at Western and Eastern Townships reaches a total of 2625. In terms of an amendment to the ‘Native (Urban Areas) Actss’, additional powers are granted to Local Authorities in regard to the housing of Black residents.
The Johannesburg City Council acquires 1300 morgen on the Farm Klipspruit No 8 for the purpose of building housing for Blacks. This purchase is made during the so-called ‘Depressionss’, when a number of houses at Western Native Township were still vacant.
A competition is held for the planning of a township, to be named after the then Chairman of the Native Affairs Committee, Orlando Leake, to accommodate 80, 000 persons. At this time many Black residents were living in such places as Newclare, Sophiatown, Martindale and Prospect Township, in heavily overcrowded conditions.
21 September, Britain abandons the gold standard, leading to a rise in the gold price.
27 December, The Union of South Africa abandons the gold standard.
Municipal water supply is provided to Newclare.
Klipspruit Location is renamed Pimville.
27 water taps are installed in Sophiatown where water is sold by the bucket. The Murray Thornton Commission criticizes Johannesburg's Public Health Department for its failure to prevent or remedy the "fearful squalor" in such areas as Prospect Township, the Malay Location, Sophiatown, Newclare and Martindale. By the end of this year, 3000 houses had been built in Orlando.
9 April, Following the dramatic fall in the value of gold shares on the JSE (Johannesburg Stock Exchange), many businesses and individuals go bankrupt. This day later comes to be known as "Black Friday".
The total number of houses for Black residents provided by the Johannesburg City Council reaches 8700. A total of 6912 beds are also provided in Municipal single sex hostels.
6 September, South Africa declares war on Germany, three days after Britain. During the next five years, influx control regulations are relaxed. Growing opportunities for work attract many rural Black families, including their children, to Johannesburg. Owing to a scarcity of funds, only 873 new houses are built and a further 358 beds are provided in hostels. As a result, informal settlements begin to spring up around Johannesburg. It is estimated that, eventually, up to 60, 000 people were housed in such areas.
4042 breeze block shelters are erected in an area known as "Shantytown", located between Orlando East and Orlando West.
The Moroka Emergency Camp is laid out, providing 11, 000 sites, 6x6m in size. Elementary services are also laid out.
12-19 August, An estimated 100, 000 Black miners go on strike on the Witwatersrand. Hundreds are estimated to have been killed by subsequent police action.
Attempts are made to close down Johannesburg's informal settlements. Baragwanath Hospital is taken over to serve the needs of the Black community.
May, 1800 patients are moved to Baragwanath Hospital from the Johannesburg General Hospital. The Nationalist Party (NP) gains a majority of seats in the Union Parliament, although it is not to achieve a majority of votes until the Republic referendum in 1961.
19 September, The gold price rises by 44%.
1 May, the ANC calls for a general strike. The police kill 18 persons in Alexandra.
The Bantu Building Workers Act is passed.
The ‘Bantu Services Levy Actss’ and the ‘Bantu Transport Services Levy Actss’ are passed. The Site and Service Scheme is started. In Johannesburg 35, 000 sites 12x21m each are surveyed. The Mentz Committee recommends that Pimville should be reserved as a "White Group Area".
The Johannesburg Municipality creates the Housing Division as a separate department, with A.J Archibald as its first Director. Johannesburg submits an application to the Bantu Services Levy Fund for finances to build a direct access road to Soweto. The South African Railways which, at the time, held a monopoly on transport to this area opposed this application.
A Resettlement Board is formed to undertake removal of Blacks from Johannesburg's western areas. This followed the Johannesburg City Councilss’s refusal to approve the removal of freehold land rights from property owners in Sophiatown.
February, over 60, 000 persons living in Johannesburg's western areas, including Sophiatown, are removed from their homes at gun-point, in a massive military-style operation, and are resettled in an area which has since become known as Soweto. Sophiatown is razed to the ground and, having been renamed Triomf, was given over to White, predominantly Afrikaner, low-income housing.
26 June, The Congress of the People meets at Kliptown and adopts the Freedom Charter.
Johannesburg Mining Houses, headed by the Anglo-American Corporation, loans the Johannesburg City Council R6m to provide houses for people living in the Moroka and Shantytown informal settlements. These funds prove sufficient to build 14, 000 homes, and the residents of Moroka and Shantytown are subsequently resettled there.
The ANC organizes the Alexandra Bus Boycott campaign.
15 September, Riots takes place in Dube.
The Mentz "Watch-Dog" Committee is appointed.
Minister De Wet Nel agrees to retain Pimville as a Black suburb.
21 March, Some 69 residents of Sharpeville, a Black residential suburb near Vereeniging are massacred by police during a PAC (Pan African Congress) protest meeting. The Tomlinson Commission is appointed. Its findings provide the intellectual and ideological underpinning for subsequent Nationalist attempts to implement a policy of ‘ethnic homelandsss’.
30 March, A nationwide State of Emergency declared. The ANC and PAC are banned.
31 May, South Africa becomes a Republic.
liquor becomes available legally to the Black community.
After years of prevarication, permission is finally granted for the construction of a direct access road to Soweto on condition that no public transport would be allowed upon it. This application had been pending for some 10 years. The Tomlinson Commission report is published.
A second loan of R750, 000 is made by Johannesburg Mining Houses to the City Council, this time for the re-housing of Pimville tenants.
The Bantu Administration Department rules that no further 30 year leases should be granted.
1 July, the West Rand Administration Board takes over control and the day-to-day administration of Soweto from the Johannesburg City Council's Non-European Affairs Department (NEAD).
16 June, School-children in Soweto go on strike, protesting the introduction of compulsory Afrikaans education. Over 1000 people are killed in the clashes which ensue between citizens and police.
Timeline: Johannesburg 1980-1991
April, Protests that began at Coloured schools in Cape Town in April spread to schools and colleges throughout the country, including Pretoria and Lenasia. Hundreds of school children in Johannesburg are arrested.
53 clergymen are arrested in Johannesburg and charged under the Riotous Assemblies Act.
July, 10000 municipal workers go on strike in Johannesburg. More than 1000 are dismissed and police supervise their removal, arresting the chairman and secretary of the unrecognised Black Municipal Workers Union. Both are charged under the Sabotage Act.
September, The government closes more than 70 Black schools, mostly in the Cape Province. The boycott only ends in January 1981 after the Congress of SA Students decides to suspend the boycott.
October, the Media Workers Association of SA (MWASA) calls for a boycott of all commercial newspapers. A nationwide strike follows and Black journalists demand wage increases and recognition of MWASA. When the strike ends after eight weeks, the government bans four black newspapers, including the Post and Sunday Post. The president and vice-president of MWASA are served with three-year banning orders.
February, A new newspaper, the Sowetan, hits the streets, following the same editorial policies of the newspapers that were banned in October
21 May, The 20th anniversary of the Republic is marked by nationwide protests, while the offices of the Progressive Federal Party (PFP) are bombed, with responsibility claimed by a group called the SA Liberation Support Cadre.
24 May, Rioting breaks out in Eldorado Park, a Coloured township south of Johannesburg.
16 June, Police cordon off Soweto and other black townships, resulting in clashes at the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto.
21 June, Eight leaders of the 16 June unrest, belonging to the Nigeria-based SA Youth Revolutionary Council, are arrested.
November, Elections for the government-appointed SA Indian Council see only 10, 5% of the electorate turn out to vote in November.
December, Eviction notices are served on 67 Indian families still staying in Pageview, but their eviction is halted after they lodge an application to avert their forced removal.
July, A mother and her 4-year-old daughter are killed when council efforts to demolish a neighbouring building crash onto them.
9 February, When Dr Neil Agget, a secretary of the African Food and Canning Workers Union, is found dead in his cell, there is widespread condemnation, and more than 85000 workers observe a 30-minute work stoppage. More than 5000 people attend his funeral two days later on 11 February.
May, The offices of the West Rand Administration Board in Meadowlands, Soweto, are bombed. By June, the Security Police reveal that it recorded 60 attacks by the ANC in 1981, compared to 19 in 1980 and 12 in 1979. In August 1982, three ANC members are given the death sentence for attacks on Orlando and Moroka police stations and Wonderboom police station in Pretoria.
16 June, On the anniversary of the 16 June unrest, police try to disperse a crowd gathered at the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto.
24 June, Police announce that three members of MWASA have been arrested.
January, the Transvaal Indian Congress is re-launched in Johannesburg in the same month that Molvi Saloojee, its last president, dies.
May, The UDF is launched.
11-12 June, UDF rival, the National Forum, a Black Consciousness-aligned grouping, is launched, with Azapo (Azanian Peopless’s Organisation) dominating the proceedings, and identifying racial capitalism as the real enemy.
14 June, The UDF is officially launched in Cape Town.
July, the ANC is blamed for two bomb blasts at the offices of the Department of Internal Affairs in Roodepoort.
August, A bomb explodes in a synagogue in Johannesburg a few hours before State President Viljoen is due to attend a ceremony. An explosion at the offices of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Johannesburg becomes the 42nd such attack in the year.
Carl Niehaus, a theologian, is sentenced to 15 years in prison for high treason, and his fiancée is sentenced to four years.
Most Black people boycott elections for the new 29 Black authorities, with an 11% turnout in Soweto.
May, the Minister of Law and Order announces that 14 armed attacks have taken place from January 1984 to May 1984.
16 June, The anniversary of 16 June is marked by clashes between police and demonstrators, and the ANC and PAC issue statements.
1 September, As the new constitution comes into effect on 1 September 1984, political violence escalates, especially in the Vaal Triangle, and some 200 people die within a short period. The Vaal Triangle becomes the scene of the most sustained uprising in the history of the country.
11 September, In response, on 11 September, the Minister of Law and Order prohibits all political meetings. A strike by mineworkers is called and more than 250 miners are injured. Mineworkers continue their strike and seven mineworkers are killed by police and 89 injured.
6 October, The South African Defence Force is deployed to Soweto to support police efforts at containing the ongoing unrest.
Three townships south of Johannesburg – Sebokeng, Sharpeville and Boipatong – are sealed off by a force of 7000 soldiers, who carry out house searches and arrest 358 people. More violence breaks out in Sebokeng and police are under pressure in townships across the country.
5-6 November, A call for a two-day general strike in the PWV region, called for by Congress of South African Students (Cosas) and Federation of South African Trade Unions (Fosatu), is observed by half a million workers and 400 000 students. In response, police arrest trade unionists linked to UDF affiliates.
January, At the end of January, in Parliament, PW Botha announces proposals to release Nelson Mandela, while the Minister of Cooperation and Development tells the Foreign Correspondents Association that forced removals of Black people will be suspended.
10 February, at the Jabulani Stadium in Soweto, Mandelass’s daughter Zindzi reads out a speech written by Mandela turning down the offer of release. Following this refusal, UDF offices throughout the country are raided and more than 100 activists are detained. Among these, 13 UDF leaders are taken into custody, and six of them are charged with high treason.
21 July, The state announces a State of Emergency, affecting 36 magisterial districts, mostly in Johannesburg, and the Eastern Cape. In October the emergency is extended to Cape Town and seven surrounding areas. The emergency is lifted on 7 March 1986, but is reinstated months later on 12 June 1986, this time to last until 1990, and extended to the entire country.
15 August, PW Botha makes his infamous “Rubicon” speech, rejecting calls for fundamental reform. In response, ANC President Oliver Tambo announces in Lusaka that the armed struggle would be intensified. International markets take a dim view of Bothas’s speech and the Rand plummets, kicking off a sustained financial crisis in SA.
28 August, The student body Cosas is banned.
30 November, Trade union federation Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is launched, boasting a membership of 500 000.
December, 12 leaders of the UDF, facing charges of treason in the Pietermaritzburg Supreme Court, are acquitted. By June 1986 the remaining four are also acquitted.
30 December, Winnie Mandela is arrested in Johannesburg for contravening her banning order, which restricts her to the town of Brandfort. Her banning order comes to an end on 7 July 1986, and she is free of all restriction for the first time in two decades.
January, An explosion at a police station in Johannesburg is thought to have been caused by a bomb. From September 1984 to 24 January 1986, 955 people were killed in incidents of political violence, and 3 658 injured. 25 members of the security forces were killed and 834 injured. There were 3 400 incidents of violence in the Western Cape.
Elections for the Indian and Coloured chambers of Parliament in August are once again boycotted. PW Botha says that the low turnout does not invalidate the new constitution.
February, The “Six-day War” takes place in Alexander township.
March, the National Education Crisis Committee meets in March and calls off the schools boycott.
Despite the lifting of the emergency on 7 March, the month sees the highest number of deaths resulting from political clashes and state repression, with 171 people dying. From September 1984 to March 1986, 1416 people are estimated to have died.
March, Cosatu leaders fly to Lusaka to hold talks with the ANC. The two bodies issue a statement expressing their commitment to the overthrow of White supremacy
1 May, May Day sees the largest stay-away in South African history, with 1, 5-million people observing the call.
24 May, the UDFs’s National Working Committee is held in Johannesburg.
June, Sowetos’s rent boycott begins, while the state reinstates the State of Emergency on 12 June, and arrests hundreds of activists ahead of the 16 June anniversary.
October, the Campaign for National Action is called for by Cosatu, the UDF, the National Education Crisis Committee (NECC) and the South African Council of Churches (SACC). Later in the same month the UDF is declared an “affected organisation”.
December, UDF and Cosatu calls for a “Black Christmas” in protest against the emergency, asking the people to celebrate Christmas in a frugal manner, without buying goods or holding parties or celebrations.
9 January, A bomb explodes in a department store in Johannesburg.
May, The Whites-only election of 5 May is preceded by a UDF call for nationwide protests.
7 May, Cosatus’s offices in Johannesburg are bombed.
26 July, UDF leaders are arrested, including national treasurer Azhar Cachalia.
August, the UDF adopts the Freedom Charter, reflecting its alignment with ANC history and policies.
9 August, About 200 000 members of the National Union of Mineworkers embark on a three-week strike, the longest in South African history.
24 February, 17 anti-apartheid organisations are banned, including the UDF, Azapo and Cosatu. Despite this, the UDF and its affiliates call for a National Day of Action on the anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre, 21 March.
13 March, Nationwide Church services call on the government to temper its confrontations with liberation forces.
10 May, Newspapers New Nation and South are banned, and editors of English-language newspapers sign a petition protesting against media curbs.
6-8 June, Despite the ban on Cosatu, the federation calls for a strike from 6 to 8 June, a call observed by an estimated 3-million workers throughout the country. Later, on 16 June, a million workers stayed at home on the 12th anniversary of the student uprising.
31 August, The offices of the SA Council of Churches, Khotso House in Johannesburg, are bombed, and a rightwing group claims responsibility.
13 September, Three leading anti-apartheid activists, Mohammed Valli Moosa, Murphy Morobe, and Vusi Khanyile, escape from detention and seek refuge in the American Consulate in Johannesburg. They remain until 19 October, having succeeded in publicising the plight of 1300 detainees.
1 November, The Johannesburg-based Weekly Mail is suspended for four weeks, until 28 November, 1988.
2 December, The editor of New Nation is released from detention, along with six other detainees.
8 January, PW Botha suffers a stroke, marking the beginning of his slide from power. Chris Heunis is appointed Acting President. By 2 February, Botha resigns as leader of the NP, but remains President. He is replaced by FW de Klerk to lead the NP. On 6 April, Botha announces that Parliament will be dissolved by the end of May, after which elections would be held. He announces that he will not stand for re-election.
May, Botha sets the date for the election as 6 September. Heunis also announces that he will resign and not stand for re-election, among a group of ministers who also resign.
5 Jul, Botha meets with Nelson Mandela at his official residence. He resigns as president on 14 August. The NP wins the election in September and FW de Klerk becomes the President of SA.
Winnie Mandela becomes embroiled in the Stompie Seipei affair, and the UDF and Cosatu distance themselves from her and her “football team”, which is effectively a private militia.
1 May, Dr David Webster, a social anthropologist at the University of the Witwatersrand and a leading anti-apartheid activist, is shot dead outside his home.
20 August, Defying the state, restricted organisations declare themselves “unrestricted”.
31 August, Students at Wits University in Johannesburg hold a large meeting at which four student organisations declare themselves “unrestricted”. Police break up the meeting.
15 October, Seven senior ANC leaders and one PAC leader are released from prison and a huge rally welcomes them on their release.
16 December, Five anti-apartheid leaders jailed in 1988 are released, including Patrick Lekota and Popo Molefe.
2 February, De Klerk announces the unbanning of the ANC, PAC and other liberation organisations.
11 February, Nelson Mandela is released from prison after 27 years in captivity. Mandela flies to Lusaka to meet with ANC leaders, is made the Deputy President of the ANC, and the ANC moves its head office from Lusaka to Johannesburg.
14 March, MK leader Joe Modise announces that the ANC is prepared to suspend the armed struggle – but will retain its arms – to facilitate negotiations towards a new democratic dispensation. A date is set for the beginning of talks between the government and the ANC: 11 April 1990.
26 March, Police open fire at a demonstration against high rent and segregated facilities in Sebokeng, killing 17 and wounding more than 380 people. The ANC decides to abandon the planned 11 April talks with the government. On 5 April Mandela and De Klerk meet to set a new date for negotiations to begin
27 April, Joe Slovo and Thabo Mbeki return to SA after decades in exile.
De Klerk announces the lifting of the State of Emergency and also the release of 48 political prisoners. The emergency is lifted throughout the country except in Natal, where a partial State of Emergency would remain in place.
2-9 July, The ANC calls for a week-long stay-away in protest against violence perpetrated by Inkathas’s impis, seen to be orchestrated by security forces under the direction of the government.
25 July, Mac Maharaj and more than 40 ANC members are arrested for alleged plans to overthrow the government in a violent coup.
The SA Communist Party holds its first public rally in Soweto, with some 40 000 people attending.
A pamphlet is distributed in Zulu hostels in the PWV region warning Zulus that the ANC planned to drive them out of the province. After this, clashes between axe-wielding Zulus and ordinary township dwellers result in more than 500 deaths in 11 days. A mass funeral at Jabulani Stadium, in Soweto, is attended by 6000 people.
13 September, Six people are killed and 400 shacks destroyed in Thokoza on the East Rand. A “historic” meeting is held between the ANC and IFP to discuss ways to end the violence in Natal results in a joint statement.
24 September, Winnie Mandela is charged with four counts of kidnapping and assault, related to the murder of Stompie Moeketsi, or Sepei.
13 December, The President of the ANC, Oliver Tambo, returns to the country after three decades in exile. Arriving in Johannesburg, he is greeted by thousands of supporters. The next day, the ANC holds its first Consultative Conference in SA. Held over three days and attended by 1600 delegates, it resolves to serve notice on the regime that unless it removes all obstacles to negotiations, the ANC will suspend the negotiation process.
9 January, Black school-children are admitted to 205 of 2000 previously Whites-only schools where parents have voted for integration.
1 February, De Klerk announces the scrapping of the Land Act, the Group Areas Act, the Development of Black Communities Act and the Population Registration Act, four key pieces of apartheid legislation.
2-3 March, the UDF announces at a convention that it will disband itself on 20 August.
12 May, Inkatha supporters go on a rampage in a squatter camp in Kagiso in the West Rand
25 June, Six commuters are killed when gunmen open fire on train passengers.
19 July, A report in the New Nation features an army sergeant, Felix Ndimene, saying that members of his regiment carried out an attack on train commuters in Soweto in September 1990, in which 26 people were killed.

22 June, Representatives of the government, ANC, IFP and other political formations attend a meeting convened by business and church leaders. The meeting agrees to negotiate the National Peace Accord and establishes working groups to carry out the task.

14 September, The National Peace Accord is signed by 23 political and trade union organisations, including the ANC, PAC and IFP. 

October, the ANC and PAC hold a Patriotic Front conference. Attended by some 90 organisations, participants adopt a Declaration in which they called for: a Constituent Assembly to draft and adopt a democratic constitution; a sovereign Interim Government/Transitional Authority and an All Party Congress/Pre-Constituent Assembly Meeting.

30 November, 19 political and other organisations decide unanimously that the first meeting of a Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) will be held near Johannesburg on 20 and 21 December 1991, to discuss constitutional principles, constitution-making body or process and transitional arrangements.
The PAC dissociates itself from the final statement, saying that it “did not reflect the PACs’s position”. Several PAC proposals – for issues such as neutral international conveners, the holding of Codesa outside of South Africa, and the opening of Codesas’s sessions to the media – are rejected by other parties.
20 December, Codesa holds its first meeting, in Johannesburg, and delegates sign a declaration of intent.