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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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 visit by Zwelakhe after United Democratic Front launch.

the South African Defence Force uses direct intervention to eliminate ANC bases and it supported opposition groups who challenged governments in neighbouring states that harboured ANC saboteurs.

Raid on Gaborone, Botswana, killing ANC personel.

By the end of 1983, neighbouring states appeared reluctant to provoke South Africa by openly showing active support for the ANC ?? but they did not turn their backs completely on the ANC either.

Republic of South Africa Constitution Act No 110:

Provided for the establishment of a tricameral Parliament consisting of separate legislative houses for whites, coloureds and Indians. Matters before Parliament were to be divided into 'general affairs' (to be discussed by all houses and applying to all South Africans) and 'own affairs' (relevant to one particular race group). The Constitution also made PW Botha both the formal and executive head of state and Commander-in-Chief of the South African Defence Force.

Commenced: 3 September 1984, except ss 48, 49(1)-(3), 50 & 102(9): 24 February 1984.

Repealed by the Constitution of Republic of South Africa Act No 200 of 1993.

Electoral Act No 18:

Provided for state elections and the creation of a voters' roll.

Commenced: 17 February 1984

The National forum committee was revived. 100 organisations were present.

CUSA's membership reached the 100 000 mark. Its fastest growing affiliate was the National Union of Mineworkers.

Boycotts and demonstrations at schools affected 10 000 pupils country-wide. At least 22 meetings were banned. Simon Mndawe and Paris Malatji died in custody.

48 people died in 220 incidents of insurgency since 1976. 172 ANC insurgents were killed during that period

The government issues a White Paper which accepted the De Lange guiding principles but rejects the major recommendation of a single education department for all.

The government places more emphasis on technical education. It encourages industry to set up training programmes to 'upgrade' black workers. Trade unions also began to play a more active role in providing education for workers.

Student protests joined broader protests against elections for the new Tricameral Parliament. Start of the Education Charter Campaign.

January - April 1983

Three bomb explosions damage the old building housing the Supreme Court in Pietermaritzburg, and the new building nearing completion.

2 January 1983

Several ANC members detained in Swaziland decide to leave the country voluntarily for Mozambique. A further group of seventeen ANC members leave Mawelawela refugee camp, near Mbabane, fearing a South African attack.

4 January 1983

At its annual conference in Eshowe, Natal, the Labour Party overwhelmingly adopts a resolution stating that it seeks to represent the Coloured community in a restructured Parliament, even though it rejects the racial premises on which the constitutional proposals are based. This decision is welcomed by the Prime Minister but criticized by other political organizations. Three leading members resign immediately after the Conference

7 January 1983

The Government Gazette proclaims that only one-fifth of District Six, will be returned in its entirety to its earlier status and again be designated a Coloured area.

12 January 1983

The South African Indian Council (SAIC) decides to give the government's constitutional proposals 'a reasonable chance', provided the Indian community approves them in a referendum.

19 January 1983

Chief Buthelezi meets President Matanzima of Transkei at Tongaat, north of Durban, where they dedicate their homelands to opposing the constitutional proposals which exclude blacks.

22 January 1983

The TIC is re-launched in Johannesburg and

Mr Molvi Saloojee, the last president of the TIC and resident of Fietas dies.

23 January 1983

At the annual congress of the Transvaal Anti-SAIC Committee held in Johannesburg, it is decided to revive the old Transvaal Indian Congress and to establish a united democratic front to mobilize resistance on a national scale to participation by Indians and Coloureds in the new Constitution.

26 January 1983

The Prime Minister calls a special press conference to announce that a senior South African naval officer, commanding Simonstown dockyard, Commodore Dieter Gerhardt and his wife, have been detained for questioning in connection with alleged espionage.

27 January - 28 January 1983

The third Annual Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the SADCC and representatives of donor countries and organizations, held in Maseru, is marked by further criticism of South Africa's foreign policy and deliberate interference in the region.

1 February 1983

The government is to establish a special Cabinet committee to look at the problems of urban blacks.

4 February 1983

South Africa:Signs meteorological treaty with Taiwan.

7 February 1983

Cedric Mayson, former Methodist Minister, banned for five years in 1977 and detained on 27 November 1981, appears before the Pretoria Supreme Court on charges including treason and being a member or an active supporter of the ANC. He is released on bail, flees the country and arrives in Britain the day before his case is due to resume on 18 April 1983.

15 February 1983

South Africa:Signs multilateral Convention on Agency in International Sale of Goods.

15 February 1983

National Security Amendment Act No 35:

Empowered police officers to detain and interrogate persons suspected of having committed or intending to commit an offence.

Commenced: 15 February 1983.

17 February 1983

Signs agreement with Swaziland and Mozambique on the establishment of a tripartite permanent technical committee on water resources.

18 February 1983

A bomb explosion in an administrative building in the Batho township of Bloemfontein, injures seventy-six blacks while seeking registration for employment. The ANC denies responsibility.

21 February 1983

The Minister of Manpower, Fanie Botha, the leader of the Conservative Party, Dr. Andries Treurnicht, and one of his senior lieutenants, Tom Langley, all resign as Members of Parliament and begin a trial of strength between the Conservative Party and the National Party.

4 March 1983

Four senior newspaper editors are found guilty on between one and three counts under the 1982 Protection of Information Act, and sentenced to fines (mainly suspended) of from R300 to R2000. Information published relating to the involvement of NIS self-confessed agent, Martin Dolinchek, in the Seychelles attempted coup, was held to have been prejudicial to the security or the interests of the Republic.

16 March 1983

In elections to the 100-member Lebowa National Assembly, Dr. Phatudi's ruling Lebowa People's Party wins more than three-quarters of the forty elective seats.

21 March 1983

The twenty third anniversary of Sharpeville, the International Day for the Elimination of Apartheid, is marked by messages issued by the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid and the Pan Africanist Congress.

21 March 1983

Publication of declaration for the release of Nelson Mandela and all other South African Political Prisoners signed by over 4,000 public leaders. The declaration was initiated by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston in cooperation with the Special Committee against Apartheid

21 March 1983

Publication of declaration for the release of Nelson Mandela and all other South African Political Prisoners signed by over 4,000 public leaders. The declaration was initiated by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston in co-operation with the Special Committee against Apartheid.

26 March - 27 March 1983

The Lesotho government accuses South Africa of launching raids into Lesotho. South Africa denies this.

30 March 1983

Prime Minister P.W. Botha announces that, contrary to previous indications, the constitutional proposals will be put to a referendum of the white electorate.

2 April 1983

Saul Mkheze, leader of a black farming community, is shot dead during a protest meeting at Driefontein, 200 miles east of Johannesburg. The United States State Department calls on 5 April for a full investigation into the circumstances of his death, and on 7 April the Foreign Minister, Pik Botha, says the government 'deeply regretted' such incidents.

7 April 1983

The French government decides to request all sporting bodies to end links with South Africa, since the government is against racial discrimination in all its forms.

9 April - 10 April 1983

At a meeting in Cape Town seven predominantly black trade unions decide in principle to form a federation, estimated to have a potential membership of about 180,000.

11 April 1983

Chief Leabua Jonathan, Prime Minister of Lesotho, tells the National Assembly that Lesotho is faced with a war with South Africa.

13 April 1983

A Defence Amendment Bill provides for an alternative form of national service for conscientious objectors, who oppose military service on religious grounds. The offer is not extended to objectors motivated by political values.

25 April 1983

The Labour Party, in anticipation of probable expulsion, announces it has withdrawn from the South African Black Alliance (SABA).

28 April 1983

The Prime Minister, P.W. Botha, orders the Minister of Law and Order, le Grange, to investigate the activities of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB).

30 April 1983

The Prime Minister meets Lesotho's Minister of Foreign Affairs, discusses the revival of the Highland Water Scheme and emphasizes the paramount importance of economic and geographic facts in establishing realistic relations between the two countries.

May 1983

Late May: The government is planning to build a large new township, Khayalitsha, twenty-five miles outside Cape Town. More than 150,000 black people living in townships near Cape Town, will be expected to move to the new development. This is a policy reversal of the government's virtual freeze on all building for blacks in the Cape.

May 1983

The Transvaal Indian Congress was revived.

5 May 1983

The Republic of South Africa Constitution Bill is placed before the House of Assembly. It is opposed by the Conservative Party, while the PFP abstains. It is read a second time on 18 May, the New Republic Party (NRP) supporting the government, the other opposition parties voting against it.

6 May 1983

The KwaNdebele Legislative Assembly passes a unanimous motion instructing the homeland's Cabinet to begin independence negotiations with South Africa.

10 May 1983

Three parliamentary by-elections in the Transvaal represent a major electoral test for the Conservative Party. They result in the technical regaining of one seat by the National Party from the Conservative Party, while Dr. Treurnicht's success in holding his seat represents an effective defeat for the National Party.

19 May 1983

Signs treaty with Taiwan relating to the acceptance of international tonnage certificates.

20 May 1983

a car bomb exploded outside Pretoria's air force headquarters leaving seventeen killed and more than 200 injured.

20 May 1983

Outside the headquarters of the South African Air Force (SAAF), and other government offices, a car bomb explodes in Pretoria killing nineteen and injuring about 200 people.

The Minister of Defence, General Magnus Malan, announces that a total of six districts, all on or near South Africa's borders with Swaziland and Mozambique, are now activated under the 1982 Amendments to the Defence Act. In three of them, all white men up to the age of fifty-five, will have to register for commando duty.

20 May 1983

A car bomb explosion near the headquarters of the South African Air Force resulted in 17 dead and several hundred injured. The ANC claimed responsibility for the blast.

21 May 1983

A total of thirty-two organizations join to form the United Democratic Front (UDF) to oppose the constitutional proposals.

23 May 1983

In retaliatory action for the Pretoria car bomb, the South African Air Force (SAAF) launch a raid on six ANC targets in the suburbs of Maputo.

23 May 1983

South African Air Force bombers attacked a Maputo suburb. Five Mozambicans (including two women and two children) and one South African refugee were killed. Over 30 injured.

23 May 1983

South African Air Force planes bombed suspected ANC houses in Maputo.

26 May 1983

Traffic flow slows at the border posts between South Africa and Lesotho is reported following bomb explosions in Pretoria and Bloemfontein, for which the ANC office in Lesotho first claims, and later denies, responsibility.

27 May - 29 May 1983

Swazi police discover a hidden arms cache in the Mlilwane game park and three men, said to comprise an ANC military training group in the same park, are arrested as part of a renewed crackdown on ANC activities.

30 May 1983

The Appeal Court hands down a landmark decision in the case Rikhoto v. East Rand Administration Board (ERAB) granting him the right to permanent urban status. This ruling may affect about 150,000 black contract workers in urban areas, who can now apply to have their families living with them.

1 June 1983

An inquest into the death of Ernest Dipale, who had died in custody in Johannesburg Security Police headquarters in August 1982, finds no-one criminally liable for his death.

3 June 1983

Foreign Minister, 'Pik' Botha, meets Lesotho's Minister of Foreign Affairs. They agree on the need to curb cross-border guerrilla activity and to place their relations on a more amicable footing.

3 June 1983

Prisons Amendment Act No 8:

Prohibited any publications about prisons and prisoners without the permission of the Commissioner of Prisons.

Commenced: 3 June 1983.

6 June - 7 June 1983

Black trade unionist, Oscar Mbetha, is one of ten people found guilty by the Cape Supreme Court on charges of terrorism andlor murder. On 28 June he is sentenced to five years' imprisonment and on 1 August 1983 is elected as one of the three Presidents of the United Democratic Front.

7 June 1983

Dr. Piet Koornhof declares that, pending the implementation of the Orderly Movement and Settlement of Black Persons Bill, interim steps will have to be taken to prevent too many migrant workers from qualifying for permanent residence.

9 June 1983

three ANC members, convicted of attacking police stations, were hanged.

9 June 1983

Three black ANC guerrillas are executed in Pretoria, appeals for clemency 6 Aug. 198 having been turned down, and an appeal for a stay of execution having failed. International outrage follows

9 June 1983

Simon Mogoerane, Jerry Mosololi and Thabo Motaung -three combatants of Umkhonto - executed.

10 June - 11 June 1983

International Conference of Trade Unions on Sanctions and other Actions against the Apartheid Regime in South Africa, Palais des Nations, Geneva, organised by the Workers' Group of the ILO Governing Body and the UN Special Committee against Apartheid, in cooperation with the United Nations Council for Namibia, the OAU and the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity.

11 June - 12 June 1983

The National Forum representing 170 black organizations, holds its first Conference at Hammanskraal near Pretoria. Delegates from political, religious, student and trade union movements unanimously adopt a manifesto identifying racial capitalism as the real enemy and pledging to establish a Socialist republic. AZAPO predominates: absent are movements subscribing to the Freedom Charter adopted by the ANC and its allies.

14 June 1983

United Democratic front (UDF) is formed in Cape Town.

14 June 1983

Two former members of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWI3) are sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment after being found guilty of terrorism.

16 June 1983

The seventh anniversary of the Soweto uprisings is again commemorated by absenteeism from work and popular disturbances.

17 June 1983

National Security Intelligence and National Security Council Amendment Act No 8:

Granted further powers to the intelligence mechanisms.

Commenced: 17 June 1983

23 June 1983

Laurence Eagleburger, the United States Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, defends his government's policy of constructive engagement' with South Africa designed to support those who are committed to change away from apartheid.

28 June 1983

Two bomb blasts cause extensive damage to the Department of Internal Affairs office and the police headquarters at Roodepoort, near Johannesburg. The ANC is held to be responsible.

30 June 1983

South Africa:Signs multilateral agreement establishing the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

July - March 1983 - 1986

The boycott of buses in Mdantsane, Ciskei ' was started in July, 1983 and was called off in March, 1986.

1 July 1983

Under the 1982 internal Security Act all existing banning orders are automatically revoked a year later, and, as a consequence, more than fifty banning orders are lifted. Fresh banning orders are issued in several cases, including that of Winnie Mandela.

4 July 1983

Professor Carel Boshoff resigns as chairman of the Broederbond. He is critical of the government's constitutional proposals which, he says, may stimulate rather than appease racial conflict.

5 July 1983

The South African Bureau of Racial Affairs (SABRA) issues a statement by Professor Boshoff (Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd's son-in-law) arguing that every race group should have its own geographical sphere in which it can exercise authority - and this applies to Coloureds and Indians also.

13 July 1983

The Transvaal Attorney General announces that AWB leader Eugene Terre'Blanche and three associates, will face terrorism charges, having been accused of attempting or planning to overthrow the South African government by violent means.

23 July 1983

The last six mercenaries from the attempted Seychelles coup are pardoned, freed and arrive in Johannesburg. The Minister of Law and Order indicates that South African authorities have no further interest in the case.

28 July 1983

South Africa and Lesotho exchange prisoners across the Caledon River, heralding a new rapprochement and a lifting of strict border control measures.

August 1983

The United Democratic Front (UDF) was launched with 575 affiliate organisations.

More than two-thirds of white voters supported the new constitution in a referendum.

5 August 1983

Arms and Ammunition Amendment Act No 17:

Removed several clauses in the old Act (Arms and Ammunition Act 75 of 1969) adopted from South Africa.

Commenced: 5 August 1983

5 August 1983

Explosives Amendment Act No 18:

Amended the Explosives Act 26 of 1956 [SA] to include, under 'explosive', petrol bombs and other apparatus which could cause an explosion.

Commenced: 5 August 1983

6 August 1983

A bomb explodes at a synagogue in central Johannesburg four hours before State President Viljoen is due to attend a ceremony there.

8 August - 31 August 1983

Debates on the Constitution Bill continue and reconnnendations of the select committee empowered to suggest amendments to the Bill, but not to propose changes to the principle are discussed.

15 August 1983

The Lesotho Foreign Ministry appeals for international help to stop South Africa applying an economic squeeze designed to force Lesotho to expel up to 3,000 political refugees

19 August 1983

Publications Act No 15:

Provided for state censorship of the media.

Commenced: 19 August 1983

20 August 1983

The United Democratic Front (UDF) is formally launched at a meeting in Mitchell's Plain, near Cape Town, attended by delegates from 320 community groups, trade unions, women's groups and student organizations. It is opposed to the government's constitutional proposals and pledges itself to a single non-racial and unfragmented South Africa.

24 August 1983

It is announced that the referendum will be held on 2 November 1983, with the whites being asked whether they are in favour of the Constitution, 1983, as approved by Parliament.

30 August 1983

The government withdraws its plan to place a quota limit on the admission of black students to white universities, but remains committed to universities that retain their community-directed character.

September - October 1983

Opposition to the Constitution and calls to the white electorate to reject the new dispensation are voiced by a variety of groups including the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, the South African Council of Churches and the leader of six black 'homelands'.

September 1983

Tricameral Constitution passes in South Africa's Parliament.

In September the Republic of South African Constitution Act was passed. The Act made provision for a State President with wide-ranging executive powers and a tricameral parliament.

1 September 1983

The Southern African Development Bank, financed primarily by South Africa, is formally established with headquarters in Midrand, near Johannesburg.

5 September 1983

The trial begins in the Cape Town Supreme Court of Commodore Dieter Gerhardt on charges of spying for the Soviet Union. The Judge President grants an application by the state that the proceedings be held in camera.

8 September 1983

The Lesotho government announces that an undisclosed number of South African refugees have decided voluntarily to withdraw from Lesotho. On 10 September it airlifts the first batch of twenty-two ANC members to Mozambique and Tanzania. Another 200 will follow later.

9 September 1983

Parliament approves the new Constitution by 119 votes to thirty-five, after a marathon session lasting 127 sitting days.

9 September 1983

South African Parliament approved a new racist constitution which set up chambers for Coloured people and Indians and excluded Africans.

10 September 1983

Balthazar Johannes Vorster, Prime Minister of South Africa and leader of the National Party from 1966 to 1978 and State President in 1978-79, dies aged sixty-seven.

11 September - 12 September 1983

The Lesotho Foreign Ministry protests to South Africa, following further clashes with guerrillas in the Leribe district, and an eight-hour attack against Maryland Roman Catholic mission near the border.

16 September 1983

Signs agreement with Swaziland regarding financial and technical assistance.

16 September - 18 September 1983

Latin American Regional Conference for Action against Apartheid, Caracas, organised by the Special Committee against Apartheid in cooperation with the Government of Venezuela.

19 September 1983

Fietas, Johannesburg: Dr. Yusuf Dadoo dies in exile.

22 September 1983

The Republic of South Africa Constitution Bill is enacted.

29 September 1983

A commission of inquiry into malpractices in South African prisons is ordered by the Minister of Justice, following disturbances and deaths at the Barberton prison farm complex in the Eastern Transvaal.

October 1983

Inkatha attacked students, men and women suspected of ANC sympathies, at University of Zululand, Ngoya. Four were killed and 113 injured.

5 October 1983

The leaders of six black - homelands reject the new Constitution. Their statement is also signed by a number of black business and church leaders.

17 October 1983

South African forces raid offices of the ANC in Maputo. The raid is internationally condemned.

17 October 1983

South African commandos attacked a house belonging to the ANC in Maputo.

21 October 1983

Aliens and Travellers Control Amendment Act No 16:

Regulated the control of travellers during states of emergency.

Commenced: 21 October 1983

26 October 1983

The Special Committee against Apartheid published the first Register of Entertainers, Actors and Others who have Performed in South Africa.

26 October 1983

Publication of the first Register of Entertainers, Actors and Others who have Performed in South Africa, published by the Special Committee against Apartheid.

November 1983

The constitutional referendum showed that the majority of whites were in favour of P W Botha's ideas for evolutionary reform.

2 November 1983

The white referendum is held on the constitutional proposals. The results, announced on 3 November 1983 show that 1,360,223 people (65.95%) have voted in favour, 691,577 (33.53%) against, with 10,669 (0.52%) spoilt papers, on a 76.02% turn out.

15 November 1983

Fanie Botha, a senior Member of the Cabinet, announces his resignation as Minister of Manpower, following allegations that he has refused to hand over diamond leases promised in a secret deal with Brigadier Johann Blaauw.

The United Nations General Assembly adopts a resolution declaring that the constitutional proposals are contrary to the principles of the UN Charter and further entrench apartheid, and that the results of the referendum on 2 November 1983, endorsed by an exclusively white electorate, are of no validity whatsoever.

17 November 1983

Following the resignation of F. Botha, new ministerial appointments are made.

22 November 1983

Opening of the Art Contre/Against Apartheid exhibit at the Fondation Nationale des Arts Graphiques et Plastique, Paris, sponsored by the Committee of Artists of the World against Apartheid, in cooperation with the Special Committee against Apartheid.

22 November 1983

Opening of the Art Contre/Against Apartheid exhibit at the Fondation Nationale des Arts Graphiques et Plastique, Paris, sponsored by the Committee of Artists of the World against Apartheid, in co-operation with the Special Committee against Apartheid.

24 November 1983

A former theology student, Carl Niehaus, is sentenced to fifteen years in prison for high treason in the Rand Supreme Court, his fiancée, Johanna Lourens, to four years.

3 December 1983

Elections to the country's twenty-nine new black local authorities, over the previous ten days, are met with demonstrations and calls for a boycott. The last round of voting finishes in Johannesburg, in Soweto, Dobsonville and Deep meadow. Elections in Soweto, with a turnout of eleven percent give E. Tshabalalas Sofasonke Party control of the new authority.

5 December 1983

A bomb explosion, shattering the Johannesburg office of the Department of Foreign Affairs, is the forty-second attack by ANC saboteurs in 1983.

5 December 1983

The General Assembly adopted a new programme of action against apartheid.

5 December 1983

A new programme of action against apartheid adopted by the General.

14 December 1983

South African invasion of Angola begins on pretext of attacking SWAPO bases.

23 December 1983

South Africa and Mozamhican delegations hold talks in Mbabane, concerning peaceful co-existence.

29 December 1983

Commodore Dieter Gerhardt, the former commanding officer of the Simonstown naval base, and his wife Ruth Gerhardt, are sentenced to life imprisonment and ten years' imprisonment respectively, being found guilty of high treason on charges of spying for the Soviet Union.

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.