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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.


Declared the Year of the Youth to pay tribute to the heroism displayed by the youth.

Fietas, Johannesburg: July Allan, 'the China Man', an owner of a sweet shop, is forced to leave Pageview. He moves to a northern suburb of Johannesburg with his sister, Ming, but finds the transition very painful, remarking on the difference in treatment he receives from his new customers, who ridicule him for being Chinese and take products from his shop without paying.

Fietas, Johannesburg: The Save Pageview Association (SPA) is established, replacing the Pageview Residents Association (PRA), which in turn had replaced the Pageview Traders and Standholders Association after the eviction of traders from Pageview to the Oriental Plaza. Most people have moved to Lenasia, but 67 Indian families still remain in Pageview 'illegally'. They are all members of the SPA.

Fietas, Johannesburg: The Pageview mosques come under threat of demolition in order to make way for a highway. The SPA and various Muslim bodies lodge complaints to the City Council of Johannesburg and it is found that, in terms of the 'protection of religious rights', buildings on these grounds cannot be demolished.

The formation of the United Women's Organisation in the western Cape. This became instrumental in the formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in 1984.

KwaNdebele proclaimed a self-governing territory.

Ciskei independence.

The Status of Ciskei Act No 110:

Enabled Ciskei to get its independence.

KwaZulu: Act on the Code of Zulu Law No 6:

Commenced: 29 October 1982

Commission of Inquiry into Security Legislation

Mandate: To inquire into, report and make recommendations on the necessity, adequacy, fairness and efficacy of legislation pertaining to the internal security of the Republic of South Africa.

Date of Report: 21 November 1981

Chair: RABIE, P.J.

Ref: RP 90-81

The National Party won the general election by winning 131 of 165 seats in parliament.

The Anti - South African Indian Council Committee and the Transvaal Anti-SAIC Committee were formed to oppose South African Indian Council elections. Less than 20% of registered voters cast ballots, in Fordsburg the percentage poll was 1,75%.

Over fifty organisations banded together to campaign countrywide against the 20th anniversary celebrations of the South African Republic.

Twelve African National Congress members killed when South African armed forces attacked Matola in Mocambique.

At least fourty attacks by ANC insurgents occurred during 1981.

630 people were detained in 1981.

Just under twenty people were banned in 1981.

The Government-appointed De Lange Commission of Enquiry into Education recommended equal opportunities for education including equal standards for everyone.

A boycott of Wilson-Rowntree sweets was called by the South African Allied Workers Union.

There were 342 strikes affecting 87 189 workers as compared to 1976 where there were 245 strikes affecting 28 013 workers.

The De Lange Report recommends a single department of education for all South Africans, education of equal quality for all, and a changed schooling structure. It is met with a mixed reception.

1 January 1981

QwaQwa: Special Taxation Act No 8:

Commenced: 1 January 1981

9 January 1981

Draft legislation is published giving owners and managers of hotels and restaurants the right to admit blacks.

14 January 1981

Under a proposed amendment to the Population Registration Act South Africans of all races will have their fingerprints taken and recorded on a central fingerprint register. A uniform identity document will be issued to all races.

19 January 1981

In a referendum organized by King William's Town municipality, the voting is overwhelmingly against incorporation into the Ciskei. despite a recommendation from the van der Walt Commission on consolidation of the homelands that this he done.

20 January 1981

The Minister of the Interior informs the Argus Printing and Publishing Company that if it applied for re-registration of the Post newspapers these would be banned because they had aimed at creating a revolutionary climate in South Africa. This decision is widely condemned.

22 January 1981

Percy Qohoza, who had resigned as editor of the Post papers on 13 January 1981 and left immediately for the United States, says in Washington that in the light of the Minister's remarks it is difficult to see how a credible newspaper for blacks can ever be created in South Africa.

Student committees decide to end the boycott of black schools, the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) having declared itself in favour of suspending the action in order to 'regroup forces and formulate a new strategy'.

23 January 1981

In the House of Assembly, twelve new nominated members are sworn in. They include Professsor Owen Horwood, former Leader of the Senate.

27 January 1981

A Marine Traffic Bill empowers the Minister of Transport Affairs to order ships to be stopped or searched if they are believed to be carrying drugs or cargo in persons constituting a threat to the sovereignty, integrity or political independence of South Africa. The Bill is passed on 2 February 1981 with the support of all parties.

Former President John Vorster says he has decided to withdraw from politics for family reasons.

The government decides to close The Post and The Sunday Post because they have become media for communist viewpoints.

28 January 1981

Prime Minister Botha announces that general elections to the House of Assembly and the Provincial Councils will be held on 29 April 1981, on the grounds that seventeen parliamentary and thirteen provincial by-elections are due in the near future. They are to be held eighteen months earlier than is necessary under the Constitution.

The Security Police arrest Major A.M. Kozlov, a senior officer in the Soviet KGB, during his third visit to South Africa in 1980, on charges of spying in South Africa.

Signs loan agreement with Lesotho.

30 January 1981

The South African Army raids Mozambique and assassinate 12 ANC members.

30 January 1981

General Constand Viljoen, Chief of the South African Defence Force, announces that earlier in the day a South African commando has attacked and destroyed the planning and control headquarters of the ANC at Matola, Maputo, Mozambique.

30 January 1981

South African commandos raid Matola, attacking three residences of South African refugees; 12 ANC members were killed and 3 kidnapped. Eleven South Africans were killed.

2 February 1981

A new black daily paper, promising to expose political ills, appears in Johannesburg. The Sowetan has the same format as the banned Post and Sunday Post and is apparently following the same editorial policies.

3 February 1981

The President's Council is formally inaugurated as a policy-advisory, problem-directed, reform-orientated and future-looking body. The new tri-racial Council, consisting of sixty-one nominated White, Coloured and Indian members is the first multi-racial institution of its kind to be established in South Africa.

5 February 1981

Police announce the arrest of a number of whites in connection with sabotage acts for which the Wit Kommando has claimed responsibility on 15 August 1980 and on 12 December 1980.

6 February 1981

The government withdraws three controversial Parliamentary Bills relating to freedom of movement of the black population for penetrating revision by a ten-member technical committee headed by Justice Rossouw.

8 February 1981

Mozambique stresses its continued support for the ANC, in a statement made at the funeral of twelve ANC members killed in the South African raid on Matola, Maputo, on 30 January 1981.

14 February 1981

President Samora Machel of Mozambique, declares solidarity with the plight of the South African people, as a reaction to the massacre.

14 February 1981

A new right-wing group Aksie Eie Toekoms (Action for our Own Future) (AET) is founded in Pretoria, mainly by Afrikaner academics. It stands for strict racial segregation at all levels.

20 February 1981

Prime Minister P.W. Botha announces that the Ciskei will become fully independent on 4 December 1981.

21 February 1981

The Republic of South Africa Constitution Amendment Bill, providing for the extension of the terms of office of nominated and indirectly elected members of the Assembly, after the dissolution of Parliament and empowering the State President to alter the names of electoral divisions by proclamation, is condemned by the opposition as gerrymandering.

22 February 1981

The Minister of Manpower Utilisation warns that the government is planning to take a tougher line with the rapidly expanding and increasingly militant black trade unions. The newly established industrial court may be used to discipline certain unions.

The Soviet Union supports Mozambique after the South African raid on Matola by sending two warships to Maputo. More are expected soon.

23 February 1981

The Prime Minister declares that Soviet threats will not prevent South Africa from attacking ANC bases in Mozambique.

27 February 1981

The Minister of Police announces the arrest of five further alleged Wit Kommando members.

2 March 1981

The United Nations General Assembly Credentials Committee rejects the credentials of the South African delegation, by six votes to one

6 March 1981

The United Nations General Assembly resolution calls on the Security Council to impose comprehensive sanctions against South Africa to compel it to end its illegal occupation of Namibia.

11 March 1981

Govan Mbeki is presented with the Fucik Award.

18 March 1981

The PAC announces in Dan es Salaam that it has reinstated seventy-two members expelled from the movement in July 1978.

20 March 1981

KwaNdebele proclaimed a self-governing territory.

23 March 1981

Nominations for the elections close with candidates for the 165 seats in the House of Assembly being nominated as follows: National Party, 155; Progressive Federal Party seventy-seven, Herstigte Nasionale Party, eighty-nine; New Republic Party, thirty-eight; National Conservative Party, nine and Aksie Eie Toekoms, two.

The HNP's policies are defined by its leader, Jaap Marais: no concessions to the black man; withdrawal of South Africa from the United Nations; no mixing of races in sport, parks, hotels or theatres; a homeland for Coloureds and no political mixing with them and an inflation rate of only two percent.

24 March 1981

The government announces that it is terminating its preferential trade agreement concluded with Rhodesia in 1964.

25 March 1981

Dr. C.P. Mulder, speaking for the National Conservative Party (NCP) discloses that his party has reached an understanding with the HNP not to nominate candidates against one another.

The leader of the NRP, Vause Raw, states that the country's major parties are divided and in disarray and that the NRP could lay the base for a regrouping of moderates.

30 March 1981

From 1 June 1981, holders of Zimbabwean passports will require visas to enter South Africa. The Zimbabwean government reciprocates amid deteriorating relations in both political and economic spheres.

The Irish government's efforts to persuade the Irish Rugby Football Union to call off its tour of South Africa fail.

3 April 1981

The PFP issues its election manifesto, laying emphasis on the party's aim of caring for the voter, linking the future security and welfare of the whites with the security and welfare of blacks.

6 April 1981

The Heads of State of Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland meet in Mbabane, to discuss South African military incursions and subversive activities against black Southern African states.

13 April 1981

The Transkei Legislative Assembly approves a Criminal Law Amendment Bill making it illegal for anyone to publish anything about the Transkei government without ministerial approval.

16 April 1981

The government seizes the passport of Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Anglican General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, apparently because of his speeches made in the United States in March 1981.

17 April 1981

The government announces that King William's Town will not be handed over to the Ciskei at independence.

20 April - 21 April 1981

A bomb explosion during the night at a power station near Durban, causes an extensive blackout and temporarily paralyzes industry in the area. It is attributed to members of the ANC.

29 April 1981

The elections result in the return to power, with a slightly reduced majority, of the National Party and notable gains for the opposition Progressive Federal Party. Right-wing opposition groups, led by the HNP, more than quintriple their votes, but gain no seats.

30 April 1981

The Prime Minister warns neighbouring states against supporting 'terrorist' movement operations from their territories, but re-iterates that he is ready to conclude non-aggression pacts with them.

May 1981

Police make more than seventy arrests at student and trade union demonstrations, protesting against official celebrations marking the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Republic of South Africa.

8 May 1981

Relations between Zimbabwe and South Africa deteriorate further when the Minister of Police, L. le Grange, threatens retaliatory action if Robert Mugabe persists in supporting the ANC.

12 May 1981

P.W. Botha is re-elected as National Party leader.

14 May 1981

The United Nations General Assembly publishes a roster of sixty-five multi-national companies supposedly in 'criminal collaboration' with South Africa and a blacklist of some 270 sportsmen and women who have furthered sports contacts with South Africa. This publication was subsequently updated.

15 May 1981

First register of sports contacts with South Africa published by the Special Committee against Apartheid.

20 May - 27 May 1981

International Conference on Sanctions against South Africa organised by the United Nations, in cooperation with the OAU, at UNESCO House, Paris.

22 May 1981

The Minister of National Education has approved amendments to certain Acts, to encourage the normalization of sports relations.

25 May - 27 May 1981

There are several sabotage attacks - in Soweto, on the Natal coast, East London and in Durban - for which the ANC claim responsibility.

30 May 1981

State President M. Viljoen describes the twenty years since South Africa became a Republic as a 'golden era' during which the country has experienced phenomenal growth and development in the economic, industrial, scientific and technological fields.

31 May 1981

Nation-wide protests and boycotts of the celebration of 20 years of the South African Republic.

June 1981

A nationwide campaign to reject the so-called "Republic celebrations" is launched. Mass detentions and banning follow.

1 June 1981

Festivities to mark the twentieth anniversary of the South African Republic reach a climax with a massive military display in Durban, attended by P.W. Botha, the Prime Minister.

Three offices of the PFP are petrol-bombed in Johannesburg. Responsibility is claimed by the South African Liberation Support Cadre (SALSC).

3 June 1981

Rioting breaks out in the Coloured townships south-west of Johannesburg. A class boycott and arrests follow.

11 June 1981

Lesotho and South Africa decide to establish a consultative committee to resolve misunderstandings arising from the movement of people across their common border.

15 June 1981

In two separate statements, the ANC and the UN Committee Against Apartheid call for a more concerted and intensified effort from the international community to bring about change in South Africa.

Six South African members of the PAC are sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment, by the Tanzanian High Court, for the killing in Dar es Salaam of David Sibeko, PAC representative at the United Nations.

16 June 1981

On the anniversary of the Soweto uprising, police and troops cordon off Soweto and other black townships in the Johannesburg and Pretoria areas, stopping and searching all vehicles. Sporadic clashes occur near the Regina Mundi Roman Catholic Church in Soweto.

18 June 1981

ILO General Conference in Geneva condemned apartheid as degrading, criminal and inhuman, and decided to give ILO assistance to South African liberation movements. It set up a permanent conference committee to monitor South Africa's racial policies and approved ILO technical assistance to liberation movements through a voluntary fund.

18 June 1981

ILO General Conference in Geneva condemned apartheid as degrading, criminal and inhuman, and decided to give ILO assistance to South African liberation movements. It set up a permanent conference committee to monitor South Africa's racial policies and approved ILO technical assistance to liberation movements through a voluntary fund.

21 June 1981

Police confirm the capture of eight leaders of the Nigeria-based South African Youth Revolutionary Council (SAYRCO).

30 June 1981

Zwelakbe Sisulu, President of the Black Media Workers Association of South Africa, and son of Walter Sisulu, is arrested under security laws that provide for unlimited detention without trial.

The campaign against dissident South African students continues with the banning of three more students immediately after the serving of restriction orders on Andrew Boraine, President of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) and son of opposition M.P., Dr. Alex Boraine.

1 July 1981

KwaNdebele: Public Services Act No 3:

Commenced: 1 July 1981

16 July 1981

Joe Gqabi assassinated in Salisbury.

17 July 1981

The Government Gazette announces an extension to the provisions of the 1964 Tear Gas Act to widen the range of those empowered to use tear gas.

21 July 1981

Explosions occur at two electrical power stations in the Eastern Transvaal. Responsibility is claimed by the ANC's military wing Umkhonto We Sizwe.

31 July 1981

The first person to be banned under the 1976 Internal Security Act, Fatima Meer, is banned again for a further five years.

1 August 1981

For the sixth time in eight months, a leader of the Media Workers' Association of South Africa (MWASA) is banned. Its Acting President and senior reporter on the East London Daily Dispatch, is served with a two-and-a-half year banning and house arrest under the Internal Security Act.

9 August 1981

International Day of Solidarity with the Struggle of Women of South Africa and Namibia was observed for the first time, on the 25th anniversary of the demonstration of South African women against pass laws.

9 August 1981

International Day of Solidarity with the Struggle of Women of South Africa and Namibia observed for the first time, on the 25th anniversary of the demonstration of South African women against pass laws.

12 August 1981

A rocket attack is launched on the Voortrekkerhoogte military area near Pretoria, which leads to the larger black townships in the Pretoria- Johannesburg area being

12 August 1981

Four rockets exploded in Voortrekkerhoogte, a large military base in a suburb of Pretoria. The ANC claimed responsibility.

14 August 1981

Co-operation and Development Minister, Piet Koornhof, states that uncontrolled squatting cannot. be tolerated, and will not be allowed in the interests of the squatters themselves... No squatting will be allowed on the relevant site in Nyanga.

18 August 1981

Deadlock is reached between the Peninsula Administration Board and the Nyanga squatters.

Three black men are found guilty of high treason and of having been involved in the sabotage of SASOL fuel installations and the attack on Booysens Police Station. They are sentenced to death, with appeals being lodged on their behalf.

19 August 1981

A mass arrest of 2,000 Nyanaga squatters is carried out, under immigration legislation allowing summary deportation. They are to be charged under the Admission of Persons to the Republic Regulation Act of 1972.

20 August 1981

Mass protests in Cape Town over the enforced removal from Nyanga camp are followed by widespread criticism both within and without South Africa.

South Africa bans three white Zimbabweans from visiting South Africa and addressing members of the University of Cape Town

25 August 1981

Confrontation between South Africa and Transkei over the deportation and return to Transkei of squatters from the Cape Town area.

September 1981

South African troops occupied a large area in southern Angola.

22 September 1981

The Broederbond reverses its 1972 decision to expel HNP members from its ranks. This is interpreted as confirmation of growing Afrikaner discontent over P.W. Botha's 'enlightened approach' to racial matters.

23 September 1981

The Rand Supreme Court rules that blacks from the homelands can establish the right to reside permanently in towns in white South Africa.

24 September 1981

In the first post-independence election in Transkei, the ruling Transkei National Independence Party (TNIP) is returned to power winning virtually all seventy-five elected seats.

30 September 1981

The sixth and final report of the Wiehahn Commission, inquiring into labour legislation, is tabled in Parliament. Dealing with the mining industry, its main recommendation is that Blacks as well as Whiles and Coloured workers should be issued with blasting certificates.

October 1981

Early October. A separate alliance of right-wing parties is formed, comprising the National Conservative Party (NCP) and the Aksie Eie Toekoms (AET) together with the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) or Afrikaner Resistance Movement, led by Eugene Terre'blanche, and the Kappie Kommando, an organization of Afrikaner women.

2 October 1981

KwaZulu: Police Amendment Act No 11:

Commenced: 2 October 1981

6 October 1981

Dr. D. de Villers wins the Piketberg, Western Cape, seat for the National Party with a slightly reduced majority.

8 October 1981

Equal education for all races, including a provision that will allow white government schools to admit blacks, is proposed in the Human Sciences Research Council, Committee report, chaired by Professor J.P. de Lange. Eleven guiding principles are laid down.

11 October 1981

In a provisional White Paper on the De Lange education report, the government reaffirms its commitment to the policy of separate education departments.

16 October 1981

The Status of Ciskei Bill is signed by the State President, having been opposed at all stages by the opposition parties. It confers Ciskei citizenship on approximately two million Xhosa people, of whom about half live permanently outside Ciskei's borders.

23 October 1981

President Kaiser Matanzima of Transkei announces his intention to retire from the Presidency in February 1982, to devote more time to tribal and family affairs. By April 1982 this has not happened.

26 October 1981

The ANC claims responsibility for an attack on a police station at Sibasa, near the capital of Venda, Thohoyandou. Nevertheless the Venda government charge three ministers of the Lutheran Church with murder.

The South African Indian Council requests the Prime Minister to reverse the Cabinet's decision not to return Pageview and District Six to their respective Indian and Coloured communities. The Prime Minister refuses this request and a massive boycott of the Indian elections follow.

November 1981

Tshifiwe Muofhe died in detention in November.

1 November 1981

A new Labour Relations Amendment Act becomes effective, banning only links between unions and political parties.

1 November 1981

Labour Relations Amendment Act No 57:

Redefined 'employee' to cover all black workers, including local and foreign migrants and commuters (SRR 1981: 202). The Act deleted the 1956 provision which prohibited the establishment of new unions (SRR 1981: 203). It gave black workers the right to organise and abolished job reservation. However, it clamped down on unions' involvement in politics by, for example, prohibiting any union, federation or employers' organisation from giving financial assistance to a person involved in an illegal strike (SRR 1981: 203-4). Union headquarters could not be established in independent states (SRR 1981: 203). This Act repealed the 1953 Black Labour Relations Regulation Act which provided for works and liaison committees, and replaced these with works councils (SRR 1981: 203).

Commenced: 1 November 1981, excluding the provisions of s 21(b): 1 November 1982 and s 63(1): 1 March 1982

Repealed by the Labour Relations Act No 66 of 1995.

3 November 1981

The government appoints a judicial Commision of Inquiry, under the chairmanship of Justice C.F. Eloff, to investigate the inception, development, objects, history and activities of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), as well as organizations and people giving money or assets to the Council.

4 November 1981

The first elections to the South African Indian Council are held. Of the SAIC's forty-five members, forty are up for election, five being nominated, but only 10.5 per cent of the electorate vote.

4 November 1981

Elections to the South African Indian Council were boycotted by over.

19 November 1981

Mr. Griffith Mxenge, member of ANC and prominent lawyer, assassinated.

20 November 1981

A total of eighty-two agreements between South Africa and Ciskei are signed in Cape Town by Chief Sebe and the Prime Minister and other Cabinet Ministers.

Signs multilateral agreement on the control of pollution of water resources in the South African region.

25 November 1981

Forty-five mercenaries from South Africa landed in Seychelles, attacked the airport and caused heavy damage. Those who were not captured and detained by Seychelles security forces fled by hijacking an Air India plane which they diverted to South Africa.

December 1981

Fietas, Johannesburg: Officials of the Department of Community Development hand eviction notices to the remaining 67 families in Pageview. This means that they have to evacuate the premises or be forcibly removed. The families lodge an application before the Rand Supreme Court to restrain the Department of Community Development from evicting them from their homes. Pending the decision of the court the families are allowed to stay.

The Ciskei became an independent homeland' in December.

3 December 1981

Ciskei becomes the fourth black 'homeland' to be granted independence. Chief Sebe is elected President by the National Assembly, consisting of both elected members and thirty-seven hereditary chiefs.

4 December 1981

The bantustan of Ciskei was proclaimed "independent".

4 December 1981

Ciskei becomes an independent homeland.

10 December 1981

The Committee of Artists of the World against Apartheid was established in Paris with the support of the Special Committee against Apartheid.

10 December 1981

Committee of Artists of the World against Apartheid established in Paris with the support of the Special Committee against Apartheid.

14 December 1981

Ciskei accepts independence. Chief Lennox Sebe becomes its first president.

29 December 1981

Winnie Mandela is banned for a further five years and continues to be restricted to the small town of Brandfort.

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