The 1980s witnessed an increase in attacks launched by the ANC through its armed MK inside South Africa. Conversely, the government responded by stepping up its attacks on neighboring states targeting mainly ANC safe houses, activists and camps. In addition, the apartheid government sought to complement its use force by negotiating with neighboring states for a settlement which would see the ANC expelled from those countries. Increased pressure inside South Africa by the United Democratic Front (UDF) and later the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) particularly in the townships, increasing military attacks and the imposition of international sanctions forced the regime to the negotiating table. In the mid-80s the ANC launched Operation Vula (Open), aimed at facilitating the infiltration of MK guerrillas and smuggling arms into South Africa to intensify the armed struggle.  As it became clear that apartheid was beginning to crumble, business delegations, white Afrikaner intellectuals, labour and political parties such as the PFP began to engage the ANC on the prospect of a peaceful transfer of power. As part of the process Rivonia Treason trialists and other leading figures of the movement were released from Robben Island.

South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) declares the year as the ‘Year of the Worker’.  
Massive national school boycotts rock the townships.
8 January, In its January 8th statement the African National Congress (ANC) proclaims 1980 as ‘The Year of the Charter’ in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955.
25 January, Three MK cadres, on their way to carry out a sabotage mission, take refuge in the Silverton branch of Volkskas Bank after realising they were being tailed by the police. They hold 25 civilians hostage and after a series of negotiations a police unit storms the back. All three cadres are killed including two civilians. This incident becomes known as the Silverton Siege.
21 February, South Africa warns Mozambique it will not hesitate to strike back if Mozambique continues to shelter guerrillas conducting “murderous operations” and acts of sabotage against South Africa.
9 March, Percy Qoboza, editor of Sunday Post in Johannesburg, launches a campaign for the release of Nelson Mandela, and receives enormous support in South Africa and internationally. A petition sponsored by Sunday Post soon receives over 86,000 signatures and is supported by many organisations and leaders. A Release Nelson Mandela Committee is formed with Nokukhanya Luthuli (wife of the late Chief Albert Luthuli) as patron.
13 March, Lilian Ngoyi, 1956 Treason Trialist and president of the ANC Women’s League dies.
20 March, Zinzi Mandela expresses the spirit of the ‘Release Mandela’ campaign in a speech at the University of Witwatersrand when she says, “I have seen the anger of my people mounting. But perhaps with the release of my father, there could be an alternative to the bloodbath.”
4 April, ANC insurgents launch a rifle, rocket and grenade attack on Booysens Police Station, Johannesburg. Pamphlets are scattered demanding the release of Walter Sisulu from Robben Island. 
18 April, Zimbabwe gains its independence.
1 June, The SASOL I fuel plant complex at Sasolburg, located south of Johannesburg, is attacked. On the same night SASOL II at Secunda sees an unsuccessful limpet mine explosion which fails to set off fires. Oliver Tambo, President of the ANC, claims that both attacks were launched by ANC guerrilla units. This event marks the first use of limpet mines by Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). The attacks result in $7 million in damages to fuel storage tanks.
6 June, Dr. Renfrew Christie, an academic and former student leader from the University of Cape Town (UCT), is sentenced to ten years imprisonment, with four other sentences of five years each to run concurrently, after being found guilty on five charges under the Terrorism Act. The state claimed that he supplied information to the ANC concerning South Africa’s nuclear programme and thus exposed vital installations to the danger of sabotage attacks.
25 June, Helen Joseph is served with a two-year banning order, making this her fourth banning order.
26 June, The ANC awards Isithwalandwe to Govan Mbeki and Bishop Ambrose Reeves.
28 November, Nelson Mandela receives the Jawaharlal Nehru Award.
At a ceremony at the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, the ANC President, Oliver Tambo, declares that the organisation will adhere to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Protocol 1 of 1977 on the humanitarian conduct of war.
8 January, In its January 8th statement, the ANC declares 1981 the ‘Year of the Youth’, to pay tribute to heroism. It also urges students to continue mass struggles and to join the MK.
30 January, The South African Army raids Matola in Maputo, Mozambique and assassinates 12 ANC members. This is confirmed by General Constand Viljoen, Chief of the South African Defence Force (SADF), who announces that a South African commando attacked and destroyed the planning and control headquarters of the ANC at Matola in Maputo, Mozambique. The SADF exaggerates the figure and claims that  30 ANC activists were killed; and two SADF recruits were also killed.
8 February, Mozambique stresses its continued support for the ANC in a statement made at the funeral of 12 ANC members killed in the South African raid on Matola, Maputo, on 30 January 1981.
22 February, The Soviet Union supports Mozambique after the South African raid on Matola by sending two warships to Maputo. More are expected soon.
23 February, Prime Minister P.W. Botha declares that Soviet threats will not prevent South Africa from attacking ANC bases in Mozambique.
11 March, Govan Mbeki is presented with the Julius Fucik Award from the International Organisation of Journalists.
20-21 April, A bomb explosion during the night at a power station near Durban, causes an extensive blackout and temporarily paralyzes industry in the area. It is attributed to members of the ANC.
20-27 May, The International Conference on Sanctions against South Africa, organized by the United Nations (UN) in cooperation with the Organisation of African Union (OAU), is held at UNESCO House in Paris. Oliver Tambo addresses the conference on 21 May.
25-27 May, There are several sabotage attacks - in Soweto, on the Natal coast, East London and in Durban - for which the ANC claims responsibility.
16 June, On the anniversary of the Soweto uprising, police and troops cordon off Soweto and other black townships in the Johannesburg and Pretoria areas, stopping and searching all vehicles. Sporadic clashes occur near the Regina Mundi Roman Catholic Church in Soweto.
30 June, Zwelakhe Sisulu, President of the Black Media Workers Association of South Africa, and son of Walter Sisulu, is arrested under security laws that provide for unlimited detention without trial.
31 July, Joe Gqabi, journalist and member of the ANC and MK, is gunned down by members of an apartheid hit-squad while reversing out his drive-way at his home in Harare, Zimbabwe.
12 August, MK launches an attack on a military base at Voortrekkerhoogte, outside Pretoria, using Soviet Grad P rockets.
19 November, Griffiths Mxenge, an attorney and a member of the ANC is murdered by askaris on his way home. His body is found with multiple stab wounds near a soccer field in Umlazi, Durban.
29 December, Winnie Mandela is banned for a further five years and continues to be restricted to the small town of Brandfort.
8 January, ANC President, Oliver Tambo, at a gathering in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ANC, declares that 1982 will be a year of massive actions against the apartheid system. He proclaims 1982 the year of ‘Unity in Action’.
14 March, A bomb explodes and destroys the ANC offices in Islington, London, shortly before the beginning of a mass rally organized by the Anti-Apartheid Movement.
20 March, A powerful bomb blast destroys the cells behind the Langa Commissioner's Court in Cape Town where thousands of pass law offenders have been sentenced. The blast causes widespread damage to the office which houses personal files on Africans in the Western Cape. The blast was part of ANC campaign aimed at creating confusion in the apartheid administration by destroying records of blacks, and took place on the eve of the anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre. No one was injured.
April, Walter Sisulu, Raymond Mhlaba, Andrew Mlangeni and Nelson Mandela are moved from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison. They are later joined by Ahmed Kathrada.
4 June, The ANC’s Chief Representative in Swaziland, Petrus ‘Nzima’ Nyawose and his wife are killed in a car bomb explosion.
14 June, Albertina Sisulu is placed under a banning order for the fifth time since 1963.
1 July, Helen Joseph, who had been under various banning orders since 1962, has the restrictions against her lifted.
5 August, The twentieth anniversary of the arrest of Nelson Mandela is marked by a call for his release by China, publicized in the Communist Party organ, the People’s Daily. In addition, an appeal signed by more than 2,000 mayors from 53 countries, was made public by the United Nations Centre Against Apartheid in New York.
8 August, Lieutenant-General Johann Coetzee, Head of the Security Police, announces that Ernest Dipale, arrested under the new Internal Security Act and charged with furthering the aims of a banned organization, has been found hanged in his cell at John Vorster Square. The Progressive Federal Party’s (PFP) justice spokesperson, Helen Suzman, calls for the whole structure of detention laws to be changed.
9 August, The PFP’s spokesman on Police Affairs, Ray Swart, calls for a commission of inquiry into all aspects of the conditions of detainees under security legislation. The Minister of Law and Order promises a clear-cut policy statement on the treatment of security detainees, but it will not be a formal code of conduct, nor will it be embodied in a law.
17 August, Ruth First is killed by a parcel bomb, sent to her by the South African security police, at the University of Maputo, Mozambique.
21 October, Barbara Hogan is sentenced to ten years in prison for High Treason in the Rand Supreme Court for membership and furthering the aims of banned ANC.
2 December, Afrikaans poet, Breyten Breytenbach, is released from prison after serving seven of the nine years to which he was sentenced in 1975.
9 December, South African forces raid houses in Maseru, killing thirty members of the ANC including seven women and children. General Constand Viljoen describes it as a pre-emptive raid to prevent attacks during the festive season. The government blamed a chain of sabotage incidents within South Africa on the ANC command structure in Lesotho. The incursion is widely condemned.
18-19 December, Four bombs explode at the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, outside Cape Town, for which the ANC claims responsibility.
The South African Defence Force uses direct intervention to eliminate ANC bases and it supports opposition groups who challenge governments in neighbouring states that harbour ANC activists. By the end of 1983, neighbouring states appeared reluctant to provoke South Africa by openly showing active support for the ANC, but they did not turn their backs completely on the ANC either.
A raid takes place on Gaborone, Botswana, killing ANC personnel.
 "Release Mandela Committees" are set up in different regions of the country.
January-April, Three bomb explosions damage the old building housing the Supreme Court in Pietermaritzburg, and the new building nearing completion.
7 February, Cedric Mayson, former Methodist Minister, banned for five years in 1977 and detained on 27 November 1981, appears before the Pretoria Supreme Court on charges of treason and being a member or an active supporter of the ANC. He is released on bail, flees the country and arrives in Britain the day before his case is due to resume on 18 April 1983.
18 February, A bomb explosion in an administrative building in the Batho township of Bloemfontein injures 79 Black people who were seeking registration for employment. The ANC denies responsibility.
20 May, A car bomb explodes outside Pretoria's air force headquarters leaving 19 dead and more than 200 injured. The ANC claimed responsibility for the blast.
23 May, In a retaliatory action for the Pretoria car bomb, the South African Air Force (SAAF) launch a raid on six ANC targets in the suburbs of Maputo. South African Air Force bombers attack a Maputo suburb. Five Mozambicans (including two women and two children) and one South African refugee were killed. Over 30 people are also injured.
9 June, Three ANC members, Simon Mogoerane, Jerry Mosololi and Thabo Motaung convicted of attacking police stations, are hanged.
28 June, Two bomb blasts, at the Department of Internal Affairs and the police headquarters at Roodeport, Johannesburg cause extensive damage. The ANC is held to be responsible.
20 August, The United Democratic Front (UDF) is launched at the Rocklands Civic Centre, Mitchells Plain, Cape Town to fight the introduction of the Tricameral Parliament. The launch is attended by delegates of 565 organisations. The launch is followed by a public rally of approximately 10 000 people.
19 September, Dr. Yusuf Dadoo dies in England after a long battle with cancer. He is buried at Highgate Cemetery, a few meters away from Karl Marx’s grave.
 22 September, The Republic of South Africa Constitution Act is passed. This Act establishes the Tricameral Parliament and came into force on 3 September 1984.
17 October, South African forces raid ANC offices of the ANC in Maputo. The raid is condemned internationally.  
2 November, The constitutional referendum shows that the majority of Whites are in favour of P.W Botha's ideas for constitutional reform including the Tricameral Parliament
24 November, Carl Niehaus is sentenced to 15 years in prison and his fiancée, Johanna Lourens, to four years for high treason at the Rand Supreme Court.
5 December, A bomb explodes at the Johannesburg office of the Department of Foreign Affairs becoming the 42nd attack by ANC saboteurs in 1983.
The UN General Assembly adopts a new program of action on apartheid.
8 January, In its annual 8 January statement, the ANC calls for a People’s War, based on four pillars: ANC underground activity, united mass action, MK attacks, and an international campaign to isolate the apartheid regime.
March, African high school pupils express grievances and make several demands to address these: an end to corporal punishment, the scrapping of rules disallowing youths older than 20 years of age, and free textbooks. The boycott which began in Atteridgeville spreads to Cradock, Graaf Reinet, Port Elizabeth, Soweto and the east Rand, with 13000 students participating.
16 March, P.W. Botha and Samora Machel sign the Nkomati Accord, a nonaggression treaty between South Africa and Mozambique. Under the accord, the two signatories agree not to allow attacks to be mounted from their territories. The ANC is allowed to have only 10 of its members based in the country, and is forced to close its camp in Nampula. Most of the members move to Tanzania, while a 50-member team infiltrates South Africa.
23 March, Dorothy Nyembe is released from jail and becomes an active member of the Natal Organisation of Women (NOW).
26 March, The Mozambique-South Africa Joint Security Commission meets for the first time in Maputo, as further raids are carried out against ANC houses and offices by the Mozambican authorities.
11 May, David Kitson, South Africa’s longest serving White political prisoner, is released from prison seven months before completing his 20 year sentence for sabotage.
23 May, It is stated by the Minister of Law and Order that a total of 14 armed attacks and explosions have occurred between January and May 1984.
June, Writing in the journal Dawn, the official MK journal, Oliver Tambo calls on South Africans to ‘organise, mobilise, and step up the mass offensive around the immediate issues of the day and the fundamental question of people’s war’.
28 June, Jeannette Schoon and her six-year old daughter, Katryn, are killed by a parcel bomb at their home in Lubango, northern Angola. The bomb was targeted at Marius Schoon who was not home at the time.
July, A State of Emergency is declared over many parts of the country. It lasts for six months.
The UDF begins a massive country-wide campaign to convince Indian and Coloured voters to boycott the upcoming elections for the Tri-Cameral Parliament.
12 July, A car bomb explosion in Durban kills five and injures 27 people.
13 July, The all-White parliament holds its last session in Cape Town.
August, In the August issue of Mayibuye, the ANC calls for apartheid institutions to be rendered non-functional, and for the country to be made ungovernable.
17 August, The United Nations Security Council adopts Resolution 554 which condemns the new Tricameral Parliament.
25 August, The UDF, the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) and the Release Mandela Committee hold one of a series of meetings, after the Lekoa Town Council decides to increase rent by R6/month, and resolve to ask residents not to pay the new rent and to embark on a stayaway on 3 September.
11 September, Following unrest and rioting in the townships, the Minister of Law and Order prohibits all meetings of more than two persons, discussing politics or protests against or in support or in memoriam of anything, until 30 September 1984. The ban extends to certain areas in all four provinces, but is most comprehensive in the Transvaal.
12 September, On the anniversary of the death of Steve Biko, unrest breaks out in Soweto. When police open fire on protestors, COSAS activist Bongani Khumalo is killed. The Release Mandela Committee calls for a stayaway on 17th September, and up to 65% of residents heed the call.
October, The police launch Operation Palmiet, using 7000 police and army soldiers conducts house to house in Sebokeng, Sharpeville, Boipatong other Lekoa townships. The government claims that the purpose is to eliminate criminal and intimidatory forces from the townships. About 350 people were arrested. In response, the newly formed Transvaal Regional Stayaway Committee called for a stayaway on 5 and 6 November. In Leandra, near Secunda, unrest sees the home of the mayor burnt down, and the homes of councillors attacked.
26 October, Violence erupts in the township of Sebokeng, 48 hours after 7,000 police and troops swamped the area and made hundreds of arrests in an attempt to stamp out unrest. Police report an outbreak of violence overnight in townships throughout the country, with crowds of up to 2,000 stoning police who in turn retaliated with teargas, rubber bullets and birdshot.
8 November, Security police raid the offices of the UDF.
26 November, Cyril Ramaphosa, a lawyer and General Secretary of National Union of Mineworkers, is arrested in Lebowa, on a charge of organising or planning to take part in a meeting in Namakgale. The local magistrate had banned meetings in the town.
8 January, In its January 8th statement the ANC declares 1985 ‘The Year of the Cadre’ and urges the youth to continue to disrupt the local councils.
31 January, President P.W. Botha offers a proposal  to release Nelson Mandela on condition that ‘he unconditionally rejected violence as a political weapon’.
10 February, Nelson Mandela turns down the release proposal offered by President Botha.
15 February, President P.W. Botha announces that his offer of release to Nelson Mandela still stands and that government is prepared to talk to the ANC if it renounces violence. Four PAC security prisoners take up an offer of release and three other ANC prisoners reject this offer in a six-page memorandum submitted to the president.
21 March, Four thousand people march from Langa Township to KwaNobuhle, via the White town of Uitenhage; as part of the 25th anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre. The police open fire on the crowd, killing 20 and injuring 27 people. The incident is condemned internationally with US Secretary of State George Schultz describing the use of violence as ‘a deplorable act’. The government appoints a Commission of Inquiry into this massacre, chaired by Justice D. Kannemeyer. Conflicting reports of the incident surface with police stating they had been stoned, while protestors said no stones had been thrown. Police were accused of placing stones at the scene after the event. Further violence sees another 37 lives lost in the Eastern Cape.
April, Popo Molefe, Mosiuoa Lekota and Moses Chikane, three key UDF leaders, are detained.
13 April, A funeral is held for 13 of the victims of the Langa, Uitenhage massacre. More than 40,000 people attend and are addressed by Bishop Desmond Tutu and Reverend Alan Boesak.
7 May, Thabo Mbeki announces on Radio Freedom that the ANC would continue to make the country ungovernable and would ‘attack on all fronts in a united and co-ordinated political and military offensive’.
8 May, Three Pebco activists go missing. At the TRC years later it emerged that Qaqawuli Godolozi, Sipho Hashe and Champion Galela were lured to the airport and abducted by the security police. They were then taken to Port Chalmers police station where they were interrogated and killed. Their bodies were burnt and dumped in the Fish River.
14 June, South African Defence Force Special Forces, together with members of the security branch, launch a cross border raid on ANC targets in Gaborone, Botswana. Twelve people are killed and six wounded in this operation.  Among those killed are eight South Africans, two Botswana nationals, a Lesotho and a Somali citizen.
6-25 June, The ANC holds its Second National Consultative Conference in Kabwe, Zambia. The ANC decides to open up its National Executive Committee to all races, and Joe Slovo, Reginald September, James Stuart (Hermanus Loots), Mac Maharaj and Aziz Pahad are elected. Martin Legassick, of the Marxist Workers' Tendency, a faction formed in 1979, is expelled from ANC.
27 June, Four Eastern Cape UDF activists, on their way from Port Elizabeth to Cradock, are abducted and assassinated by the security police. The four, known as the Cradock Four, were Matthew Goniwe, Sparrow Mkhonto, Fort Calata and Sicelo Mhlauli.
July, A Dutch national, Klaas de Jonge, is detained under the Internal Security Act for distributing arms and ammunition to the ANC. He seeks refuge in the Dutch Embassy in Pretoria.
20 July, A funeral, held in Lingelihle township to mourn the death of Mathew Goniwe and his three colleagues, is attended by 60,000 people.
21 July, A State of Emergency is declared in 36 magisterial districts of the Eastern Cape and PWV (now Gauteng). As part of the state of emergency the government could implement curfews and the president could rule by decree without having to refer to the constitution or parliament.
1 August, Victoria Mxenge, a Durban attorney and the wife of slain attorney, Griffiths Mxenge, is assassinated in her home in Umlazi, Durban.
8 August, At a memorial service for Victoria Mxenge, members of the amaButho, an Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) ‘community based guard force’ launches an attack on the mourners.
26 August, Thousands of marchers set off from different points in Cape Town to Pollsmoor Prison, despite the march being banned, to demand the release of Nelson Mandela. The march had been called by Reverend Allan Boesak but he was detained and Dorothy, his wife, leads the march. Police shoot and kill nine people and by the end of the week the death toll rises to 28.
September, A delegation of businessmen, including Gavin Relly, Anglo American Corporation chairman, and Tony Bloom, Premier Group chairman, fly to Lusaka to hold talks with the ANC.
13 October, A PFP delegation, led by Federick van Zyl Slabbert, meets the ANC in Lusaka.
15 October, Members of the South African Railway Police hide in wooden crates on the back of a railway truck in Athlone, Cape Town and open fire on a crowd of protestors killing three youths and injuring several others. This becomes known as the Trojan Horse massacre.
2 December, The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is formed with a membership of 500,000 and 33 affiliates. This organisation is politically aligned with the banned ANC. Elijah Barayi is elected president, Chris Dlamini vice president, Jay Naidoo general secretary, and Sydney Mufamadi assistant general secretary.
23 December, The Salam shopping centre in Amanzimtoti, outside Durban is bombed by an MK cadre Andrew Sibusiso Zondo. Five people are killed and more than 40 injured.
30 December, Winnie Mandela is arrested for contravening a banning order prohibiting her from being in the magisterial district of Johannesburg and Roodepoort.
The ANC launches Operation Vula an underground operation aimed at facilitating the infiltration of MK guerrillas into South Africa and maintaining open communication links between the ANC Leaders in exile, at home and in prison. Amongst some of its operatives are Sathyandranath 'Mac' Maharaj, Ronnie Kasrils, Pravin Gordhan, Siphiwe Nyanda and Billy Nair.
The ANC approaches Connie Bram and requests her to assist the organisation in setting up underground safe houses for MK guerrillas who will be secretly brought to the country.
8 January, In its January 8 statement the ANC declares 1986 ‘The Year of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the People’s Army’. It extols the destruction of local councils, and looks forward to ‘the gathering collapse of the apartheid economy’. The government, it said, had lost the strategic initiative and its attempts at reform were collapsing. The slogan for the year, coined by Thabo Mbeki, is ‘Every patriot a combatant, every combatant a patriot’.
March, COSATU sends a fact-finding mission to hold discussions with the ANC and South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) in Lusaka, Zambia.
7 March, State of Emergency, imposed on 21 July 1985, is lifted.
8 March, Moses Mabhida, MK commander and secretary-general of the South African Communist Party (SACP), dies of a heart attack in Maputo, Mozambique. He is succeeded by Joe Slovo who takes up the position in 1987.
11 April, Peter Nchabeleng, former president of the UDF in the Northern Transvaal, dies in police cells. In a Radio Freedom address in the evening, the ANC called for renewed consumer boycotts.
13 April, A controversial statement is made by Winnie Mandela at Munsieville, in which she states that ‘We have no guns – we have only stones, boxes of matches and petrol. Together, hand in hand, with our boxes of matches and our necklaces we shall liberate this country.” (in Gilbey, 1993).
May, Malcolm Fraser (Australian Prime Minister) and Olusegun Obsanjo (former military ruler of Nigeria) visit South Africa as part of an Eminent Persons Group and visit Nelson Mandela in prison. During their visit, the South African Defence Force attacks the neighbouring states of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. The Group leave the country immediately and recommend that economic sanctions against South Africa be increased and maintained.
1 May, Following the NECC call for a stayaway, reinforced by COSATU, 1,5-million people heed the call which sees the largest strike in South African history.
June, Two car bomb attacks in Johannesburg by the MK kill several people and many are injured.
12 June, The government declares a State of Emergency which lasts until 1990 with provisions that are broader than any previous state of emergency. Political funerals are restricted, strict curfews are imposed, certain indoor activities are banned and television cameras banned from ‘unrest areas’.
14 June, A car bomb explosion outside Magoo’s and Why Not bars on the Durban beachfront killing three people and injuring 69. Robert McBride is later arrested and convicted for the bombs.
24 June, In Britain, Foreign Office Minister Lynda Chalker meets Oliver Tambo, president of the ANC.
7 July, After enduring more than twenty years of government banning, Winnie Mandela is freed of all state-ordered restriction.
8 September, The ANC’s Diplomatic Office in Stockholm, Sweden is bombed. However, no one is injured.
9 September, Andrew Zondo, who was responsible for the 1985 Amanzimtoti bomb, is hanged. Along with Zondo, Clarence Payi and Sipho Xulu are also hanged for the murder of Benjamin Langa an ANC agent suspected of being an informer for the security police.
19 October, Samora Machel, President of Mozambique, dies after the plane he was travelling in crashed in the Lembombo Mountains, near Mbuzini, South Africa.
4 November, Oliver Tambo, accompanied by Thabo Mbeki, meets Mikhail Gorbachev at the Kremlin. At a press conference afterwards, Tambo announces that “...the Soviet Union stands firmly with us in the struggle for a united, democratic and non-racial South Africa...” ( Shubin, 2008: 237).
8 January, In his 8th of January speech celebrating the 75th anniversary of the ANC, Oliver Tambo declares 1987 the ‘Year of Advance to People’s Power’.
28 January, Oliver Tambo meets George Schultz, US Secretary of State, in Lusaka. Schultz raises concerns about the Soviet Union’s influence in the ANC and the party’s stance on violence.
March, COSATU begins its ‘Living Wage’ campaign which results in work stoppages across the country.
22 March, Archbishop Desmond Tutu meets the ANC in Zambia and fails to convince the organization to abandon the armed struggle.
April, Joe Slovo resigns his post as a Chief of Staff of MK to take up the position of general secretary of the SACP. He is succeeded by Chris Hani.
A national Release Mandela Committee is launched. Its national coordinator is Aubrey Mokoena with Paul David as its secretary.
5-6 May, In anticipation of the Whites-only general election on 6 May, the UDF calls for a national stayaway. About 500,000 students boycott classes and a similar number of workers stayed away from work. The Eastern Cape in particular saw almost the total workforce heed the call. More than 100 incidents of violence were reported on the Election Day. The election is won by the National Party led by P.W. Botha with 52% of the vote.
7 May, Two bombs explode in the early hours of the morning in the basement of COSATU House, Johannesburg. No one is injured but the building is badly damaged and declared a health hazard.
12 June, The government renews the State of Emergency for another year. In response, the UDF and COSATU call for a strike from 12 to 26 June. Response to the call is partially successful, but a large number of workers and students heed the call on 16 June.
9-12 July, The Institute for a Democratic South Africa (IDASA) organises a conference in Dakar, Senegal. The conference is attended by 61, mainly Afrikaans-speaking South Africans and a 17-person ANC delegation. The result is the Dakar Declaration which calls for the release of all detainees and the unbanning of the ANC.
9 July, ANC members Paul Dikeledi and Cassius Make are assassinated by South African agents in Swaziland. This occurred when the taxi they were travelling in was ambushed. A Mozambican national is also killed.
16 July, The ANC issues a statement on the assassination of Paul Dikeledi and Cassius Make.
October, A set of preconditions are laid out by the ANC’s National Executive Committee before it could agree to hold talks with the government. These include the release of all political prisoners, the lifting of the state of emergency, the repeal of oppressive apartheid laws, the unbanning of all political organisations, the abolishing of the homeland system, and the unconditional return of all political exiles.
Chris Hani is appointed new Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander of MK.
5 November, Govan Mbeki is released from prison after serving 24 years on Robben Island.
December, Thabo Mbeki holds talks with Willie Esterhuyse, an Afrikaner academic based at Stellenbosch University who had close ties to the National Party. Esterhuyse had been briefed by the National Intelligence Services and reported back to them.
1-4 December, The ANC holds the Arusha Conference in Tanzania. The theme of the conference is ‘Peoples of the World Unite Against Apartheid for a Democratic South Africa.’
8 January, In the annual 8th January statement, the ANC declares 1988 ‘The Year of United Action for People’s Power’.
17/18 January, Percy Qoboza, journalist and editor of City Press, dies at the Rand Clinic, Johannesburg after being in a serious condition due to a heart attack on 25 December 1987.
29 March, ANC official Dulcie September is shot dead outside the ANC offices in Paris, France.
7 April, Albie Sachs is seriously wounded by a car bomb in Maputo. He loses his arm and sight in one eye.
May, Nelson Mandela meets with the ‘secret working group’ of government officials led by Kobie Coetsee, at the officers club at Pollsmoor Prison.
2 May, Olivia Forsyth, a self-confessed spy for the South African security police within the ANC, escapes from her guards and seeks refuge in the British Embassy.
27 May, Anti-apartheid Afrikaners led by Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, IDASA director, meet with the ANC in Frankfurt, to discuss a post-apartheid South Africa.
11 June, The Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute Concert takes place at Wembley Stadium, London. This event, which runs for 11 hours, is watched by approximately 600 million people in over 60 countries. The line up includes 60 musicians, comedians and actors.
30 June, Zimbabwe foils an attempt by a South African commando to rescue five alleged South African agents awaiting trial for bomb attacks against the ANC in Zimbabwe.
7 July, Trevor Manuel, Ebrahim Rasool, Mountain Qumbela, Hilda Ndude, all officials of the UDF in the Western Cape, and Mzonke Jacobs, president of the Cape Youth Congress, are released after being detained for two years under the state of emergency. Manuel, Rasool and Jacobs are served with restrictions orders limiting their movements and activities and barring them from speaking to the press.
18 July, Die Beeld, a pro-government Afrikaans newspaper, runs an editorial coinciding with Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday urging the government to release him.
14 August, Nelson Mandela is admitted to the Tygerberg Hospital, suffering from a lung ailment.
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.
7-9 October, A delegation comprising members of the NIC and TIC hold talks with the ANC in Lusaka and issue a joint communiqué.
19 October, Mohammed Valli Moosa, Murphy Morobe and Vusi Khanyile end their 37-day sit-in at the American Consulate-General in Johannesburg. The three men, who had previously pledged not to leave until other detainees were freed and repressive laws repealed, announced that they had successfully publicized the status of 1,300 persons presently in detention under the emergency regulations. They also said they were responding to the suggestion of Nelson Mandela and others to return to the community and continue their anti-apartheid work. However, they admitted feeling some apprehension in doing so, despite the regime's having given assurances that they would not be re-detained or restricted.
26 November, Harry Gwala ANC member is released from Robben Island.
7 December, Nelson Mandela is moved from Pollsmoor Prison to Victor Verster Prison near Franschhoek. Mandela is given his own cottage and allowed visitors. He regularly meets with UDF leaders. The government also initiates direct talks between the NIS and the ANC.
29 December, James Seipei (known as Stompie Mokhetsi), a 14 year old ANC activist, and three other youths are picked up by members of Winnie Mandela’s bodyguard and the Mandela United Football Club after being accused of being a police informers. Stompie’s body is later found in Soweto stabbed through the neck.
8 January, In its 8th January statement the ANC declares 1989 ‘The Year of Mass Action for People’s Power’ and proposes a campaign of militant mass defiance.
16 February, Representatives of leading anti-apartheid organisations, including the UDF and COSATU, hold a news conference at which they announce that the organizations were distancing themselves from Winnie Mandela. This was due to allegations that a group connected with Mrs. Mandela, the Mandela United Football Club, was "associated" with a "reign of terror" in Soweto that included the abduction and beating of several Soweto youths on 29 December, resulting in the death of Stompie Mokhetsi.
19 February, Four of Winnie Mandela’s bodyguards are arrested at her home in connection with the death of Stompie Mokhetsi.
March, Nelson Mandela sends a memorandum to President P.W. Botha in which he states that the ANC would end the armed struggle if the organization was unbanned, political prisoners released and troops are withdrawn from the townships.
June, The ANC’s National Executive Committee meets in Lusaka, with COSATU and UDF leaders in attendance. The conference which convened to discuss the ‘looming danger of negotiations’ concluded that the government had lost the initiative and was in a crisis, but that Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) was overly dependent on foreign funding, had ‘ineffective communication with grassroots levels’, and ‘an inability to implement programmes of action’. A document was issued to MDM activists to provide guidance on the near future. The conference also resolved to begin a Defiance Campaign, beginning on 20 July and running until the election on 6 September. Part of the plan was for Black people to defy apartheid legislation by seeking treatment at White hospitals, using White beaches or try to enrol at White schools, among others.
20 September, After the general election, F.W. de Klerk is inaugurated as the new State President.
15 October, After 26 years in prison, Rivonia trialists Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni, Elias Motsoaledi, Raymond Mhlaba and Wilton Mkwayi, were released along with Oscar Mpetha, the veteran ANC and SACP leader in the Cape, and Japhta Masemola, a PAC leader. Their release was greeted with scenes of wild celebration around the country.
10 November, Damian de Lange, Ian Robertson and Susan Donelly, three White members of the ANC, receive 25, 20 and 18 years respectively after being convicted on 32 charges of terrorism.
8 December, The Conference for a Democratic Future is attended by 4600 delegates representing 2000 organisations at Wits University. Smangaliso Mkhatshwa served as conference chairman, and Walter Sisulu was given a rousing welcome. The conference adopts the Harare Declaration.
13 December, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk meet for the first time to discuss the country’s political future.

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