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.

November, Mandela was allowed his first visit from Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in two years.



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.

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).

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’.

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”.

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.



8 January, The ANC in exile issued its  8 of January Statement.

1 August, J.B. Marks, political activist and trade unionist, suffers a heart attack and dies in Moscow, USSR.


January, A massive strike begins in Durban with over 60 000 workers from 150 factories striking against racial oppression.

May, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Peter Magubane were arrested for communicating with each other. They were prohibited from doing so in terms of their banning orders. Madikizela-Mandela was given a 12 month sentence to be served at the Kroonstad women’s prison, of which she served 6 months.

The government offers to release Mandela on condition he agrees to move to the Transkei, which he refuses. Security police raid the Mandela home and this is followed by an attack by vandals who cut the telephone wires, smashed windows and doors and dumped anti-government leaflets in the yard.

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.



Winnie Mandela was chosen as Woman of the Year by British women.

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.

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.



8 May, Bram Fischer, member of SACP and political activist, dies of cancer at his brother’s house in Bloemfontein.

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.

October, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's banning order expires and is not renewed.She attends a welcome meeting in Durban. She is elected to the executive of the Federation of Black Women.

December, An ANC National Executive Committee meeting discusses plans to re-launch MK.



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.

16 June, 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.”

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is elected to the committee of the Black Parents Association along with Aubrey Mokoena and Nthato Harrison Motlana.This group was formed in reaction the Soweto uprising and acted as a pressure group which intervened in the ongoing conflict. Mass detentions followed the protests. Madikizela-Mandela was one of six executive members of the Federation of Black Women to be detained. She was released and banned again.



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.

19 May, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was forced into a domestic exile in Brandfort, Orange Free State. She was also charged with 7 counts of breaking her banning order, 4 for having visitors and 3 for attending gatherings. Black organisations including the Federation of Black Women and Black Parents Association were now banned.

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.

15 June, Solomon Mahlangu and Monty Motlaung, two MK cadres are arrested in Goch Street, in Johannesburg.

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 sustained during police beatings in prison.

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.

The UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on South Africa.



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.

19 May, Moses Kotane dies in Moscow.

26 May, Moses Kotane is buried at Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow

18 July, Mandela turned sixty in prison. The United Nations Special Committee on Apartheid called for the occasion to be celebrated worldwide. 10 000 birthday cards from anti-Apartheid activists in Britain are collected and sent but none were delivered to him. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was refused permission to see him and he was allowed only eight birthday messages from friends and family, one of them was from his future deputy president, Thabo Mbeki.

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, Prime Minister B J Vorster resigned after the Muldergate scandal, that involved the misappropriation of public funds. P W Botha took over as Prime Minister.



African trade unions were recognised for the first time under the Industrial Relations Act.

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.

29 August, Mandela wrote to Alan Paton to thank him for his contribution to the struggle and to encourage him to continue his work. It was the third attempt Mandela made to try and reach the author.

September, The Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo) holds its inaugural conference.

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.

November, The Azanian Students Organisation (Azaso) is formed for tertiary students, whilst the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) is formed for high school students. The Western Cape was hit by a wave of stayaways with broad community support focusing on a wide range of issues.

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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