About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.


Sisulu's wife Albertina diagnosed with diabetes.

Sisulu writes to Minister of Justice protesting against Lindiwe's continued detention.

Fietas, Johannesburg: The security forces, accompanied by other departmental officials and dogs forcibly remove remaining traders from their shops in Pageview.

The Black Consciousness Movement was dealt a series of devastating blows:

Bophuthatswana independence.

KwaZulu proclaimed a self-governing territory.

Community Councils Act No 125:

Provided for the establishment of community councils, and for civil and criminal judicial powers to be conferred in certain black townships.

Assent gained: 11 July 1977; commencement date not found

Repealed by s 56 A of the Black Local Authorities Act No 102 of 1982.

Proclamation R174: (Government Gazette 5716 of 19 August 1977)Laid down certain regulations for the administration of declared security districts in Bophuthatswana (SRR 1977: 1-2).

Proclamation R 252:

Gave the government of Ciskei powers to declare a State of Emergency. Powers repealed by the 1982 National Security Act, below (SRR 1977: 348-9).

Publication Act No 18:

Provided for state-sanctioned censorship.

Commenced: 14 April 1978

Proclamation No 276:

Passed in response to an outbreak of trouble in Venda schools. It is 'identical to Proclamation 252 of the Ciskei except that an additional clause includes in the definition of subversive statements or actions, the threatening of a scholar or by any means influencing him to refrain from attending classes or sitting for any examination' (SRR 1977: 360).

The period for continuous military service for white youths was increased to two years.

It was announced in July that heavily armed police were patrolling the border to intercept armed insurgents from entering the country and to prevent youths from leaving for military training.

Only about 3 000 pupils out of a possible 27 000 pupils applied for re-admission to Soweto schools.

230 000 people were arrested for pass law offences.

Funds for Bantu Education increased from R78 million in 1976/77 to R117 million in 1977/78.

Baleka Kgositsile goes to Tanzania, becomes first secretary of the regional women's section of the ANC Winnie Mandela banished to Brandfort in Orange Free State.

Mamphela Ramphele banished to rural Northern Transvaal where she forms Isutheng Community Health Programme.

1 January 1977

Four senior members of the Soweto Students' Representative Council (SSRC) are arrested.


10 January - 12 January

Prime Minister Vorster pays a three-day goodwill visit to Transkei. Tributes are paid to him for his assistance in helping Transkei gain independence in a peaceful manner.

19 January 1977

Six members of the thirty-six member United Party Parliamentary caucus are expelled from the Party for refusing to abide by the Party's decision to accept the Marais programme for the formation of a new united opposition party. They decide to establish themselves as a 'centrist' Independent United Party.

21 January 1977

At the opening of Parliament the State President states that it has become necessary for South Africa to maintain an increased military capability on the northern border of Namihia to prevent terrorist incursions and to protect the local inhabitants. This is being done at the explicit request of the governments of Ovamboland, Kavango and Caprivi.

24 January 1977

Introducing a motion of no-confidence in the government, the leader of the United Party (UP) Sir de Villiers Graaff delineates the multiple dimensions of the crisis facing South Africa - in economics, race relations and international affairs. He argues that it is time to destroy apartheid before it destroys South Africa.

25 January 1977

A group of clergymen of seven Christian churches - including the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Methodist churches - calling themselves 'Ministers Fraternal' publish a report blaming the riot police for their role in the violence in the Cape Town townships at Christmas 1976. Their report is banned.

The Minister of Justice and Police, J. Kruger claims the internal unrest and riots are not the result of the government's apartheid policies but are instigated by Communists and the ANC.

Under an Indemnity Bill, retroactive to 16 June 1976, police and other members of security forces acting in good faith to prevent disorder, maintain public safety or preserve life and property, will be immune from civil or criminal prosecution. It is passed with the support of the opposition, on 1 February 1977.

Under the Civil Protection Bill, introduced on this date, the Minister of Defence is given power to declare a State of Emergency for three months in the event of natural disasters, or internal disorders and civil disruption.

27 January 1977

Police in Cape Town arrest thirty two members of the Comrades Movement, a student organization arising from the unrest in the townships in 1976. They face several charges of arson.

Prime Minister Vorster denies the possibility of South Africa pressuring the Rhodesian government into accepting a dictated solution. Demands to shut South Africa's borders and impose boycotts will not be acceded to.

1 February 1977

KwaZulu proclaimed a self-governing territory.

5 February 1977

The government, for the first time, releases the official list of all detained under the Preventive Detention clause of the Internal Security Act since its introduction on 11 August 1976. The total number of detainees is given as 135.

9 February 1977

The Prime Ministers of South Africa and Rhodesia meet in Cape Town for talks on the Rhodesian problem and the possibilities for settlement.

Signs a multilateral trade proces verbal extending the declaration on the provisional accession of Colombia to GATT.

10 February 1977

The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference decides to uphold the rights of conscientious objectors, expresses its perturbation over reports of police brutality and deaths in detention, calls for an investigation and protests against the provision of legal indemnity for the police. At the close of their conference, a twenty-one point action programme is issued for guidance in future stances to be taken.

11 February 1977

In a 'Declaration of Commitment' the Bishops' Conference states it will promote black consciousness in solidarity with all those who work for the legitimate aspirations of oppressed people.

The appointment of South Africa's Ambassador to the United States, R.F. 'Pik' Botha, as the country's next Foreign Minister, is announced by the Prime Minister and welcomed by black delegates at the United Nations.

12 February 1977

The Prime Minister of Lesotho, Leabua Jonathan, claims the whole of the Orange Free State, Matatiele in Natal, the Herschel district in the Transkei and the Southern Sotho homeland of Qwa Qwa for Lesotho - areas, he says, fraudulently taken from it during the Basotho wars.

13 February 1977

'Kowie' Marais announces that it has not been possible for the opposition parties to arrive at an agreed interpretation of the 'fourteen principles' contained in his programme.

15 February 1977

Between March 1976 and 15 February 1977, a total of eighteen black people have died while in police custody, the causes of death being officially described as suicide, accident or natural causes.

17 February 1977

The Anglican church joins the growing confrontation between church and state, when the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Rev. William Barnett issues a statement condemning South African society as morally indefensible. He expresses particular concern over deaths in detention and the imprisonment and interrogation of people 'until they die'.

23 February 1977

The Minister of Justice and the Police, Jimmy Kruger states that a full-scale judicial commission of inquiry into deaths in detention is not necessary since there is a full judicial enquiry into each separate death.

24 February - 26 February 1977

Justice spokesman for the opposition parties, Radclyffe Cadman for the United Party, and Helen Suzman for the Progressive Reform Party, reject Kruger's explanations and call for a full-scale judicial commission of enquiry.

March 1977

Fietas, Johannesburg: The people of Pageview stage a spontaneous march from Pageview to the Oriental Plaza, through the Plaza and back to Pageview to register their protest against their evictions

2 March 1977

The United Party suffers reverses in municipal elections in the Transvaal and fails to contest the Randburg seats because of internal dissension. It loses control of Johannesburg for the first time in thirty-one years. Of the forty-six seats in this key election, the National Party wins fifteen (a gain of five), the Progressive Reform Party nineteen (a gain of two) and the United Party eleven.

7 March 1977

The Defence Amendment Bill, first published on 31 January 1977, becomes law. Under it the State President is empowered to invoke powers of censorship and of commandeering premises. Service in defence of the Republic now includes anti-terrorist operations as well as the prevention and suppression of internal disorder and there can be greater flexibility and speed in mobilization.

8 March 1977

Chief Matanzima names various areas of South Africa that should be added to Transkei. The Ministry of Bantu Administration denies that any historical claim to the land exists. Any land still to be acquired by Transkei has already been scheduled in the 1976 agreement.

9 March 1977

Paramount Chief Sigcau of Transkei tells the Assembly that legislation is to be introduced making it a capital offence to criticize Transkeian sovereignty or office bearers of the state. It will be made retrospective to October 1975.

10 March 1977

In the Senate the United Party calls for the convening by the Prime Minister of a conference of all race groups to discuss a constitutional structure which would satisfy the legitimate political aspirations of all groups. John Vorster rejects this call, reiterating that the National Party did not, and never would support power-sharing between whites and blacks.

The Minister of Bantu Administration and Development, M.C. Botha, reports that following Transkei's land claims a thorough inquiry was by the South African Archives into the documents and charts involving the land concerned. No claim to the land can be substantiated. The report has been made available to Chief Matanzima.

Under the Criminal Procedure Bill, opposed by both the United Party and he Progressive Reform Party, the judicial system is altered by the introduction of pre-trial interrogation by judicial officers.

16 March 1977

Indemnity Act No 2:

Retrospective to 16 June 1976

Commenced: 16 March 1977


19 March 1977

In a joint declaration the leaders of the United Party. Sir de Villiers Graaff and the Democratic Party, Theo Gerdener, express their agreement to form a new party on the basis of equal rights for all racial groups in South Africa. No actual unification is immediately announced.

21 March 1977

Steven Biko, former SASO leader, released on 30 November 1976 after temporary detention under security laws, is re-arrested.

30 March 1977

During an emergency debate in Transkei's Parliament in Umtata, Chief Matanzima threatens to cut diplomatic links with South Africa and to launch an 'armed struggle' unless the land claim to East Griqualand is settled. The opposition leader, Cromwell Diko, hints at possible military assistance from the Soviet Union.

In the 1977-78 Budget introduced by the Minister of Finance, Senator Owen Horwood, the amount to be spent on defence is given as Rl,654 in., twenty-two per cent more than in 1976-77 and constituting more than 18 per cent of the national budget. To raise money the Defence Force will launch a Defence Bond scheme.

31 March 1977

A Defence White Paper analyzes South Africa's defence requirements in the context of the Soviet and Cuban intervention in Angola. South Africa is to be placed on a war footing.

1 April 1977

'Pik' Botha becomes Minister of Foreign Affairs, in succession to Dr. Hilgard Muller who retires.

2 April 1977

The South African Newspapers' Union issues its own press code for the daily handling of news.

South Africa:Signs treaty with Botswana on the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.

15 April 1977

South Africa:Signs multilateral agreement on the total catch quota of hake in 1977.

25 April 1977

The Chief of Staff (Operations) says that the development of South Africa's defence has made the country completely self-sufficient from an arms point of view.

The government for the first time allows twenty local journalists, five correspondents of international news agencies and two official photographers to visit the prison on Robben Island, where 370 men convicted under security legislation are held. The material conditions are considered in general to be satisfactory, but the lack of contact with the outside world is very severe.

27 April 1977

Police confront some 10,000 students demonstrating against rent increases in Soweto and violence ensues. The offices of the Urban Bantu Council in Soweto are attacked. The government later suspends rent increases for one month, pending investigation of alternative financing.

May 1977

Sisulu's daughter Lindiwe released from prison.

9 May 1977

A Second Defence Amendment Bill passes its final stages in the House of Assembly, with the support of the entire opposition. The existing twelve months' maximum national service will be increased to twenty-four months and the subsequent period of service increased to a maximum of 240 days.

11 May 1977

According to a report by the South African Institute of Race Relations, a total of 617 black persons, of whom it names 558, are known to have died by violence since June 1976 in the townships, including at least eighty five children and youths, of whom fifty three have been shot.

In a by-election at Westdene, Johannesburg, 'Pik' Botha as National Party candidate defeats the Herstigte Nasionale Party by 9,126 votes to 652 - the biggest majority ever obtained in a Parliamentary election. The opposition United Party did not contest the seat.

12 May 1977

Pik' Botha sees his election victory as a mandate to bring about internal change and to move away from discrimination.

16 May 1977

Winnie Mandela, placed under restriction in Soweto on 28 December 1976 is now banished to a black township outside Brandfort, Orange Free State. She is free to live in Swaziland, or Transkei, but elects to remain in South Africa.

17 May 1977

A committee of inquiry appointed by the Administrators of Natal and the Cape Province, declares that East Griqualand (claimed by Transkei) has never been a black tribal territory, but has for 115 years been an area of Griqua, coloured and white settlement. The area is subsequently transferred from the Cape Province to Natal with effect from 1 January 1978.

19 May - 20 May 1977

The United States Vice President, Walter Mondale and the Prime Minister, John Vorster, meet in Vienna for two days of high level talks. Some measure of agreement is reached on the Namibia and Rhodesia situations, but on the central issue of the government's apartheid policies, vital differences in outlook remain.

21 May - 22 May 1977

The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, pays a two-day visit to South Africa at the invitation of Harry Oppenheimer. He meets Soweto student leaders, black and white community leaders, newspaper editors and addresses a business dinner. He maintains economic pressure can bring about radical changes.

24 May 1977

Minister of National Education, Dr. Piet Koornbof, tells a conference in Cape Town that South Africa is moving in the direction of a confederal or canton' political system, and cultural pluralism. He is publicly supported by the Minister of Defence, P.W. Botha, chairman of the special committee on adaptations to the present Westminster-style of government.

The leadership of the Herstigte Nasionale Party is relinquished by its veteran founder, Dr. Albert Hertzog. He is succeeded by the deputy leader, Jaap Marais.

27 May 1977

The Independent United Party decides to adopt the name of the South African Party (SAP).

The Prime Minister rejects the idea of a 'canton' system saying it is certainly not practical politics at this stage.

28 May 1977

At its inaugural Congress in Pretoria, the South African Party commits itself to a federal or confederal solution to the country's political future, the maintenance of separate group identities under white leadership, and the rejection of power-sharing at every level.

Differences about citizen and land become a major issue between the government and the Bophuthatswana 'homeland', due to become independent in December 1977.

June 1977

Sisulu's daughter Lindiwe goes into exile.

June - October 1977

Political unrest results in destruction of property by rioting demonstrators, in clashes with police and in hundreds of arrests. The authorities nevertheless reaffirm their ability to maintain law and order.

June 1977

In June the Urban Bantu Councils collapsed when the majority of its members resigned under pressure from students.

3 June 1977

The Explosives Amendment Bill is supported by all parties. It provides for a minimum sentence of three years' imprisonment without the option of a fine for threatening to explode any explosive device or knowingly to render false information in respect of a threatened explosion. During 1976 the police had had to investigate 149 bomb threats.

4 June 1977

A five year restriction order is served on Father S. Mkhatshwa, Secretary of the South African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC), signed by the Minister of Justice.

10 June - 11 June 1977

Second International Trade Union Conference for Action against Apartheid, Palais des Nations, Geneva, organised by the Workers' Group of the ILO Governing Body in cooperation with the UN Special Committee against Apartheid.

11 June 1977

It is announced that Security Police have arrested the leader of the Soweto Students' Representative Council (SSRC), Dan S. Montsitsi in connection with plans to commemorate the Soweto uprisings. Four white students are also arrested in the same connection.

Stellenbosch University announces that it is to open its doors to black, coloured and Asian students for all post-graduate degree courses and will also accept non-white undergraduates for courses not offered at their own universities.

15 June 1977

Sporadic outbreaks of violence occur on the anniversary of the Soweto, Sharpeville riots, but there are fewer incidents than were anticipated and the called for work stayaway is only partially successful.

16 June - 19 June 1977

A four-day conference to examine racism, colonialism and apartheid in South Africa is held in Lisbon, Portugal, organized by an Afro-Arab solidarity group, the United Nations and the Helsinki-based World Peace Council. It is timed to coincide with the Sharpeville anniversary.

20 June 1977

Twelve Africans (eleven men and one woman) appear in court in Pretoria accused of setting up a transport route to smuggle recruits out of South Africa through Swaziland into Mozambique for military training and of using the same route to bring arms, ammunition and explosives back into the country. The charges also include creating secret cells for banned organizations and sabotage of a railway line in October 1976.

23 June 1977

The Chief Executive Officer of the Kangwane Territorial Authority, Chief M. Dhlamini, is removed from office following a vote of no-confidence after he refuses to sign a land consolidation proposal by Pretoria. In a Supreme Court action against the Minister of Bantu Administration and Development, it is found that Dhlamini has been wrongfully deposed and that the subsequent election of Enos J. Mabusa, and six others, is null and void.

Violence erupts in Soweto again and at least 146 arrests are made by the police. 24 June 1977 The programme for a new white 'centrist' party is published by Sir de Villiers Graaff, leader of the United Party, Vause Raw, Chairman of the UP's steering committee and Theo Gerdener, leader of the Democratic Party. A confederal basis is recommended. 28 June 1977 The United Party, the official opposition since 1948, disbands itself. The decision to disband is opposed by a group of Parliamentarians. a senator and six members of the House of Assembly led by J.D. du P. (Japie) Basson, who intends to cooperate with the Progressive Reform Party to form a new opposition.

29 June 1977

A new opposition party, the New Republic Party (NRP) is formed at a special congress in Johannesburg, by a merger between the United Party and the Democratic Party.

30 June 1977

The Security Police detain J. Tugwana of the Rand Daily Mail, the fifth journalist to be held without trial since February 1977.

July 1977

End July:Two contentious pieces of legislation come into operation. The first, the Criminal Procedure Act, replacing an earlier Act of the same name, effectively replaces the British-style 'innocent until proved guilty' system with the continental inquisitorial system, but without the checks and balances European countries have developed. The second, the Lower Courts Amendment Act, vests considerable new powers in the country's regional courts, providing magistraters with the jurisdiction to hear terrorism and sabotage cases, greatly increasing the scope of the Terrorism Act.

6 July 1977

The Coloured Labour Party strengthened its position by forging an alliance with six members of the Coloured Representative Council (CRC) founded on the rejection of apartheid. Unity talks are held and it is decided unequivocally to tell the government that the present political dispensation is unacceptable.

14 July 1977

The New Zealand government announces steps to discourage sporting contacts with South Africa.

22 July 1977

Criminal Procedure Act No 51:

Consolidates the law relating to procedure in criminal proceedings. Repeals the 1955 Criminal Procedure Act and its numerous amendments except for ss 319(3) and 384.

Commenced: 22 July 1977

IN FORCE (as amended by the Criminal Procedure Second Amendment Act No 75 of 1995): CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE.

22 July 1977

Intelligence Service and State Security Council Act No 16:

Provided for a state security advisory board in which South Africa played a role.

Commenced: 22 July 1977

23 July 1977

The co-founder of the recently formed New Republic Party, Theo Gerdener, announces that he is withdrawing his support from it.

25 July 1977

The trial ends in the Natal Supreme Court in Pietermaritzburg of five Africans - all of whom have previous convictions for subversive activities or sabotage - with sentences of life imprisonment. Four others are sentenced to prison terms of from seven to eighteen years for various terrorist activities. Among the defendants, described by the Judge as dedicated revolutionaries, is Themba Harry Gwala. 26 July 1977 The 'Committee of 10' formed by prominent Soweto residents, issue a programme for the election of a new community board to have total autonomy in Soweto including powers to levy taxes and to control education, the police and local elections. The Minister of Justice rejects this and the government remains committed to community councils with limited powers, control being retained by the Bantu Administration Board.

27 July - 31 July 1977

There is further unrest in the townships throughout the country including those of Alexandra (Northern Johannesburg), Atteridgeville and Saulsville (Pretoria) and in Soweto.

29 July 1977

A prisoner in the isolation section at Robben Island is caught in possession of an exercise book in which notes were made of the history of the so-called freedom struggle. The documents are referred to a graphologist of the SA Police who, on 17 August 1977, certifies that the documents had been drawn up by Sisulu and Mandela.

August - September 1977

Long prison sentences are imposed in a number of trials for subversive activities.

The government's constitutional proposals are widely rejected by black and coloured leaders and severely criticized by white opposition leaders and academics.

3 August 1977

Dr. Motlana, on behalf of the 'Committee of 10' repeats the call for non-ethnic elections for an autonomous Soweto city council.

10 August 1977

About 100 white sympathisers join evicted black squatters in a passive protest against the demolition of shanty dwellings outside Cape Town. This was the third day of an operation to remove an estimated 26,000 squatters from three camps.

Signs multilateral treaty relating to the meeting of the whaling nations to allocate quotas for 1976/77 and 1977 whaling seasons.

12 August 1977

Military Discipline Act No 23:

Specified punishment for military disobedience.

Commenced: 12 August 1977

13 August 1977

The Foreign Minister of France said at a press conference in Nairobi that no new contract for arms sales to South Africa can be signed in France.

16 August 1977

The Minister of Justice asks for an extension of emergency powers granted to one area troubled by faction fighting to the entire KwaZulu 'homeland'. His request is turned down.

18 August 1977

Aliens and Travellers Control Act No 29:

Provided for the control and monitoring of aliens, and for refusal of entry.

Commenced: 18 August 1978

20 August 1977

The constitutional proposals are approved by a special session of the National Party Parliamentary caucus. They are subsequently approved unanimously by National Party congresses in the Cape Province, Natal and the Orange Free State.

22 August - 26 August 1977

World Conference for Action against Apartheid, Lagos, organised by the United Nations in cooperation with the Organisation of African Unity and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

23 August 1977

American President Carter announces at a press conference that South Africa has promised that no nuclear explosive test will be made now or in the future.

24 August 1977

Government proposals for a new constitutional dispensation are disclosed by the Prime Minister John Vorster. They involve the creation of three separate Parliaments, for whites, coloureds and Asians, of the office of an executive State Presidents, of a Cabinet Council drawn from the three Parliaments, and of an advisory President Council.

26 August 1977

The Prime Minister attacks the double standards of foreign countries in the nuclear field, but announces, conditionally, his willingness to discuss South Africa's accession to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

31 August 1977

The Prime Minister gives further details of the constitutional plan at a meeting in Durban. While Indian and coloured people are entitled to political rights no separate Parliament is to be created to accommodate urban blacks. Legislation already exists for them to elect their own town councils with powers greater than other local authorities. Also they exercise their political rights in their own homelands.

2 September 1977

The Bophuthatswana electoral office publishes the results of the general election giving Chief Lucas Mangope's Democratic Party a landslide victory over the opposition Seoposengwe Party.

2 September 1977

Foreign Minister 'Pik' Botha pays a two-day visit to Israel when Southern African issues are discussed with Prime Minister Begin and Foreign Minister Dayan.

2 September 1977

Acquisition of Immovable Property Control Act No 21:

Provided for state expropriation and other powers.

Commenced: 2 September 1977

4 September 1977

Foreign Minister 'Pik' Botha meets the President of the Ivory Coast at Lake Geneva for talks covering the dangers threatening Africa internally and externally, and including the Rhodesian situation.

5 September 1977

The Progressive Reform Party and the Basson group merge as the Progressive Federal Party (PFP) with Cohn Eglin as party leader, Ray Swart as party chairman and 'Japie' Basson as deputy chairman. Its seven key principles include full citizenship rights for all South Africans and the negotiation of a new constitution at a national convention.

9 September 1977

Full details of the proposed constitutional dispensation are given in a memorandum delivered to the Coloured Persons' Representative Council (CPRC) by the Minister of Coloured Relations, and released on 11 September 1977 by sources close to their Executive. The details are also revealed officially by the Transvaal leader of the National Party, Dr. Connie Mulder, who claims it to be an honest well-intentioned offer.

12 September 1977

Death in detention of Stephen Bantu Biko, the leader of the Black Consciousness Movement.

12 September 1977

The death in detention of Steven Biko, founder and first President of the South African Students' Organization (SASO), and later honorary President of the Black People's Convention (BPC) arouses serious internal and international reactions. The circumstances of his death are the subject of statements by the Minister of Justice, J. Kruger, on 12, 14 and 16 September. Messages of concern continue including those from Cyrus Vance US Secretary of State and Dr. Kurt Waldheim, the United Nations Secretary-General.

12 September 1977

Steve Biko died in detention in Pretoria after being tortured and beaten by security police. Magistrate Prins delivered the following verdict:

a)The identity of the deceased is Stephen Bantu Biko, Black man, approximately 30 years old;

b)Date of death: 12 September 1977;

c)Cause or likely cause of death: Head injury with associated extensive brain injury, followed by contusion of the blood circulation, disseminated intravascular coagulation as well as renal failure with uraemia. The head injury was probably sustained during the deceased was involved in a scuffle with members of the Security Branch of the South African Police at Port Elizabeth. Date of death: 12th September 1977.

The available evidence does not prove that the death was brought about by any act or omission involving or amounting to an offence on the part of any person. That completes this inquest. The Court will adjourn now. (The Testimony of Steve Biko, Black Consciousness in South Africa, Pg 293.)

12 September 1977

On 12 September, the founder and first president of the South African Students Organisation (SASO). Mr Steve Biko, became the 40th person to die in detention. Ten people died in detention that year.

13 September 1977

At the Transvaal National Party Congress the constitutional proposals are accepted by 1,236 votes out of 1,243.

19 September 1977

The Coloured Persons' Representative Council (CPRC) decide to reject the government's constitutional proposals and call for a National Convention to negotiate a new constitutional dispensation.

The Trade Union Council of South Africa (TUCSA) elects its first black chairman, Ronnie Webb, at the Council's annual congress in Durban.

20 September 1977

The Prime Minister announces in Pretoria that he has decided that the House of Assembly and the four Provincial Councils should be dissolved and fresh elections be held on 30 November 1977. Nominations must be declared on 20 October 1977.

Signs trade agreement with the Federal Republic of Germany.

20 September 1977

Foreign Ministers of the European Communities, meeting in Brussels, adopted a code of conduct for corporations operating in South Africa. (The United Kingdom and the Netherlands had adopted such codes earlier).

21 September 1977

Signs agreement with Mozambique on air pooling between SAA and DETA.

22 September 1977

It is reported that the President, Vice-President and Secretary-General of the Hervormde (Reformed Church of the Netherlands) have been refused visas to visit South Africa.

23 September 1977

The Netherlands government suspends its cultural agreement with South Africa and proposed visits by several other Dutch groups are cancelled.

25 September 1977

Steven Biko's funeral in King William's Town is attended by some 15,000 people. Twelve Western diplomats are present, including the American Ambassador.

30 September 1977

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Geneva, bans South Africa from further meetings of the organization and to seek its expulsion from its membership.

The ban on open-air gatherings is further extended until 31 March 1978.

The Ciskei 'homeland' government proclaims the introduction of emergency powers, after violent incidents and rioting. The powers allow for ninety days without trial, banishment without decree, prohibition of unauthorized meetings and heavy fines or prison sentences for showing disrespect or disobedience to chiefs and headmen, who remain the instruments of official policy.

Radclyffe M. Cadman is elected national leader of the New Republic Party (NRP). He expects opposition parties to cooperate, but is confident the NRP will become the government of South Africa.

October 1977

The South African government bans 17 organisations and some newspapers.

1 October 1977

Labour Relations Act:

Transkei's equivalent of the Labour Relations Act [SA].

Commenced: 1 October 1977

Labour Act No 14:

Set out further requirements for labour in Transkei.

Commenced: 1 October 1977

Wage Act No 15:

Provided for a minimum wage and wage regulation bodies.

Commenced: 1 October 1977

3 October 1977

M.C. Botha, Minister of Bantu Administration and Development announces that he will not stand for re-election and will resign as Minister in November 1977.

5 October 1977

Sir de Villiers Graaff announces his retirement from politics, having been leader of the opposition from 1956 until the dissolution of the United Party on 28 June 1977.

7 October 1977

A government notice gazetted on this date provides for the establishment of an Ndebele Tribal Authority.

7 October 1977

Public Security Act No 30:

Repealed all security laws applicable in South Africa (including the 1950 Suppression of Communism Act, the 1930 Riotous Assemblies Act and the 1960 Unlawful Organisations Act). Further, it repealed the Proclamation 400 of 1960 but retained some of its provisions (Horrell 1978: 230; SRR 1977: 336; Dugard 1978: 96).

Commenced: 7 October 1977

Sections 44 and 45 repealed by the State of Emergency Act No 86 of 1995.

12 October 1977

Signs multilateral agreement on the additional act of 1972, amending the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants.

16 October 1977

A total of 128 members of the United States Congress, from both the Democratic and Republican parties send a written request to the South African Ambassador in Washington urging the government to invite an appropriate international body to examine South Africa's laws and practices relating to detention and to make recommendations, with special reference to the death of Mr. Biko.

19 October 1977

Following a Cabinet decision on 18 October 1977, the government, by proclamation under the Internal Security Act, declared eighteen organizations unlawful, arrested some seventy leading Africans, placed a number of people in restriction (including Donald Woods) and closed down the daily newspaper 'The World' and its associated 'Weekend World'. The actions provoke worldwide shock and protest. The Minister of Justice issues a statement justifying these draconian measures, and declares the organizations concerned a threat to law and order. The principal associations affected include the Black People's Convention (BPC), the South African Students' Organization (SASO), the Black Parents' Association, the Black Women's Federation and the Union of Black

Journalists. Persons arrested included eight members of the Soweto 'Committee of 10'.

Emergency powers are proclaimed by the government of Venda.

The Foreign Minister hands over a seventy-six room presidential palace, which cost an estimated R1 .8 m. to build to Transkei Head of State, Chief Botha Sigcau as a gift from the Pretoria government. Transkei will celebrate its first anniversary of independence on 26 October 1977.

The United States declares that the Carter Administration will be re-examining its relations with the South African government.

19 October 1977

Police jailed dozens of government opponents not previously detained, including The World's editor, Percy Qoboza.

Banning orders were issued to Beyers Naude and Donald Woods, two prominent whites who had publicly supported Steve Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement.

Justice minister, Jimmy Kruger placed bans on all movements affiliated with the BCM (Black Consciousness Movement). Along with SASO (South African Students' Organisation) and BPC (Black People's Convention) there were also the following sixteen other organisations included in the bannings: AASECA, the Black Parents Association, the Black Women's Federation, the Border Youth Organisation, the Christian Institute of Southern Africa (a multi-racial organisation of anti-apartheid churchmen), the Eastern Province Youth Organisation, the Medupe Writers' Association, the Natal Youth Organisation, the Transvaal Youth Organisation, the Union of Black Journalists, and the Western Cape Youth Organisation.

19 October 1977

The South African Government banned 17 organisations, including major Black Consciousness organisations, in a massive repression of people's resistance. World and Weekend World, black newspapers, were banned.

19 October 1977

On October 19 major black consciousness and other organisations were banned. Fourty-two people were detained and at least seven people were banned. Various newspapers including The World, the Weekend World and a Christian Institute publication, Pro Verlate, were banned.

21 October - 25 October 1977

The United States, the Netherlands, Great Britain, West Germany and Belgium all recall their Ambassadors for consultations.

21 October 1977

Lebowa: Bantu Administration Amendment Act:

Commenced: 21 October 1977

24 October 1977

As the United Nations Security Council debate on South Africa opens in New York, a major diplomatic effort begins to deal with South Africa's severe treatment of its critics and with African demands for mandatory United Nations sanctions.

The Minister of Justice, Police and Prisons receives a report of a police investigation into Mr. Biko's death and a post-mortem report submitted to the Attorney General of the Transvaal and signed by Professor Johan Loubser, Chief State Pathologist, by Professor 1W. Simpson (University of Pretoria) and by Jonathan Gluckman (pathologist appointed by the Biko family) whose findings are unanimous. Death has been caused by extensive brain damage. Mr. Biko has sustained at least a dozen injuries between eight days and twelve hours of his death.

26 October 1977

The Attorney General of the Transvaal, Jacobus E. Nothling, announces that an inquest into Biko's death will be held, but that he would not institute criminal proceedings. On 28 October the Attorney General of the Eastern Cape, Carel van der Walt, also declines to institute criminal proceedings.

27 October 1977

President Carter announces that the United States government will support the decision against the sale of arms to South Africa.

28 October 1977

Newspaper and Imprint Registration Act No 19:

Required newspapers to be registered and conform to a code of conduct.

Commenced: 28 October 1977

November 1977

In November the UN Security Council declared that a further acquisition of arms by South Africa would be a threat to international peace. An indefinite arms embargo was imposed.

In November the National Party won 134 seats in the general election, the highest proportion ever gained by one party in South Africa. 401 people were charged in security trials.

1 November 1977

Signs Convention on Road Traffic.

2 November 1977

Benin, Libya and Mauritius insist that the United Nations Security Council bypass the Western powers arms embargo resolution and instead take up a series of hardline African resolutions paving the way for a total economic and diplomatic blockade of South Africa. They force their resolutions to a vote and America, Britain and France exercise their vetoes.

The South African Indian Council (SAIC) unanimously rejects the government's proposed new constitution, after two days of lengthy debate and widespread opposition by other Indian leaders.

The United States Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, announces that two further diplomats have been withdrawn from South Africa, and that the United States will prohibit all exports of military and police equipment to South Africa.

3 November 1977

After a meeting between the Prime Minister John Vorster, with his Ministers of Bantu Administration and seven of the eight 'homeland' leaders, a statement is issued in Pretoria that influx control regulations are to be amended to provide greater freedom of movement for urban blacks. 'Pass books' are to be abolished and replaced by documents issued by the 'homeland' governments.

4 November 1977

The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopts a seven-point resolution imposing a mandatory arms embargo against South Africa.

4 November 1977

Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 418 (1977) imposing mandatory arms embargo against South Africa.

4 November 1977

Security Council resolution 418 (1977) imposing mandatory arms embargo against South Africa.

8 November 1977

The French Ministry of Defence will no longer permit delivery of two escort vessels (corvettes) and two submarines under construction in French naval yards.

The Prime Minister, reacting to the arms embargo, says that the measure, even if supplemented by an oil embargo, will not seriously harm the Republic.

9 November 1977

It is announced that Transkei and South Africa have signed an extradition agreement. Transkei authorities refuse to say whether it covers political offences. Transkei Interior Minister, Stella Sigcau, daughter of the country's President Botha Sigcau, resigns. No reason is given.

The Prime Minister of Swaziland says that his government will not allow the country to be used as a base for guerrilla attacks against South Africa. He denies that there are training camps within Swaziland.

10 November 1977

The Minister of Finance, Senator Owen Horwood, announces the government is to spend an additional R250 m. on low-cost housing for Blacks, Coloureds and Asians during the next three years. Changes in property rights will give security of tenure to Blacks living in urban areas.

Signs agreement of co-operation with France regarding the Koeberg Nuclear Power Units 1 & 2.

11 November 1977

The government adopts powers enabling the Minister of Economic Affairs to compel companies to produce strategic and military goods should the need arise. The main consideration is preventing parent companies from controlling the operations of South African subsidiaries should they attempt to forbid local production of strategic equipment.

13 November 1977

The Anglican Bishop of Lesotho, the Rev. Desmond Tutu announces that he is giving up his current post to become Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) which is taking an increasingly radical position against apartheid.

14 November 1977

The Chairman of the Olympic Games organizing committee announces that Rhodesia and South Africa will be excluded from the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

The inquest into the death of Black Consciousness leader, Steve Biko, opens in Pretoria. Evidence given concerning the autopsy report is widely reported both locally and overseas.

15 November 1977

A non-aggression pact between Bophutliatswana and South Africa is the first of sixty-six treaties signed by the two governments at a special pre-independence ceremony in Pretoria. The agreements will take effect on 6 December 1977.

17 November 1977

A black high school student, Sipho Malaza dies while in Security Police custody. His death is the twenty-first in detention since March 1976.

The P.K. le Roux Dam, an integral part of the Orange River development project to provide electric power, irrigation and flood control - is officially inaugurated by John Vorster the Prime Minister. It was constructed at a cost of R94m.

18 November 1977

The United Nation's Special Committee against Apartheid approves a draft international declaration against apartheid in sports.

21 November 1977

A Soweto Action Committee is formed to back the plan for the future of Soweto proposed by the 'Committee of 10' most of whose members are in detention.

23 November 1977

A National Party candidate and leading economist, Dr. Robert Smit and his wife, Jeanne-Cora, are found murdered in their home in Springs in curious circumstances. Police decline to offer any interpretation.

24 November 1977

A bomb explodes in the Carlton Centre, Johannesburg, injuring sixteen people.

30 November 1977

John Vorster achieves an overwhelming victory in the General Election, taking 136 of the 165 parliamentary seats. The National Party gains eighteen seats from the combined opposition parties. The only opposition party to hold its own is the Progressive Federal Party, which now becomes the official opposition with seventeen seats. The New Republic Party retain ten, the South African Party win three, the Herstigte Nasionale Party none.

1 December 1977

Counsel for Steve Biko's family, Sydney Kentridge, makes his final submission calling for a verdict that Steve Biko died as the result of a criminal assault on him by one or more of the eight members of the Security Police in whose custody he was on 6 and 7 September. During his four hour address Sydney Kentridge reserves his most serious criticism for two Security Police officers, Colonel Piet Goosen and Major Harold Snyman and two doctors who examined Steve Biko, Dr. Ivor Lang and Dr. Benjamin Tucker.

2 December 1977

The fifteen-day inquest into the death of Steve Biko ends with a three-minute finding by the presiding magistrate, Martinus Prins, who rules that no one can be found criminally responsible for his death in detention. The verdict causes deep concern within South Africa and a storm of protest overseas. Shock is expressed by the United States Secretary of State and consternation by the United Nations Secretary-General.

Two members of Steve Biko's family, as well as eight other blacks, some of them friends of the Biko family, are detained by police in a pre-dawn raid in Soweto.

3 December 1977

The record of the Biko inquest will now go to the Attorney General of Transvaal who can decide whether there should be any further investigation or any other action taken.

6 December 1977

Bophuthatswana becomes independent at midnight. Its Parliament sits for the first time and elects Chief Lucas Mangope as the country's ñrst President. He immediately raises the issues of land consolidation and citizenship. A twelve-man Cabinet, including two whites, is appointed.

6 December 1977

Bophuthatswana becomes an independent homeland.

8 December 1977

Sir David Napley, President of the Law Society of England (who attended the Biko inquest as an independent observer at the invitation of the Association of Law Societies of South Africa) issues a twenty-five page report on the inquest in which he severely criticizes police procedure, evidence and investigation ('perfuctory in the extreme'). Regarding the magistrate's findings he is in accord, but adds I do not, however, apprehend that it would have been irregular for the Magistrate to have found that the death was caused by one or more of a group of persons without specifying such persons with particularity'.

9 December 1977

The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopts an

African-sponsored resolution setting up a United Nations committee to monitor enforcement of the mandatory arms embargo decreed against South Africa on 4 November 1977.

14 December 1977

The United Nations General Assembly in its thirty-second regular session passes fourteen resolutions on the policy of apartheid and a further resolution on 16 December 1977.

14 December 1977

International Declaration against Apartheid in Sports proclaimed by the General Assembly [resolution 32/105M)].

14 December 1977

International Declaration against Apartheid in Sports proclaimed by the General Assembly [resolution 32/105M)].

16 December 1977

South Africa:Signs an agreement for the application of safeguards and privileges with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

20 December 1977

Canada announces it is to withdraw all government support for trade with South Africa. Trade commissioners will be recalled and the Consulate-General in Johannesburg will close. Diplomatic relations will be maintained to give Canada the opportunity to impress on the South African government the necessity for change.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to theThis resource is hosted by the site.