Mandela was elected to the Student Representative Council (SRC) at Fort Hare. After he became embroiled in general student dissatisfaction with boarding house food and a very low SRC poll, he followed his conscience and resigned. The head of the University gave him a choice: either he accepts the post or he leaves the university. He was given until the end of the university holidays to decide. When he returned home, the regent ordered him to return to university after the holidays and take up his seat on the SRC. However, Mandela felt that there was a principle at stake and refused to return under the conditions laid down by the rector. Like his late father, Mandela stood by his principles and refused to bend to authority. This is a strong and recurring trait of his personality.

Walter Sisulu and Professor Z. K. Matthews join the African National Congress (ANC).

7 July, The Executive Committees of the All African Convention (AAC) and the ANC meet and pass a resolution regarding World War II. They sympathise with the British Commonwealth and urge the South African government to give full recognition to the Africans participating in the war.

15-17 December, At the annual ANC conference Dr. A.B. Xuma is elected ANC president and begins to rejuvenate the organisation. He gives the go-ahead for the forma­tion of the Congress Youth League. Moses Kotane and J.B Marks are elected to the Resolutions Committee and E.T Mofutsanyana is nominated by Dr. A.B Xuma, to serve as Secretary for Labour in his Cabinet. To read the minutes of the conference click here.


The Regent, Chief Jongintaba, informed Mandela and his son, Justice, that he had chosen brides for them and had made arrangements for them to be married. Both young men were unhappy about this, but kept their displeasure to themselves. They made plans to leave the region for Johannesburg and stole a cow from the regent's herd to raise funds for their trip. As they couldn't leave the area without the permission of the magistrate, they lied to obtain a travel permit and set out for Johannesburg.

Upon their arrival in the industrial and commercial city, they found temporary accommodation at Crown Mines with an InDuna in the mine compound. Mandela was employed as a night watchman at the compound, but within a few days he and Justice were fired when Dalinyebo contacted the InDuna and demanded that Mandela and Justice be sent back. They left and found accommodation in 46 Seventh Avenue in Alexandra Township. Mandela convinced the regent that he was going to study law and the regent agreed to support his studies.Mandela began articles at the law firm Witkin, Sidelsky & Eidelman. Late in 1941, the now frail Dalinyebo visited Mandela in Johannesburg. He did not reprimand him for his past disobedience and Mandela convinced his guardian that it was best for him to complete his law studies in Johannesburg.

That same year, Mandela was introduced to Albertina Totiwe a trainee nurse. She in turn introduced him to her boyfriend, a young business man and estate agent Walter Sisulu and the two men become acquaintances and soon friends.

The ANC congress resolves to review its position on women membership. Dr. A.B. Xuma is elected as the Chairman of the Johannesburg Joint Council.

23 February, Dr. A.B Xuma gives an address at the Mendi Memorial Celebration held at the Bantu Sports Grounds, Johannesburg. In paying tribute African servicemen who perished in the Mendi tragedy,   Xuma asked “Can a race which is willing to make such sacrifices and which produces men of such courage, dependability and devoted service to King and Country in the hour of greatest need be denied any rights and privileges at the gift of the State? I answer emphatically, NO!”

August, As an indication of the growing relationship between the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) and the ANC, Dr. A.B. Xuma uses the columns of the Party’s organ Inkululeko to address a long statement on ‘The Policy and Platform of the African National Congress

November, Moses Kotane presides over the founding conference of the Council of Non-European Trade Unions (CNETU). The focus of the Council is to address the poor working conditions of African workers.

Moses Kotane is elected as one of ten members of an ‘African Parliamentary Committee’ of lobbyists to be in contact with the Native Representative Council (NRC) at the AAC conference in Bloemfontein.

14-16 December, The ANC holds its annual conference. During his address Dr A.B Xuma declared that “... the African National Congress is the mouthpiece of the African people of the Union of South Africa. All its efforts are and must be concentrated upon raising the status of the African people from their semi-serfdom to citizenship.” To read more of  Xuma’s presidential address click here.


Mandela stayed in "Dark City", the poorest section of Alexandra Township named for its absence of electricity. He later said, "Alexandra occupies a treasured place in my heart. It was the first place I lived away from home." This broadened his perspective by exposure to Sotho-, Swazi-, Zulu-, etc. speaking people. Nelson Mandela completed a BA degree through correspondence.

E.T Mofutsanyana and Alpheus Malibu are selected by the CPSA to stand as candidates for the NRC elections but neither is elected to the NRC. The ANC’s candidates of Rev. John Dube, A.W.G. Champion and Professor Z.K. Matthews are elected to the NRC.

June 18, Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki , future president of South Africa, is born in Idutywa district in the Transkei. Mbeki is the second child of Govan Mbeki and Epainette Mbeki.

20-22 December, The ANC conference held in Bloemfontein approves the formation of a youth wing and adopts the “Atlantic Charter from the Standpoint of Africans within the Union of South Africa” and Bill of Rights documents. Click here for the resolution.


Nelson Mandela enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand Law Faculty. He met students of all races and was exposed to liberal, radical and Africanist thought. He also experienced racism and discrimination. He spent six years at Wits, from 1943 -1948, but, owing to the dire circumstances under which he lived and studied, he left without completing his LLB degree.

Mandela met Gaur Radebe at Walter Sisulu's house. He found Radebe unscientific, but admired his enthusiasm and vigour. Radebe, one of organisers of the first Alexandra Bus boycott, invited Mandela to join him to help the campaign against bus price increases. This was Mandela's first exposure to mass action.

Around the same time, Mandela began attending a gathering of young intellectuals brought together by African National Congress president Dr Alfred B. Xuma in his effort to revitalise the ANC. Amongst them were Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Anton Lembede, Lional Majombozi. Majombozi proposed that they form a youth league within the structures of the ANC.

Women are formally admitted as full members of the ANC. The ANC Women's League is formally established. Madie-Hall Xuma is elected President, a position she holds till 1949.

7 July, General elections are held with the United Party, under General Jan Smuts winning a majority of seats in Parliament. The National Party, under D.F. Malan, begins to makes gains as the official opposition.

26 September, The African Democratic Party (ADP) is launched by, amongst others, Paul Mosaka, Self Mampuru and Dan Koza. It has a social-democratic programme and hopes to provide an alternative to the ANC. Former Communist Hyman Basner addresses its inaugural meeting, criticising the ANC-CPSA alliance. The party becomes influential in Alexandra and Orlando and lasts about five years. To read their manifesto click here.
December, Seventy-two delegates, including Indians and Coloureds, attend the AAC. It coincides with the first meeting of the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM). The meeting of these two organisations takes place in Bloemfontein and is chaired by Professor D. D. T. Jabavu. To read the “Draft Declaration of Unity” of this conference click here.

16 December, The new ANC constitution is adopted at the Congress’s annual conference. The conference also adopts Africans’ Claims in South Africa’.


January, Moses Kotane and Dr. Yusuf Dadoo are the main speakers at a mass anti-pass demonstration organized by the newly formed Anti-Pass Committee.

March, The ANCYL provisional committee publishes its Congress Youth League Manifesto, the central theme of which is the African’s decision to “determine his future by his own efforts” (Walshe, 1970: 335).

April, Nelson Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) and together with the group of young ANC intellectuals, formed the ANC Youth League (ANCYL).

10 September, The League's founding meeting was held at the Bantu Men's Social Centre in Johannesburg. Sisulu's fiancé Albertina was the only woman present. Anton Lembede is elected President and Nelson Mandela, Ashby P Mda, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu were elected to the Executive Committee. The league adopted a constitution and issued a manifesto that rejected participation in advisory boards and the Native Representative Council. The Manifesto announced a more militant stance than that of the League's parent body and advocated a staunchly African nationalist orientation.

Walter and Albertina Sisulu were married and Mandela is best man with his girlfriend Evelyn Mase, Walter's cousin as bridesmaid. The Sisulu's home became a second home to Mandela.

15 July, Nelson Mandela marries Evelyn Mase who was a nurse. The newlyweds moved to live with Evelyn's married sister and became neighbours with Esákia (Es'kia) Mphalele, a teacher and later a noted journalist, writer and activist.


Evelyn Mandela gave birth to the couple's first child, a boy named Tembi. They were allocated a house in Orlando, No 8115. It had three rooms, with no electricity nor inside toilet. Mandela's younger sister, Nomabandla (Leaby), came to live with them and enrolled at Orlando High School. Evelyn was the breadwinner in the family while Mandela studied law at the University of the Witwatersrand. He started to devote more and more of his time to politics.

The Port Elizabeth branch of the ANC organises protest marches against any extension of single accommodation or compound housing.  

Albert Luthuli is elected to the Executive Committee of the Natal branch of the ANC.

February, The ANCYL national president, Anton Lembede, issues an article entitled Some Basic Principles of African Nationalism in Inyaniso.

8 May, There are no official government celebrations on V-E Day. The ANC and SACP leaders celebrate the Allied victory over Hitler at a spontaneous gathering in Johannesburg. The people march through the streets of central Johannesburg gathering at the City Hall steps. Dr. Yusuf Dadoo, Michael Harmel and J.B. Marks make impromptu speeches at the steps of Johannesburg City Hall.


At a meeting called by the Anti-Pass Committee in Langa, Cape Town, where Moses Kotane is a key note speaker, the crowd takes a militant step and burns their passes.

Dr A.B Xuma attends the first session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in the hope to present the views of the ANC regarding the Smuts government racial policies. The South African Indian Congress (SAIC) assists Dr. A.B Xuma to come into contact with the Indian delegation at the United Nations (UN).

12 August, The African Mineworkers Union launches the biggest strike since the Rand Revolt of 1922. More than 60 000 African mineworkers take part. During the strike nine workers are killed and 70 are dismissed. The CPSA’s offices are raided by the police along with other organizations that had supported the miners’ strike.

14-17 December,  At the annual conference of the ANC, held in Bloemfontein, Moses Kotane, along with other CPSA members such as J.B Marks, Dan Tloome and Lucas Philips, are elected onto the National Executive Council (NEC). The ANC annual conference asks its NEC to consider the possibilities of closer cooperation with the national organisations of other non-Europeans in the common struggle. To read the resolutions made at the conference click here.

18 December, Steve Biko, leader of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), is born in King Williams Town, Eastern Cape.


Evelyn gave birth to a daughter, Makaziwe, but Makaziwe died after 9 months, leaving the couple heart-broken.

9 March, Dr Monty Naicker (Natal Indian Congress), Dr Yusuf Dadoo (Transvaal Indian Congress) and Dr A.B. Xuma (ANC) meet in Johannesburg. The presidents of the three congresses sign the Doctors Pact, a joint declaration of co-operation between them. To read the statement issued by Dr. A.B. Xuma, click here.

July, ANCYL President Anton Lembede died unexpectedly at the young age of 33. AP Mda succeeded him as league President, Oliver Tambo was elected Vice-President, and Mandela was elected Secretary General. At the end of 1947 Mandela was elected on to the Transvaal Provincial Executive of the ANC.


Mandela met A.C. Jordan, an academic much admired by Mandela's Tembu friends, and Isaac Tabata, founder of the Unity Movement. Mandela became National Secretary of the ANCYL. The Leagues decided to organise branches nationally and Mandela was responsible for organising one of the largest branches at Fort Hare University.

May, Mandela visited Cape Town for the first time and stayed three months. He also viewed the isolated prison of Robben Island from the vantage point of Table Mountain.

Mandela left university without completing his law degree.

The ANCWL holds its first conference, with Ida Mtwana as President.

Albertina Sisulu joins the ANCWL.

The ANCYL executive committee issues a statement which covers the “Basic Policy of the Congress Youth League.”

5 April, Dr. A.B. Xuma issues a statement on the upcoming general election.

26 May, the National Party (NP) contested the white-only national elections with a new policy called apartheid (literally apartness) and narrowly won.National Party leader D.F. Malan becomes Prime Minister. The CPSA calls for the formation of an anti-Nationalist front in response. Mandela was "stunned and dismayed" at the NP's victory.

3 October, Dr. A.B. Xuma calls a meeting of twelve African leaders to end the rift between the ANC and the All-African Convention. The leaders sign “A Call for Unity”.

25 November, Dr. A.B. Xuma sends a cable to the UN with regards to a statement made by Eric Hendrik Louw.

16-17 December, A joint conference of the ANC and AAC is held in Batho Location Community Hall, Bloemfontein. To read the minutes click here.


Joe Slovo marries Ruth First.

Ida Mntwana replaces Madie-Hall Xuma as the president of the ANC Women’s League.

17-18 April, A second joint conference between the AAC and the ANC is held. At the conference AAC calls upon the ANC to support the policy of non-collaboration with government. This conference fails to form a union between the two organisations. To read the minutes of the conference click here.

8 July, Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act No 55 is passed and prohibits marriage between Whites and any other race group.

After he received news about his mother's illness from his eldest sister, Mandela arranged for her to come to Johannesburg to consult medical specialists. She got on very well with her daughter-in-law, Evelyn, and stayed on with them, becoming a great help.

December, At the ANC's annual conference, held that year in Bloemfontein, President-General Dr Xuma,was replaced by Dr J S Moroka. Walter Sisulu is elected ANC Secretary-General and Mandela and Tambo were elected to the ANC National Executive Committee. The conference adopted the ANCYL's Programme of Action, which calls for a militant, Africanist campaign against apartheid and white minority rule. The Bloemfontein conference was a watershed moment in the history of the ANC and the liberation struggle in South Africa. The Congress also authorises the official ANC sign – the clinched right hand with the thumb pointing to the right shoulder. To read the minutes of this meeting click here.

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