By the 1970s a number of leading figures in the ANC were in prison while others were in exile. Those that remained inside South Africa faced arrest, detention and banning orders, further crippling the political mobilisation – for instance, the detention of Winnie Mandela with 21 other people in 1970. Workers went on strike in 1970 and in 1973 in Durban. During this period Mozambique, which shares a border with South Africa, and Angola, which shares a border with a Namibia under South African rule, become independent. These countries played an important role for the ANC in exile by allowing the organisation to establish military training camps and safe houses on their territory. Student anger and grievances against Bantu education and the forced imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction exploded on 16 June 1976 in Soweto and spread to others parts of the country. The heavy-handed response of the government through a security clampdown of student political activists forced youth to leave the country in large numbers to join the ANC and undergo military training under MK.

Prices begin to rise sharply, making it even more difficult for workers to survive on low wages. Spontaneous strikes resulted: workers walk out of the workplaces demanding wage increases.
16 February, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and 21 others, who were detained under the Suppression of Communism Act, in May 1969, are acquitted. Three are released but others, including Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, are re-detained and recharged. They are placed in solitary confinement at the Pretoria Central Prison under Section Six of the Terrorism Act.
26 March, The Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act No. 26 comes into force. It strips Blacks of their South African citizenship and makes them citizens of one of the homelands or Bantustans irrespective of their actual residence.
24 August, The second trial of the 19 prisoners (including Winnie Madikizela-Mandela) being held under the Terrorism Act begins.
14 September, The 19 prisoners are acquitted and released, but they are served with restriction orders by the Minister of Justice. As part of her banning order, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is placed under house arrest but frequently violates the conditions. As a result, she is arrested and charged on a number of occasions.
16 October, Alfred Nzo submits a letter, on behalf of the ANC, to the United Nations which condemns the announcement by the government of the United Kingdom that it would be resuming arms sales to South Africa’s apartheid government.
Thabo Mbeki is deployed to Lusaka, Zambia where he serves as the assistant secretary of the African National Congress’ (ANC) Revolutionary Council.
January, Steve Biko speaks at the Abe Bailey Institute in Cape Town. In his speech he openly criticises the ANC’s policy of political alliances.
2 January, Oliver Tambo sends a message to a meeting of the Council of the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organisation in Tripoli.
25 August, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi calls for a National Convention of all races in South Africa to decide the country's future political direction. The idea is rejected by John Vorster the Prime Minister but is supported as a constructive proposal by both the opposition United Party (UP) and the Progressive Party (PP).
28 October, Ahmed Timol, a political activist and member of the banned South African Communist Party (SACP), dies in detention. It is officially confirmed that he died after he plunged from a window on the tenth floor of the John Vorster Square Police Office. The government claimed that he “committed suicide”.
29 October, Alfred Nzo sends a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations with regards to the treatment of political detainees in South Africa.
16 December, Oliver Tambo issues a statement on the tenth anniversary of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) calling on South Africans to rededicate themselves to the struggle for liberation.
4 October, The ANC issues a press statement on the idea of a National Convention. While ANC does not reject the idea, it states that a number of pre-conditions have to be met if such a convention is to be ‘genuinely sovereign and democratic’.
8 January, The ANC in exile issued its first 8 of January Statement
1 August, J.B. Marks, political activist and trade unionist, suffers a heart attack and dies in Moscow, USSR.
South Africans begin to receive reliable broadcasts from “Radio Freedom’ on short wave from Zambia and Tanzania.
January, A massive strike begins in Durban with over 60 000 workers from 150 factories striking against racial oppression.
28 March, Mavuso Msimang, the ANC’s Secretary for Administration, presents a memorandum to the Chairman of the Special Committee against Apartheid. The memorandum looks at the involvement of British business in South Africa.
20 June, Oliver Tambo makes a statement at a meeting in London to commemorate South African Freedom Day.
11 July, Oliver Tambo makes a statement at a press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on the tenth anniversary of the arrests at Rivonia.
7 December, Robert Resha, political activist and member of the ANC, dies in London.
26 December, A Christmas and New Year message by Oliver Tambo is distributed illegally in South Africa.
The United Nations General Assembly (under the chairpersonship of the Algerian Foreign Minister) refuses to recognise the credentials of the South African delegation, a significant victory for the ANC.
Chris Hani and Thabo Mbeki are co-opted onto the ANC’s National Executive Committee. They are the youngest members to sit on the committee.
12 February, Boy Mvemve (operating under the name John Dube) is killed by a letter bomb in Lusaka, Zambia while sorting mail with Maxwell Sisulu.
27 March, While deputizing for Oliver Tambo, Mzwandile Piliso makes a statement before a meeting of the UN Special Committee against Apartheid in which a number of suggestions are made for action to be taken against the South African government.
14 May, The trial of ex-political prisoner and SACP veteran Harry Gwala and nine other ANC members starts in Pietermaritzburg.
12 November, The United Nations General Assembly, under the leadership of Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, suspends South Africa due to international opposition to the South African government’s policy of apartheid.
16 December, A tombstone for J.B. Marks is unveiled in the Novodevichye Cemetery, Moscow, which is traditionally reserved for the most prominent figures in Soviet political, academic and cultural life.
Mamphela Ramphele establishes the Zanempilo Community Health Centre in Zinyoka, outside King Wiliam’s Town.
March, The ANC’s Revolutionary Council (RC) sends a general directive that all its units should go into action. The RC also sets up a special sub-committee on recruitment and training.
1 April, Oliver Tambo addresses an extended meeting of the National Executive Committee of the ANC.
7-10 April, The ninth extraordinary session of the Council of Ministers of the OAU is held in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. At the session Oliver Tambo makes a statement on the situation in South Africa.
8 May, Bram Fischer, member of SACP and political activist, dies of cancer at his brother’s house in Bloemfontein.
19 July, Ambrose Makiwane attacks the SACP in a critical speech delivered in London.
9 August, Moses Kotane is awarded the Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe, the ANC’s highest honour which is awarded to those who have made an outstanding contribution to the liberation struggle.
September, The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC holds a session in Morogoro, Tanzania and unanimously expels eight members due to what the party described as “disruptive factionalist activities based on reactionary racial grounds”. Amongst those expelled were Alfred Kgokong Mqota, Tennyson Makiwane, Jonas Matlou, Ambrose Mzimkulu Makiwane, George Mbele, Thami Bonga, Pascal Ngakane and O. K. Setlhapelo.
October, Winnie Mandela’s banning orders lapse after 13 years.
31 October, Oliver Tambo, on behalf of the ANC, issues a statement condemning the invasion of Angola by South African troops.
December, An ANC National Executive Committee meeting discusses plans to re-launch MK.
11 December, Alfred Nzo makes a statement, on behalf of the ANC, on the expulsion of a ‘conspiratorial clique’ from the ANC.
The Internal Security Amendment Act No. 79 is passed. This act makes it possible to detain suspects without authorization from a judge for an unlimited period of time.
MK begins training young recruits in Swaziland and sending them back into South Africa to ‘strengthen the underground structures’ (SADET, 2004: 462).
23 January, The ANC issues a statement on the National Executive Committee’s decision to expel eight members during its September 1975 session held in Morogoro, Tanzania.
21 March, Alfred Nzo makes a statement at a meeting for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination of the Special Committee Against Apartheid.
24 May, Soweto pupils reject the Orland Diepkloof School Board’s demand that they return to school after they had walked out in protest against the use of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction.
13 June, Over 400 students attend a meeting held in Orlando. At the meeting Tsietsi Mashinini, a 19-year-old-leader of a SASM branch, called for a mass demonstration against the use of Afrikaans was called for the following Wednesday, 16 June.
ANC underground structures issue pamphlets calling on the community to support students and linking the student struggle to the struggle for national liberation.
16 June, Student anger and grievances against Bantu education explode. Tens of thousands of high school students take to the streets to protest against compulsory use of Afrikaans at schools. Police opened fire on marching students, killing thirteen-year old Hector Petersen and at least three others. This begins what becomes known as the Soweto youth uprising. The student uprising spreads to other parts of the country leaving over 1,000 dead, most of who are killed by the police. The Soweto Uprising was a “dramatic climax of the escalating wave of struggles in the first half of the 1970s.”
17 June, Due to the Soweto unrest, parliament meets in an Extraordinary Session at the request of Colin Eglin, leader of the opposition, who demands the resignation of M.C. Botha, Minister of Bantu Administration and Development.
Approximately 300, predominantly white, Wits students march through Johannesburg city centre in protest of the killing of schoolchildren and are joined by many Black workers.
18 June, Most of the protest action takes place in the East and West Rand as well as in the Alexandra townships and the rest of the country.
18 July, The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid comes into force.
5 August, Mapetla Mohapi dies in police custody. The police claim he hung himself using a pair of jeans and produce a ‘suicide note’ but an inquest does not make a finding on the suicide claim.
October, A small MK unit led by Naledi Tsiki infiltrates into South Africa from Swaziland. Their mission is to blow up the railway line north of Dikgale, Northern Transvaal (later Northern Province).
26 October, Oliver Tambo makes a statement entitled ‘Support our people until power is restored to them’ at a plenary meeting of the UNs General Assembly.
30 November, Tokyo Sexwale, Charles Ramusi, Robert Manci and Amos ‘Malume’ Lubisi infiltrate into South Africa from Swaziland. They are picked up by two policemen while waiting for their contact on the South Africa side of the border. Tokyo Sexwale throws a hand grenade into the front of the van injuring the two policemen but giving time for MK guerrillas to escape back to Swaziland.
April, An SACP Central Committee meeting is convened in the German Democratic Republic and adopts a document entitled ‘The Way Forward from Soweto’. The Executive Secretariat is dissolved and replaced with the Politburo, consisting of Moses Kotane, Dr. Yusuf Dadoo, Moses Mabhida, Joe Slovo and Thabo Mbeki.
29 April, M.P. Naicker dies while travelling from London to Berlin.
8 May, M.P. Naicker is buried in London. To read Dr. Yusuf Dadoo’s tribute, click here and to read Oliver Tambo’s tribute click here.
16 May, Winnie Mandela is banished to Brandfort, an Afrikaner town in the Orange Free State.
June, The ANC distributes a leaflet entitled ‘Let us Advance our Liberation Struggle’ through a ‘leaflet bomb’ in Johannesburg.
15 June, Solomon Mahlangu and Monty Motlaung, two MK cadres are arrested in Goch Street, in Johannesburg.
July, Harry Gwala and others sentenced to life imprisonment for activities with the ANC.
22-26 August, The World Conference for Action Against Apartheid, organised by the UN and OAU, takes place in Lagos, Nigeria. The conference is attended by representatives of more than 100 governments, organisations and liberation movements. Oliver Tambo makes a speech entitled ‘Crucial Stage in the Struggle for Liberation of Southern Africa
12 September, Steve Biko dies at the Pretoria prison hospital after being transported in the back of a police van from Port Elizabeth with a brain injury.
25 September, Steve Biko’s funeral is attended by diplomats from 13 Western nations. However, police action prevents thousands of mourners from all over the country from attending the funeral.
19 October, Following a Cabinet decision on 18 October, the government, by proclamation under the Internal Security Act, declares 18 organisations unlawful, arrests some 70 leading Africans, placing a number of people under restriction orders and closes down the daily newspaper The World and its associated Weekend World. The South African Police jail dozens of government opponents not previously detained, including The World editor Percy Qoboza. Banning orders are issued to Beyers Naudé and Donald Woods, two prominent Whites who had publicly supported Steve Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). Justice Minister, Jimmy Kruger places bans on all movements affiliated with the BCM. The actions provoke worldwide shock and protest.
12 December, Oliver Tambo addresses the first congress of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in Luanda, Angola.
14 December, The UN General Assembly adopts Resolution 32/105B which proclaims an International Anti-Apartheid Year to begin on 21 March 1978. The ANC distributes leaflets through a ‘leaflet bomb’ in Cape Town.
Operation Sibasa, one of the largest war exercises, is staged in bushveld areas of Transvaal bordering on Mozambique, Rhodesia and Botswana in an effort to dispel militant action.
The ANC embarks on a strategy of guerrilla warfare in both rural and urban areas which sees a marked increase in clashes with security forces.
8 January, Anti-apartheid activist and academic, Dr Rick Turner, is assassinated at his home in Durban by members of the South Africa security forces.
2 February, The Attorney-General of the Eastern Cape announces that he will not prosecute any policemen involved in the arrest and detention of Steve Biko.
10 March, After an international campaign, Percy Qoboza and nine other leaders are released from detention.
21 March, The UNs International Anti-Apartheid Year begins. Oliver Tambo makes a statement at the meeting to launch the campaign.
19 May, Moses Kotane dies in Moscow.
26 May, Moses Kotane is buried at Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow
12 September, On the eve of the first anniversary of the death of Steve Biko, police arrest sixteen people including Steve Biko’s brother, his sister and her husband and close friends of the family. No reason is given but police say the arrests are preventive measures covered by the 1977 Internal Security Act.
29 September, P.W. Botha replaces John Voster as Prime Minister.
October, Oliver Tambo and five colleagues make a study-visit to Vietnam.
27 December – 1 January, The ANC’s NEC and Revolutionary Council meet in Luanda, Angola. They receive a report of the Vietnam study-visit and decide to set up a Politico-Military Strategy Commission.
January, 1979 is declared the Year of the Spear, a tribute to the hundred years of unbroken struggle since the Battle of Isandlwana of 1879.
27 January, Oliver Tambo makes a statement at the International Conference on the EEC and South Africa, organised by the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement in Dublin.
21 March, Thabo Mbeki, representing the ANC, addresses a meeting of the Special Committee against Apartheid to commemorate Sharpeville.
6 April, Solomon Mahlangu, an MK operative is executed when he is hanged in Pretoria. The ANC issues a statement on his execution.
26 June, The Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) celebrates 20 years.
August, The Politico-Military Strategy Commission makes a report, which became known as The Green Book, to the ANC’s National Executive Committee. The Green Book came from the ANC delegation which visited Vietnam to learn about their successful conduct of a people’s war.
30-31 October, An Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) delegation claims to have met the ANC in London to establish a co-operative relationship.
5 November, Oliver Tambo, on behalf of the ANC, issues a statement denying any secret meetings between itself and the IFP.
15 November, James Mange is sentenced to death in a court in Pietermaritzburg for plotting an attack on a police station. His 11 co-accused are handed sentences of between 14 and 19 years in jail.
18 November, The ANC issues a statement condemning the sentences imposed on James Mange and his co-accused.
11 December, Alex Moumbaris, an MK operative, escapes from Pretoria Central Prison along with two other ANC and SACP activists Tim Jenkin and Stephen Lee. All were part of the ‘Pretoria Six’.

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O’Malley, P., n.d. “Pre-Transition” from The O’Malley Archives [online] Available at:|Steve Biko Foundation, 2011. “Steve Biko Timeline” from Steve Biko Foundation [online] Available at|, 20011. “History of the IFP” [online] Available at|ANC, 2011. Umkhonto we Sizwe – timeline from African National Congress: South Africa’s Liberation Movement [online] Available at|, 2011. “Nelson Mandela Timeline” from  History-Timelines|Karis, T. and Gerhart, G., 1997. From protest to challenge: a documentary history of the African politics in South Africa, 1882-1990, Volume 5: Nadir and Resurgence (1964-1979). Indianapolis: Indiana University Press|SADET, 2006. The Road to democracy in South Africa, Volume 2, 1970-1980 [online] Available at |African Activist Archive, 2011. African Activist Archive Project [online] Available at

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