The British high commissioner in South Africa, Sir Alfred Milner, establishes a commission to
deal with the “Native question.” The commission proposes racial segregation with black
“locations” set up on the fringes of cities and towns.
The Union of South Africa is established following the Boer War, between the Boers, or
Dutch settlers, and the British. Membership in the South African parliament is limited to
white males, while blacks in the Cape were allowed to vote.
The African National Congress is founded to campaign for nonracial democracy and human
Blacks are removed from the voting rolls and allowed only three appointed white
representatives in parliament.
The ANC is revitalized by Walter Sisulu, who forms the ANC Youth League.
After its electoral victory, the National Party (with largely Afrikaner membership) begins the
codification of apartheid and the legalization of all forms of discrimination against blacks.
The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act makes marriage between races illegal.
The Group Areas Act allows forced removals of blacks from white areas to Bantustans. The
Bantu Education Act provides for a separate, inferior educational system for blacks. The
Population Registration Act enforces total separation through the use of identity cards,
limiting travel between Bantustans and white areas.
The ANC approves the Freedom Charter as a blueprint for a South Africa, which “belongs to
all who live in it — black and white.”
The Sharpeville massacre — in which police open fire on several thousand unarmed blacks
who marched on a police station to protest the pass laws — ignites countrywide protests.
The government responds by declaring a state of emergency and outlawing anti-apartheid
organizations, including the ANC and the Pan-African Congress. Both groups move away
from peaceful protest and create an armed wing, Spear of the Nation (MK).
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General Hendriek van den Bergh is appointed head of the Bureau of State Security, and
arrests escalate. Nelson Mandela and other MK leaders are arrested and sentenced to life
imprisonment. New laws are enacted that allow police to detain people for ninety days
without trial. Arrests and torture continue during the following decade.
In Soweto, more than five hundred students are massacred during a protest of Bantu
education laws that mandate the use of the Afrikaans language in black schools. More
repression of black consciousness movement organizations follows, resulting in a swelling of
the ranks of the outlawed military wing of the ANC and the PAC.
President P. W. Botha establishes a new parliament that includes participation by whites,
“coloreds,” and Indians but excludes blacks. The United Democratic Front is formed,
comprising more than five hundred political organizations. The UDF organizes consumer
boycotts of white businesses. Black targeting of those who break ranks or are seen as
collaborators escalates, with “necklace killings” destabilizing the liberation movement. MK
steps up its bombing campaign, and state-orchestrated violence escalates through the
Eugene de Kock heads Koevoet, a notorious counterinsurgency unit of the South African
army based in Namibia. De Kock will later operate out of South Africa’s most notorious death
farm, Vlakplass, just outside Pretoria.
President F. W. de Klerk begins implementing more inclusive citizenship laws, thereby
dismantling the apartheid system.
Nelson Mandela is released from prison. The Congress for a Democratic South Africa is set
up to plan for the peaceful transfer of power to the majority.
Nelson Mandela is elected president. The ANC becomes the ruling party in parliament.
The new government establishes the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a means of
breaking the cycle of violence, bringing about social cohesion, and restoring peace. Nobel
Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu is appointed chairman.
Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela joins the TRC as the only psychologist on the Human Rights
Violations Committee, in the Cape Town headquarters of the new commission.
Eugene de Kock appears before the TRC, and Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela begins her
interviews with him, which result in her journey documented in A Human Being Died That