Nelson Mandela Timeline 1980-1989

9 March, Following the Rhodesian elections, the Sunday Post of Johannesburg launched a nationwide Release Mandela Campaign, and about 15 million signed the petition. Organisations supporting the campaign included the Soweto Committee of 10', the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo), the Labour Party (LP), the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) and the South African Council of Churches (SACC).

Police charge Winnie Mandela for receiving a visitor. Dalindyebo Sabata, paramount chief of the Transkei, was deposed and fled to Swaziland. Tembu chiefs visited Nelson Mandela to discuss the issue. Granada invited Winnie Mandela to its first freedom day celebrations. Thousands of high school and university students went on a prolonged boycott of schools.
June, The African National Congress (ANC) publicly broke ties with Zulu Chief and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Countrywide protests erupted over wages, rent, bus fares and education. Zimbabwe became independent. The South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) declared 1980 as the year of the worker.
10 March, At the Black Sash congress at the SA Institute of Race Relations, Bishop Desmond Tutu lent his support to the Release Mandela campaign.
13 March, The South African Council of Churches (SACC) comes out in support of the Release Mandela Campaign. Sam Buti, President of the SACC said, "We recognise the unique leadership role still accorded to Nelson Mandela by very many South Africans ... We believe that the church in its role as peacemaker must help the people of South Africa to avoid needless suffering and bloodshed ..." and he urged "...local churches to promote the signing of a petition for the release of Nelson Mandela."
2 August, Petitions calling for the release of Nelson Mandela and convicted liberation soldier, James Mange, were circulated at a UN Women's Conference in Copenhagen. 500 signatures were obtained to pressure for the release of the two freedom fighters from Robben Island.
14 November, India honoured Nelson Mandela with its highest international civilian award, the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding. Both Mr and Mrs Mandela were invited to the ceremony, but he was still imprisoned on Robben Island and Winnie Mandela was refused a passport by the South African government. Oliver Tambo, President of the African National Congress (ANC), accepted the award on his behalf.
16 December, Nelson Mandela had a life membership to the University of London Union conferred on him for "...the historic role he has played in the worldwide fight against racism."
22 December, Nelson Mandela was nominated for the Chancellorship of London University.
Winnie Mandela 's banning and banishment orders were renewed for another 5 years. The United States Congressional delegation headed by Harold Wolpe requested to meet Nelson Mandela. Envoys from 6 organisations including the ruling Socialist Party of France delivered a petition with 17 000 signatures calling for the release of Mandela, to the South African Embassy in Paris
In April, together with Walter Sisulu, Raymond Mhlaba and Andrew Mlangeni, Mandela were moved to Pollsmoor Prison. A few months later they were joined by Ahmed Kathrada. Police raided Zindi Mandela's house and books were confiscated. Students of the University of the Witwatersrand nominate Mandela for Chancellorship. Haverford College conferred an honorary doctorate on Winnie Mandela. President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia urgeed P W Botha to release Mandela. Winnie Mandela was invited to attend a conference in Rome. The National Party (NP) proposed its Tricameral Parliament, which included separate chambers for Whites, Coloureds and Indians, but excludes Africans. Rightwing 'verkramptes' break away from the National Party (NP) as a result of the proposed constitutional changes, to form the Conservative Party (CP).
December, The African National Congress (ANC) claimed responsibility for the explosion at the Koeberg Nuclear Power station, which it claimed was in retaliation for its members killed by South African commandos in Lesotho.
7 January, Mandela found out that Winnie Mandela’s house had been raided and that she had been summoned for breaking her banning order
20 May, An African National Congress (ANC) car bomb explodes outside the military headquarters in Pretoria, killing 19 and injuring more than 200. The government responds by attacking ANC houses in Mozambique and killing ANC members. Local authorities in Britain name streets and parks after Mandela. The British Engineering Union named an executive committee room after him. The City College of New York conferred honorary citizenship on Mandela and Glasgow awarded Mandela Freedom of the City. The University of London made Mandela a life Member. The British Labour Party invited Mandela to its party conference. The Bruno Kreisky Foundation awarded Nelson Mandela the Australian Human Rights Award.
3 June, The Johannesburg Star newspaper reported a student campaign at the University of the Witwatersrand to have Nelson Mandela be appointed Chancellor.
26 June, A sculpture in a city park by Elisabeth Frink dedicated to Mandela was unveiled in Dublin, Ireland. A second sculpture was unveiled in Dublin a year later.
July, Many more British local authorities renamed streets and facilities after Nelson Mandela, and 16 adopted an anti-apartheid declaration. While it is generally contrary to UK practice to name streets after foreign or even British heroic figures, Camden, home of the Anti Apartheid Movement, renamed Selous Street after Mandela. Selous was a 19th century colonial explorer and hunter in southern Zimbabwe.
19 July, The Star newspaper in Johannesburg reported that the British Labour Party had invited the imprisoned Nelson Mandela to their annual party conference in Brighton.
24 July, Nelson Mandela was the recipient, in absentia, of the prestigious Simon Bolivar Award for "...his outstanding contribution to freedom and democracy". He was jointly awarded the with King Juan Carlos of Spain.
20 -21 August, The United Democratic Front (UDF) was launched in Mitchell's Plein - a coloured township _ near Cape Town. The UDF was a coalition of anti-apartheid organisations sympathetic to the Freedom Charter.
8 January, Oliver Tambo called on South Africans to '"Render South Africa Ungovernable". He also unveiled a larger-than-life bust of Mandela at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
31 January, President P W Botha announced in parliament that he had offered Mandela his freedom provided he unconditionally rejected violence as a political instrument.
10 February, Zindziwe Mandela read out her father's reply to P W Botha's offer of freedom at the Jabulani Stadium in Soweto in which Mandela rejected Botha's offer and called on him to dismantle apartheid and unban the African National Congress (ANC). This was the first time in two decades that the public heard Mandela's own words. Protest action spread throughout the country.
The Nationalist government announced a new constitution . Release Mandela Committees are established and the world joins in, appealing for his release.
13 April, Winnie Mandela made her infamous "...with our boxes of matches and our necklaces we shall liberate this country" speech at Munsieville near Johannesburg. Her statement came at the height of ungovernability in South Africa and the year was marked by mass stayaways, strikes and police brutality.
21 July, Many townships throughout the country had become ungovernable and began to attract international attention. The government declared a State of Emergency.
31 July, Chase Manhattan Bank of New York recalled its loan to the South African government that amounted to $500 million (approximately 1 billion USD in 2014 value). Other banks begin to follow suit and the Rand started to fall
15 August, At the National Party (NP) Congress in Durban, P W Botha failed to make any announcements that were promised by Foreign Affairs Minister Pik Botha, that would reassure foreign investors. A small group of business leaders, led by Gavin Relly then chairman of Anglo-American, flew to Zambia to meet Oliver Tambo in the wake of the financial crisis. Minister of Justice, Kobie Coetsee, paid an unannounced visit to Mandela in hospital where he underwent an operation for an enlarged prostate gland. After his operation Mandela did not return to join his colleagues in Pollsmoor Prison, but was instead taken to a separate section with three big cells. For the first time in 24 years in jail Mandela is alone.
February, The Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group visited South Africa to find ways to begin a political dialogue.
16 March, All seven Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group members were accompanied by Minister Coetsee to visit Mandela at Pollsmoor prison.
16 May, Another visit was made by the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group to the guest house at Pollsmoor Prison, where Mandela assured them that he could control the violence in the townships provided that the government withdrew their troops and allowed him to travel unhindered.
19 May, The Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group took a proposal discussed with Mandela on May 16 and presented it to the Cabinet in Cape Town. The ministerial "hawks" however insisted that Mandela should first renounce violence.
12 June, A nationwide state of emergency was declared, giving the police more drastic powers. 4 000 people were arrested and detained in 3 weeks. Mandela requested a meeting with President P W Botha. Kobie Coetsee agreed to see him and Mandela was driven to "Savernake" the Minister's official residence in Cape Town.
25 July, The Johannesburg Rand Daily Mail reported that a 13 person United States congressional delegation had been refused permission to meet with jailed Nelson Mandela. Justice Minister Kobie Coetsee refused the delegation, headed by Chair of the House of Representatives Africa sub-committee, Harold Wolpe, without the providing of reasons.
August, The United States Senate voted 84 to 14 for a comprehensive sanctions bill against South Africa imposing bans on new investment, loans, airport landing rights and exports of oil. Deputy Commander of Pollsmoor Prison, Lieutenant-Colonel Gawie Marx took Mandela on his first car outing in 24 years. Later, his warder James Gregory, took him on several excursions in and around Cape Town. He is allowed more visits as well as contact visits and was able to kiss Winnie Mandela and hug his children.
19 October, Mandela sent his condolences following the death of Samora Machel, the president of Mozambique. He would later marry Machel’s widow, Graca Machel.
26 December, Mandela was allowed to spend the day with Ahmed Kathrada, Walter Sisulu, Andrew Mlangeni and Raymond Mhlaba at Pollsmoor Prison.
9 January, Mandela was the first person awarded the freedom of the city of Sydney, Australia
UK Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe met Oliver Tambo at his official country residence, Chevening.
July, UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher appointed a more proactive Ambassador to Pretoria, Robin Renwick who had helped to negotiate Zimbabwe's independence in 1979
August, Frederick van Zyl Slabbert, the former leader of the liberal opposition who had left parliament, organised a meeting in Dakar, Senegal where fifty Afrikaner intellectuals meet with ANC leaders. Mandela was found to have early signs of tuberculosis and underwent an operation to remove fluid in his lungs at the Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town. He remained in hospital for 6 weeks for treatment and recuperation
October, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was still opposed to the African National Congress (ANC) and called them a terrorist organisation at the Commonwealth Summit in Vancouver.
November, A group of Afrikaner intellectuals meet ANC leaders at the Compleat Angler hotel at Henley, Oxfordshire. Govan Mbeki is released unconditionally from Robben Island
February, The United Democratic Front (UDF) and 17 other organisations were banned. The world commemorated Mandela's 70th birthday.
The BBC televised a huge rock concert held at Wembley Stadium on with star performers including Harry Belafonte, Whitney Houston, Roberta Flack and Stevie Wonder. A smuggled message from Mandela was read out and watched by 72 000 spectators and 200 million viewers in 60 countries. Youths burnt down the Mandela house in Orlando West. The community appealed for calm in response to Mandela's request that no criminal action be taken against the youths. The community rallied to help rebuild the Mandelas' house. The Mozambican government granted its highest award to Nelson Mandela. Mandela was admitted to the Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town and he is visited by Winnie Mandela. The "Mandela Crisis Committee" organised by Reverend Frank Chikane and including Cyril Ramaphosa, Aubrey Mokoena, Sister Bernard Ncube, Sidney Mufamadi and Reverend Beyers Naudé tried to get Winnie Mandela to disband the Mandela United Football Club.
9 December, Mandela is moved from the Constantiaberg Clinic to Victor Verster Prison where he is given a large warder's house to live in with a swimming pool and a big garden, as well as a personal cook. Certain restriction on the imprisoned Mandela are lifted””friends and family were now able to visit him.
February, The United Democratic Front (UDF) regrouped and, together with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) formed the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM).
4 July, Mandela met PW Botha at Tuynhuys (the presidential residence of Cape Town)
21 August, The Organisation of African Unity signs the "Harare Declaration" which called for the release of political prisoners, the unbanning of the ANC and the removal of troops from the townships
9 October, The government announced that it will release 8 prisoners, including Ahmed Kathrada. 18 internal activists met Mandela at Victor Verster Prison.
December, Cabinet bosberaad is held at a game lodge to discuss the Harare Declaration and the release of Mandela
13 December, F.W. de Klerk met Mandela for the first time.
29 December, Stompie Seipei, a 14-year-old Congress of South African Students (COSAS) activist, is abducted with 3 others from a Methodist manse where they were taking refuge. Their abductors, members of the Mandela United Football Club, took them to the home of Winnie Mandela where they were accused of being police informers and beaten for 3 days. Seipei's battered, stabbed, decomposing body was later found in a nearby riverbed.

Last updated : 14-Jul-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 01-Apr-2011