Liberation history Timeline 1900-1909


This period witnessed the end of the South African War, formation of the African People’s Organization, formation of political organizations by Africans, several passive resistance campaigns against Anti-Indian legislation and an armed rebellion against hut tax in Natal. All these were in response to the growing assertion of white supremacy and racial discrimination.

1899 - 1902
1899 October 9 - 31 May 1902, South African War.
Several Anti Indian Legislation Acts are passed.
8 June, Natal Native Congress (NNC) is officially inaugurated. “The main aims of the Congress were to cultivate a political awareness amongst Africans by educating them about their rights under the prevailing system of government and laws, and, most importantly, to act as a forum for airing grievances” (van Diemel, 2001). Martin Luthuli functions as the president for the first three years and Josiah Gumude as its secretary.  
21 December, The inaugural meeting of the Burgher Peace Committee is held in Pretoria. Lord Kitchener discusses his concentration camp policies with this group, mentioning that stock and Blacks would also be brought in.
John Dube purchases 200 acres of land in the Indana district of Natal. He establishes the Zulu Christian Industrial School at Ohlange.
22 January, At the Boschhoek concentration camp for Blacks, about 1 700 inmates, mostly Basuto, hold a protest meeting. They state that when they had been brought into the camps they had been promised that they will be paid for all their stock taken by the British, for all grain destroyed and that they will be fed and looked after. They are also unhappy because “”¦ they receive no rations while the Boers who are the cause of the war are fed in the refugee camps free of charge ”¦ they who are the 'Children of the Government' are made to pay'.
4 May, The first gold mine on the Rand re-opens, after all mines have been closed in October 1899, a few days before war was declared. The Minister for Native Affairs permits the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association to recruit mining labour from the concentration camps. Simultaneous to the resumption of economic activity is the establishment of the Department of Native Refugees (DNR) under direct British military command.
15 June, The British authority establishes the Department of Native Refugees in the ‘Transvaal Colony'. The Transvaal camps are brought under the control of the newly formed department.
8 September, Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, the future “architect of apartheid” is born in Amsterdam.
The African Political Organisation (APO) is founded with W. Collins as its first president and is composed predominately of Coloured members.
The Immigration Act is passed in the Cape Colony. This makes all future immigration of Indians to the Cape subject to an education and literacy test.
Charlotte Manye Maxeke is a Transvaal delegate to a SANC conference. The conference praises her contribution but “concluded that the time was not right for women to participate in politics” (Limb, 2010: 78).
As the Labour Committees tour the country, Walter Rubusana, Jonathan Tunyiswa and Thomas Mganda, leaders of the South African Native Congress (SANC), send a resolution asking the Crown to protect the interests of all African and Coloured people in South African colonies.
William H. Andrews helps found the first Trades and Labour Council in South Africa.
24 March, H.R. Fox, Secretary of the Aborigines Protection Society, after being made aware by Emily Hobhouse of the fact that the Ladies Commission (Fawcett Commission) ignored the plight of Blacks in the concentration camps, writes to Joseph Chamberlain, Colonial Secretary. He requests that such inquiries should be instituted by the British government "as should secure for the natives who are detained no less care and humanity than are now prescribed for the Boer refugees". On this request Sir Montagu Ommaney, the permanent under-secretary at the Colonial Office, is later to record that it seems undesirable "to trouble Lord Milner ”¦ merely to satisfy this busybody".
31 May, At peace negotiations between the British and Burghers, the majority of the 54 delegates submit to Britain’s terms for peace.  The two Boer republics would be incorporated into the British Empire as Crown Colonies with the promise of self government later as part of the Treaty of Vereeniging.  Only six of the 54 delegates vote against.
The Bloemfontein Customs Conference initiates the final and successful step towards making South Africa a Union.
William Edward Durghardt Du Bois publishes The Souls of Black Folk rejecting the notion that Black people need western values be accepted as citizens. Du Bois calls for Black Consciousness among all Africans throughout the world.
Black political organizations, including The Transvaal Vigilance Association and a branch of the Cape-based South African Native Congress (founded by Walter Rubusana and A.K Soga) are established.
The Peace Preservation Ordinance and Ordinance No 5 of 1903 is promulgated in the Transvaal. It segregates Asiatics into locations, refuses trading licenses except in Asiatic bazaars, and pre-war licenses of Asiatics become non-transferable.
Douglas Blackburn's A Burgher Quixote is published. It is his second novel satirising boere corruption.
Charlotte Maxeke and her husband, Marshall Maxeke, form the AME Wilberforce Institute at Evaton.
Lord Milner appoints the South African Natives Affairs Commission. Chaired by the Commissioner for Native Affairs, Sir Godfrey Lagden, it sets about to provide answers to the ‘native question’.
Fietas, Johannesburg: 5 stands are transferred to Indians
February, The ‘British Indians of East London’ petitions the Indian National Congress, Bombay, against East London's municipal regulations, which interfere with their freedom of movement.
4 June, The first issue of Indian Opinion, the newspaper started by M.K. Gandhi and M.H. Nazar, is published in Durban.
Phoenix settlement, north of Durban is founded by M.K. Ghandi
The Chinese Exclusion Act is passed
20 March, Fietas, Johannesburg is struck by the bubonic plague. As a result the residents are evacuated and the area is burnt down.
28 May, Martin Luthuli gives evidence to the South African Native Affairs Commission (SANAC). Click here to see his testimony.
22 June, The first of 62 000 indentured Chinese labourers arrive in South Africa to work in the mines of Transvaal.
14 July, After a period of illness, Paul Kruger dies from cardiac failure in Clarens, Switzerland. He is buried next to his wife, Gezina Susanna Frederika Wilhelmina, in Pretoria.
Klipspruit, the first township in the area which later became known as Soweto (South Western Townships), is established as a separate African-only area as a result of the bubonic plague.
Abdullah Abdurahman becomes the leader of the APO.
The South African Native Affairs Commission (SANAC) report is published. It recommendations, based on the falsity that White people were of ‘superior intellect’ to Black people and thus could not have a common system of government, laid the foundation for the formal separation of races and the creation of ‘reserves’ for Black people to live in.
After studying at the Wilberforce University in the USA for eight years, Charlotte Maxeke returns to South Africa with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Most sources claim that she is the first South African Black woman to receive a Bachelor's degree.
Moses Mauane Kotane, future general secretary of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), is born at Tamposstad near Zeerust in the District of Rustenberg. He is the second son of 11 children, to Samuel Segogwane and Siporah Mmadira Kotane, both prominent members of the local community.
8 April, Helen Joseph, key organiser of the women’s march on 9 August 1955, is born in Essex, England.
The African National Political Union, led by S.M. Makgatho, is formed and gains considerable support in and around Pietersburg and Pretoria even from several chiefs.
The SANC sends a telegram to the Prime Minister asking for a repeal of legislation on communal tenure law and stating that ‘labour clauses’ should be ‘totally repealed’.
1 January – 10 June, The Bhambhata Rebellion, led by Chief Bambatha kaMancinza, takes place in Natal. The armed rebellion is fought in response to the hut tax which was imposed on the Zulu by British Colonial rule.
4 February, The first issue of the Sunday Times is published.
5 April, An article by Pixley ka Isaka Seme is published in The African Abroad, entitled “The regeneration of Africa
10 April, The SANC passes a resolution with regards to the changing views of the British to the treatment of Africans.
11 September, M.K Ghandi launches the Transvaal Indian passive resistance protest against the Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance, which required Indians to carry passes and give fingerprints. It is from this that M.K. Gandhi coins the term "Satyagraha" to describe South Africa's non-violent movement against repressive anti- Indian legislation.  
6 December, Transvaal receives responsible self-government (where the government is responsible to the electorate) from Britain. A colour bar (barriers put in place preventing Black people from participating in certain activities with White people) constitution is also granted to the Transvaal.
A strike of English-speaking White workers on the gold mines leads to large-scale Afrikaner recruitment.
The Education Act, Act No 25 of 1907 (Transvaal) prohibits African, Indian and Coloured children from being allowed into European schools and separate schools are established.
Colour bar constitution is granted to the Orange Free State.
11 March, Indians hold a mass meeting at the Gaiety Theatre, protesting against the discriminatory treatment of Indians.
22 March, The Transvaal Asiatic Registration Bill is passed by the Transvaal Parliament. All male Asians are to be registered, finger printed, and required to carry registration certificates (passes) at all times. These have to be shown to the police on demand.
4 April, M.K. Gandhi leads a deputation to the Transvaal Colonial Secretary, General J.C. Smuts, and presents him with the resolutions adopted at the Indian mass meeting held on 29 March 1907 in Johannesburg.
28 July, An Indian mass meeting held at the Hamidia Islamic Society Hall in Johannesburg. This meeting protests against the Transvaal Immigration Restriction Bill and declares a day of hartal in the Transvaal.
31 July, An open air Indian mass protest meeting is held in Pretoria against the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907. The meeting decides on passive resistance (Satyagraha) against the Act.
November, The Queenstown Conference brings Black and Coloured leaders together to create cohesion between Black newspapers, although J.T. Jabavu’s Imvo Zabantsundu continues to remain autonomous.
11 November, Ramsundar Pandit of Germiston becomes the first passive resister to be arrested for failing to register in terms of the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907. M.K. Gandhi defends Pandit in court free of charge.
The Immorality Amendment Ordinance, Act No. 16 of 1908 (Transvaal) outlaws sexual relations between White and Coloured persons.
Douglas Blackburn's novel Leaven is published. It is a denunciation of "blackbirding" (a practice of enslaving individuals often by force or deception) and other iniquitous labour practices, and is one of the first South African novels to portray what life was like for peasants forced into urban labour.
Illiso Lepizwi Esimnyama (The Eye of the Black Tribe) is founded by tribal chiefs and Christian Africans.
7 January, After passing her exams, Cecilia Makiwane is registered as a nurse and becomes the first Black professional nurse in South Africa.
10 January, M.K. Gandhi is sentenced to two months' imprisonment for violating a court order to leave the Transvaal, after being charged with picketing.
23 April, Abram (Bram) Fischer, lawyer and political activist, is born in the Orange Free State.
1 August, The Chinese Association joins the Satyagraha campaign against anti-Asiatic legislation in the Transvaal. For a description of the involvement of Chinese in the passive resistance campaigns click here
16 August, More than 2000 registration certificates (passes) are burned during an Indian mass meeting at the Hamidia Mosque in Fordsburg, Johannesburg
October, The Transvaal Natives’ Union organizes a petition asking for a common voters roll franchise throughout South Africa plus separate representation for the Natives unable to qualify for this. They collect 3764 signatures.   
18 October, The National Convention, a gathering of White politicians from throughout South Africa, meets for the first time to establish national unity (Whites only) under a single constitution.
A delegation of African and Coloured representatives led by William Schreiner, ex-Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, petition in London against Black and Coloured exclusion in the draft South African Act. The APO contributes £100 to this delegation.
Black newspapers are “vehement in their rejection of the colour bar provisions” and warn of “a future filled with bitter hatred and even violence”. (Giliomee and Mbenga, 2007: 231)
February, The South African Native Convention (SANC) meets in Bloemfontein’s Waaihoek township (in the Orange River Colony) with 48 delegates to discuss the draft South Africa Act and to “consider means of protesting against the draft Union constitution”¦” (Giliomee and Mbenga, 2007: 236)
March, A series of regional “Native Congress” is held. In the Cape the congress is attended by 80 delegates, in Natal 150 delegates and in the Transvaal 30 delegates. From theses conferences 60 delegates are chosen for a national convention.
24-25 March, The 60 delegates attend a South African Convention in Bloemfontein.
25 March, A meeting of Indian women at the Hamidia Society Hall in Johannesburg is addressed by Mrs. Thambi Naidoo, Mrs. Patel and Miss Schlesin. They form the Indian Women's Association.
April, A Cape Native Convention is organised by J.T. Jabavu, editor of the Black newspaper, Imvo Zabantsundu. The convention declares that the introduction of the colour bar provisions in the draft South African Act is "unjust -- unprecedented in the annals of the British Empire"
5 September, Political activist and politician Dr. Yusuf Dadoo is born in Fietas, Johannesburg.
A delegation of Indians, led by M.K. Gandhi, goes to London to negotiate on behalf of Indians with regard to the South Africa Act, and discrimination against Indians.
20 September, The South Africa Act, 1909 is passed in the British Parliament declaring South Africa a Union as of 31 May 1910. All anti-Indian and other discriminatory legislation against African groups is left intact.
9-11 October, William H. Andrews becomes the first chairman of the South African Labour Party at its founding conference in Johannesburg. Its official newspaper is entitled "The Worker"

  • Giliomee, H and Mbenga, B (2007) New History of South Africa. Tafelberg Publishers
  • Chapter 2: “No equality under the Union Jack, 1900- 1910” from “In Search of Freedom, Fair Play and Justice: Josiah Tsangana Gumede 1867- 1947 A Biography” by Raymond van Diemel, 2001. From SAHO resources.
  • “Timeline South Africa” [online]: [Accessed 27 February 2009]
  • History of South Africa (including apartheid) [online]: [Accessed 12 March 2009]
  • Tolstoy farm (1910- 1913) [online] [Accessed 12 March 2009] 
  • Walshe, P., 1970. The Rise of African Nationalism in South Africa: The African National Congress, 1912-1952. London: C. Hurst & Company
  • Ministry of Education (2004).Compiled by the Social Integration and Cohesion Research Programme of the Human Sciences Research Council. edited by Linnegar, J. Every Step of the Way ”“ The Journey to freedom in South Africa. HSRC Press. Cape Town
  • Limb, P., 2010. The ANC’s Ealy Years: Nation, Class and Place in South Africa before 1940. Pretoria: UNISA Press

Last updated : 04-May-2012

This article was produced by South African History Online on 30-Mar-2011

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