South African Timeline: 1652 - 1999 Home

1652: Dutch settlement
Dutch East India Co. establishes settlement at Cape Town and soon after issues land grants for the interior. Battles and smallpox push back the indigenous populations of the San (hunter-gatherers) and the Khoikhoi (farmers). Europeans dominate the western half of the area by 1800.
1806: British take control
Britain seizes and eventually annexes the Cape Colony in 1806. In 1809, the British decree that the San and Khoikhoi must work for white employers and place restrictions on their travel.
1830s: The Great Trek
Hoping to escape British rule, thousands of Dutch families (Boers) migrate further north and east. South Africa's interior consists of a hodgepodge of British colonies and protectorates, Boer republics, and tribal nations until the discovery of diamonds in 1867 and gold the following decade.
1910: 'Union' of South Africa
The Union of South Africa is born under the British Commonwealth. It bands together the British colonies of Natal and the Cape with the Boer republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State.
1948: Apartheid
Urbanization and economic growth during World War II fuels white fears that South Africa's racial barriers will collapse. The National Party introduces apartheid (separateness) measures against blacks, Indian immigrants and those of mixed race.
1950s: Resistance to apartheid
Under the leadership of Albert Lutuli -- and Johannesburg law partners Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela -- the African National Congress organizes a passive resistance campaign against apartheid and issues the Freedom Charter. The government suppresses the movement and begins arresting ANC leaders.
1961: Independence
South Africa leaves the Commonwealth and becomes an independent republic. Mining, industrial and financial companies continue to bolster economic growth well into the late 1970s.
1976: Nationwide riots
Thousands of students in the black township of Soweto stage protests to demand they be taught in English rather than the Afrikaans. Police fire on the demonstrators, sparking nationwide riots and more repression. Police kill more than 500 protesters within a year, including leading activist Steven Biko.
1984: Tutu wins Nobel Peace Prize
Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent campaign to end apartheid. He criticizes U.S. President Ronald Reagan's "quiet diplomacy" against apartheid and urges a more forceful stance.
1986: Economic sanctions
The European Community and United States impose economic sanctions on South Africa. The tougher U.S. measures ban the import of South African agriculture, iron and steel and prohibit U.S. loans and investment to South Africa.
1987: Railway strike
A strike by black railway workers leads to the worst violence in South Africa since the government declared a national state of emergency in 1986. Eleven workers were killed and more than 60 trains damaged or destroyed in firebomb attacks before the government met workers' demands.
1989: De Klerk comes to power
P.W. Botha steps down as National Party leader and president of South Africa. He is replaced by the younger, more charismatic F.W. de Klerk, who is more sensitive to the growing anti-apartheid movement.
1990: Mandela freed
De Klerk announces radical changes. ANC leader Nelson Mandela is released after 27 years in captivity. Basic apartheid laws and the nationwide state of emergency are ended.
1993: Transition to 'democracy'
Mandela, de Klerk and representatives from 18 other parties agree on an interim constitution that paves the way for historic all-race elections. All citizens over 18 are allowed to vote, and a long list of social and political rights are guaranteed. Mandela and de Klerk are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
1994: Mandela elected
Mandela's ANC wins 63 percent of the vote in April elections. World leaders gather on May 10 as Mandela is sworn in as president of the new South Africa.
1997: New ANC Chief
Declaring "the time has come to take leave," Mandela, 79, steps down as ANC party leader. He is replaced by 55-year-old Deputy President Thabo Mbeki
1999: Elections
South Africa's second all-race elections are scheduled for June 2. Going into the vote, ANC leader and Deputy President Thabo Mbeki enjoys a huge lead over a divided opposition.

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