21 March, In a peaceful anti pass march led by the PAC at Sharpeville, the police open fire on the unarmed and peaceful crowd, killing 69 and wounding 186 in what becomes known as the Sharpeville Massacre. Two others were killed, and 49 were wounded in Langa, Cape Town. The Sharpeville massacre “signalled the start of armed resistance in South Africa.”

28 March, The ANC calls for a nation-wide strike in protest of the Sharpeville massacre. Pass books are burned in countless bonfires. At one of the events Chief Albert Luthuli publicly burns his pass, Mandela burnt his passbook before an audience of journalists.Chief Albert Luthuli is detained for this action and held until August, when he is tried. He is given a six-month suspended sentence and fined £100.

30 March, The government declares a State of Emergency and arrests over 2 000 people. At lunchtime, an estimated group of between 30 000 and 50 000 Africans from surrounding African townships march into the centre of Cape Town led by Phillip Kgosana and demand an interview with the Minister of Justice. The Chief of Security promises to approach the Minister and the crowds march out of Cape Town. Immediately after they disperse, Erasmus announces in Parliament that a State of Emergency has been declared in 80 of the 300 magisterial districts, including every important urban area, and that 18 regiments of the Citizens Force have been mobilised to supplement the police, army and air force.

April, The Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) is formed in Britain with the re-naming of the Boycott Movement. The AAM is an umbrella organisation that took a strong moral stand against apartheid and white supremacy in South Africa, operating as an instrument of solidarity with the liberation struggle. It embraced a network of organisations including student bodies, trade unions, the Communist Party and sections of the British Labour Party. After the banning of the ANC in 1960 and the reconstruction of its mission in exile, the ANC formed a strategy of establishing productive working relationships with organisations in the West such as the AAM.

7 April, The Unlawful Organisations Act No. 34 comes into effect. Under this Act any organisation deemed a threat to the public can be declared unlawful by the government.

7 June, The Foreign Office of London opened a file on Mandela after he is interviewed for television for the first, and last time for nearly thirty years, and he announced that the ANC is “closing a chapter on [the] question of non-violent policy”.

26 August, The state of emergency, declared after the Sharpeville Massacre, is lifted.

7 October, Bram Fischer closes the case for the defense in the Treason Trial.

December, Mandela attended an underground meeting of the central committee of the SACP national conference in Johannesburg.

16 December, Zindziswa was born to Nelson and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the couples' second daughter.


The African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) established religious and welfare front organisations to hide behind.

25-26 March, The All-in African Conference is held in Pietermaritzburg and attended by 1 400 delegates representing 145 religious, cultural, peasant, intellectual and political bodies. The conference calls for a national convention of elected representatives. The conference also elects Nelson Mandela as secretary of the National Action Council.

29 March,The state failed to prove that the ANC or the Freedom Charter were communist and thus all accused (including Mandela) were acquitted of treason.

1 April, Robben Island is turned into a prison for those convicted of political crimes.

29-31 May, A Nation-wide Stay-At-Home, organized by the ANC, takes place. The PAC calls for non-Whites to ignore the stay-at-home. It is estimated that more than 40% of the labour force on the Rand stay at home.

31 May, South African becomes a republic and the country’s membership of the Commonwealth simultaneously expires. A nation-wide strike is held in protest against the establishment of the Republic of South Africa.

26 June, While underground, Nelson Mandela gave a press statement in which he stated his famous words, "The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days."

October, Dr. Yusuf Dadoo and Moses Kotane visit Moscow and are invited to attend the 22nd Communist Party of the Soviet Union Congress.

11 December, Chief Albert Luthuli, the ANC President is awarded the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.

16 December, ANC and South African Communist Party (SACP) members set up the armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) at a meeting between the organisations in Durban. There was a strict undertaking that life would not be endangered and only installations will be attacked. A central high command, with regional commands, was set up with Mandela the first commander in chief. MK made its first appearance with explosions in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban on government offices and an electrical transformer. There targets were chosen to avoid loss of human life or injury. 16 December was then known as Dingane’s Day””the commemoration date of the Afrikaners’ massacre of Zulus in 1813.

20 December, The National Committee of Liberation (NCL) and the MK carry out a joint operation to blow up a power pylon (to be carried out by the NCL) and sabotage a telecommunications substation (to be carried out by the MK). The substation attack fails and only two legs of the pylon are blown up.



There were Poqo uprisings in the Eastern Cape that resulted in a number of vicious killings, particularly of Whites.

21 January, Mandela arrived in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania to get support for the armed struggle.

29 January, Mandela attends the Pan-African Freedom Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that was hosted by Oliver Tambo, and addressed the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie. Mandela canvassed support in north and west African countries, met Col. Boumedienne of Algeria, Commander in Chief of the army of National Liberation, and undergoes training in demolition and mortar firing and attends army lectures. He meets Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda and Oginga Odinga, the opposition leader in Kenya.

May, Mandela flew to Britain under a pseudonym where he met Hugh Gaitskell and Jo Grimond, Labour and Liberal Party leaders on a ten day visit .

26 June, Mandela and Tambo arrive in Addis Ababa to recieve military training, which was meant to last six months.

24 July, Mandela returned to South Africa through Botswana and drove to Liliesleaf Farm. The ANC’s working committee discussed future strategy. He also travelled to Natal, disguised as a chaffeur, to report back on the financial and military support he had gained during his Africa trip to ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli and comrades.

5 August, Mandela was arrested, 17 months after going underground, near Howick, Kwazulu-Natal after a tip-off. The identity of the informant has been consequently been disputed with some pointing fingers at the CIA. However, it is entirely likely that the South African Police Service were able to track Mandela on their own due to Mandela’s flimsy disguise as Cecil Williams’ chauffeur.

September, The Congress of Democrats is banned.

October, ANC conference takes place in Lobatsi, Botswana.

13 October, Mandela attends his first day of court in a traditional Xhosa leopard-skin kaross.

7 November, Mandela is sentenced to five years imprisonment for incitement to strike and leaving the country without a passport. He was held for six months in Pretoria prison and then transferred to Robben Island.

10 December, Chief Albert Luthuli and Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr issue a joint statement ‘Appeal for Action Against Apartheid’.

28 December, Winnie Mandela is served with a two year banning order. This restricted her movements to the magisterial district of Johannesburg; prohibited her from entering any educational premises and barred her from attending or addressing any meetings or gatherings where more than two people were present. Moreover, the banning order also stipulated that media oulets were no longer permitted to quote anything she said, effectively gagging her voice too.


January, Police raided Lilliesleaf farm in Rivonia outside Johannesburg and arrested the nucleus of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) leadership, including Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Ahmed Kathrada, Lionel Bernstein and Bob Hepple. Albertina Sisulu and Caroline Motsoaledi were detained. Zwelakhe Sisulu, who was not yet sixteen was arrested for not possessing a pass.

May, Chris Hani begins his journey into exile first travelling to Soweto where he stays with a family sympathetic to the struggle. A few weeks later the group leave for Bechualand and then to Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). However, on reaching Lusaka Chris Hani, along with the rest of the group, is arrested. After a brief court appearance the men are freed and taken by the United National Independence Party (UNIP) to the border with Tanganyika.

26 June, Walter Sisulu makes a broadcast on a clandestine ANC Radio station

June-6 August, Albertina Sisulu becomes the first woman to be arrested under the General Laws Amendment Act and is held in solitary confinement.

9 October, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Rusty Bernstein, Denis Goldberg, James Kantor, Andrew Mlangeni, Elias Motsoaledi, Raymond Mhlaba and Bob Hepple, the Rivonia trialists, were charged with sabotage and attempting to overthrow the state violently. In the Cape Province, members of a breakaway group from the Non-European Unity Movement. Neville Alexander, Don Davis, Marcus Solomons, Elizabeth van der Heyden, Fikile Bam, Ian Leslie van den Heyden, Lionel Davis, Dorothy Alexander, Dulcie September, Doris van der Heyden and Gordon Hendricks were brought to trial in Cape Town.

30 October, Bob Hepple’s charges are withdrawn and is conditionally released. Justice De Wet rejects the first indictment against the 10 accused in the Rivonia Trial. A new indictment is served on the 10 accused alleging two counts of sabotage.

November, Along with 30 other MK cadres, Chri Hani arrives in Moscow, USSR for further military training.

25 November, Bob Hepple escapes with his wife Shirley to Bechuanaland Protectorate then to the ANC in Dar es Salaam. From there they go into exile in London.

6 December, Kaiser Dalunonga Matanzima, a relative and university friend of Nelson Mandela, became Chief Minister of the Apartheid homeland of Transkei.


April, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was given permission to attend the Rivonia Trial on condition she did not dress or behave in a manner to cause "incidents".

20 April, Mandela made his famous speech from the dock in which he exclaimed that he was “prepared to die” for a free and democratic South Africa.

May, Minister of Justice, B.J. Vorster, serves Chief Albert Luthuli with yet another five-year ban confining him to his home in Groutville.

31 May, Albertina Sisulu is served with a five-year banning order which restricts her to the magisterial district of Johannesburg, prevents her from visiting any area where Black people lived and communicating with any listed or banned person except her husband.

12 June, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Elias Motsoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni, Raymond Mhlaba and Dennis Goldberg are found guilty on all four charges and sentenced to life imprisonment. Ahmed Kathrada is found guilty on one charge of conspiracy while Lionel Bernstein is found not guilty. He is later rearrested, released on bail, and placed under house arrest.

August, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Albertina Sisulu were given permission to visit Robben Island, but were forbidden to travel together as they were both banned.

September, Babla Saloojee dies after been thrown from the seventh floor of John Vorster Square, Johannesburg Police headquarters.

October, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela laid a charge of assault against the police. The incident occurred while she was at the police station bringing food for ninety-day detainee Paul Joseph.

Chief Albert Luthuli called on Britain and the United States of America to apply sanctions against South Africa.

November, The trial known as Little Rivonia commences in which Laloo Chiba, Dave Kitson, Mac Maharaj, John Matthews and Wilton Mkwayi are charged with sabotage. Lionel Gay one of the accused turns state witness; subsequently charges against him are dropped.

6 November, Vuyisile Mini, Wilson Khayinga and Zinakile Mkhaba, SACTU leaders, are sentenced to death and executed.


5 January, Mac Maharaj, Laloo Chiba, Raymond Nyanda and Andrew Masondo arrive at Robben Island. Nyanda was suspected of being a police informer planted to obtain information from political activists imprisoned on Robben Island.  

23 January, Bram Fischer goes underground.

February, Michael Dingake leaves South Africa for Botswana. From Botswana he organises infiltration routes from Zambia into Botswana for MK operatives.

Mandela allowed his first visit in prison.


23 March, Bram Fischer sentenced to life imprisonment for sabotage.

Chris Hani is moved to Zambia where he is responsible for setting up a joint training programme with ZAPU before their entry into Rhodesia in what would later become the known as the Wankie campaign. While trying to re-enter Botswana Chris Hani is arrested and detained for two weeks before being sent back to Lusaka.

Michael Dingake is kidnapped on his way to Lusaka and transferred to Pretoria. After being tortured he is indicted for being a member of and carrying out activities for the banned ANC and SACP. He is sentenced to 15 years and sent to Robben Island.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela made her second visit to Robben Island.

6 September, Prime Minister Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd is stabbed in the neck and chest by Dimitri Tsafendas. The Prime Minister is rushed to Groote Schuur but is declared dead on arrival.

13 September, B.J Vorster succeeds Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd as the eighth Prime Minister of South Africa.



April, Mandela, Neville Alexander, Eddie Davis and Laloo Chiba were charged under section 99(1) of the Prison Regulations for being "idle, careless and negligent at work." The charges were later dropped.

21 July, Chief Albert Luthuli was knocked down and killed by a train while taking his routine walk on a familiar route at Groutville, Kwazulu-Natal.

July-September, MK begins a joint campaign with ZIPRA, a people's army fighting for the liberation of Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe) in what becomes known as the Wankie Campaign.

2 August, Chris Hani’s contingent is named the Luthuli Detachment by Oliver Tambo in honour of Chief Albert Luthuli. They are sent into the Wankie Game Reserve (Hwange National Park) on their first covert mission.

13 August, The Luthuli contingent is engaged in their first battle against the Rhodesian army in which they successfully force the army to retreat.

25 August, The Luthuli contingent experience another victory and they decide to start the march towards the Botswana border.

September, Mandela was now allowed four visits a year. His son Makgatho made his first visit to prison and saw his father for the first time in 4 years.

9 September, Mandela saw his mother, Noqaphi Nosekeni, for the last time when she visited him on Robben Island. She died a year later.



Attempts at opening the “Eastern Front” in Zimbabwe are made, after fierce encounters; ANC-ZAPU units are forced to withdraw to Zambian territory.

16 June, The ANC issues a pamphlet entitled ‘We are at War!

18 June, Oliver Tambo delivers a speech, entitled ‘Need for new level of international action against apartheid’, to a special session of the UN’s Special Committee Against Apartheid in Stockholm, Sweden.

September, Mandela's mother, Nonqaphi Nosekeni Mandela, died of a heart attack. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Paramount Chief Dalindyebo apply for Mandela to attend funeral, but permission was refused.

13-16 September, At the fifth session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the OAU, in Algeria, Oliver Tambo delivers a joint speech by leaders of Liberation Movements, entitled ‘We shall win’.

Andimba Ja Toivo of SWAPO is sentenced to 20 years in prison at Robben Island. After a year in solitary confinement, he would then be moved to Section B along with the other political prisoners such as Mandela.

20 December, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela receives permission to visit Mandela.



The ANC opens its membership to include White people. Jack Simons and Ray Alexander Simons are amongst the first White people to become members of the ANC.

February-March, The trial of Dorothy Nyembe and 11 others takes place in the Supreme Court on charges of conspiracy to overthrow the existing order of the Republic of South Africa. Of the 12 accused, 11 including Nyembe are found guilty under Terrorism Act.

25 April-1 May, The ANC holds the Morogoro Consultative Conference in Tanzania. The ANC was involved with internal wrangles over strategy and tactics. In convening the conference the ANC’s leadership conceded that there were reasonable grounds for discontent within MK and far-reaching reforms had to be adopted in order to redirect the war effort. Both armed struggle and mass political struggle are to be used to defeat the enemy, which depended on building ANC underground structures within the country. At the conference the document entitled ‘Strategy and Tactics’ is adopted.

May, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was arrested with 21 others under the Suppression of Communism Act.

A group of British anti-apartheid activists planned to rescue Mandela from Robben Island, but the Bureau of State Security (BoSS) infiltrated the group and the plan was aborted.

July, Mandela was informed of the death of his son, Tembi in a car accident.

July, Albertina Sisulu’s five-year banning order is renewed and extended to include partial house arrest.

December, Twenty-two of the detainees arrested in the May-June swoop are charged under the Suppression of Communism Act.

16 December, Oliver Tambo makes a broadcast, entitled ‘Capture the Citadel’, to South Africa on the eighth anniversary of the formation of the MK.

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