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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.


Worker organisation and power also take a major step forward with the formation of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

In 1985, the ANC called on township residents to make townships ungovernable

Another raid on Lesotho is followed by a coup. Jonathan Leabua's administration falls.

Fietas, Johannesburg: Lenasia stages a mass community buss boycott in protest to the poor public transport facilities.

South Africa repealed Mixed Marriages Act of 1949 and Immorality Act of 1957.

Explosives Amendment Act No 30:

Widened the definition of explosives.

Commenced: 7 February 1986

National Security Second Amendment Act No 33:

Empowered the Attorney-General to prohibit the release on bail of people in seventy different cases (RRS 1985: 264-5).

Commenced: 23 August 1986.

Maintenance of Law and Order Act No 13:

Provided for state declaration of states of emergency and suppression of uprising. Repealed a number of South African Acts but not the 1953 Public Safety Act [SA]. This was not repealed until the 1995 State of Emergency Act [SA] was passed.

Commenced: 1 April 1986

Gazankulu: Police Amendment Act No 5:

Commenced: 1 January 1984

KwaZulu: Wage and Basic Conditions of Employment Act No 9:

Commenced: 10 April 1987

KwaZulu: Tribal, Community and Regional Authorities Amendment Act No 20:

Commenced: 22 August 1986

KwaZulu Education Amendment Act No 17:

Empowered the Minister of Education and Culture to close schools and to suspend or transfer teachers.

Commenced: 1986

Lebowa: Police Act No 6:

Commenced: 24 August 1979

QwaQwa: Welfare Act No 10:

(Commencement date not found)

Commission Appointed to Inquire into the Incident which occurred on 21 March 1985 at Uitenhage Mandate: To investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident on the date mentioned, in which people were killed and injured, and to submit an urgent report.

Date of Report: 4 June 1985


Ref: RP 74-85; S297/103

Commission of Inquiry into the Violence which occurred on 29 October 1983 at the University of Zululand Mandate: To inquire into and report on the circumstances surrounding the violence at the University of Zululand on 29 October 1983.

Date of Report: February 1985


Ref: RP 80/1985

1985 was the 30th anniversary of the Freedom Charter.

In the better half of the year the ANC was visited by businessmen, students, the Progressive Federal Party and clergyman from South Africa.

There were 136 incidents of guerrilla activity.

This was 34% more than all the incidents in the last 10 years.

Clashes occurred between supporters of the UDF, Azapo and Inkatha throughout the year.

Since September 1984, damage as a result of political violence amounted to R138 million.

1986 marked the centenary of Johannesburg. The Community Support Committee was formed to oppose centenary projects.

Consumer boycotts of white business began early in the year in the Eastern Cape and later spread country-wide.

South African troops attacked South West African Peoples Organisation's targets 250 km inside Angola.

The right-wing Herstigte Nationale Party won its first parliamentary seat in 17 years.

State of Emergency. COSAS is banned.

The Soweto Parents Crisis Committee (SPCC) is formed to address the education crisis.

5 January 1985

Senator Edward Kennedy pays an eight-day visit to South Africa.

25 January 1985

Opening parliament, President Botha announces that government intends giving blacks more political rights such as those living outside their designated 'homelands' and an informal forum where black leaders can discuss changes. Also giving blacks property rights to those living in urban areas.

30 January 1985

The South African Medical and Postal Council is ordered to hold an inquiry into the conduct of doctors what, treated the Black Consciousness Leader, Steve Biko, who died at the hands of the security police in 1977.

31 January 1985

Foreign Minister 'Pik' Botha denies South African support for RENAMO and that South Africa is committed to the Nkomati Accord of 1984.

President P.W. Botha offers a release proposal to jailed ANC leader Nelson Mandela.

In an address to the Foreign Correspondents Association, Minister of Cooperation and Development, Dr. Gerrit Viljoen announces that the forced removal of blacks will be suspended and government is to review this policy.

5 February 1985

Foreign Minister 'P1k' Botha accuses Botswana of harbouring ANC guerrillas

10 February 1985

Nelson Mandela, jailed ANC leader, turns down offer of release made to him by President Botha on 31 January.

15 February 1985

President Botha announces that his offer of release to Nelson Mandela still stands and that government is prepared to talk to the ANC if it renounces violence. Four Pan-Africanist Congress security prisoners take up an offer of release and three other ANC prisoners reject this offer in a six-page memorandum submitted to President Botha.

18 February 1985

Top leadership officials of the United Democratic Front (UDF) are arrested. Of the thirteen detained, six are to be charged for high treason

21 February 1985

Government announces ninety-nine year leasehold rights for blacks in three Cape Town townships in order to stop the riots over the policy of forced removal in that region.

9 March 1985

Venda Police Act No 4:

Created a police service and granted policing powers of search and seizure.

Commenced: 9 March 1985

20 March 1985

Dr. Allan Boesak who is President of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, is exonerated by his church for having had an extra-marital affair with a white woman and allowed to resume his official duties.

21 March 1985

At least seventeen people are killed in Langa, a black township near Port Elizabeth, during a commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Sharpevil]e massacre. Government appoints a Commission of Inquiry into this massacre, chaired by Justice D. Kannemeyer.

21 March 1985

Uitenhage massacre: 19 killed when police shot at funeral procession.

21 March 1985

20 people were shot dead by the police in Uitenhage, Port Elizabeth

25 March 1985

In an important policy shift, South Africa's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louis NeI, discloses that his government is seeking ways to cooperate with FRELIMO in Mozambique to eliminate the rebel RENAMO.

April 1985

At its third congress, the United Democratic Front agrees to establish closer links with the trade union movement and to increase its presence in rural areas. Popo Molefe, Patrick Lekota and Moses Chikana, three key UDF officials are arrested under security laws.

The government announced in April that it will repeal the Mixed Marraiges Act, the Prohibition of Political Interference Act and the Immorality Act.

1 April 1985

Prisons Act No 3:

Provided for prisons and prison protocol.

Commenced: 1 April 1985

4 April 1985

South Africa:Signs treaty with Taiwan relating to co-operation in mineral and energy affairs.

15 April 1985

South Africa's Foreign Minister announces that South African troop withdrawal from Angola is to be completed within a week.

19 April 1985

President Botha outlines proposals to improve the lot of blacks. Amongst these are property rights and political representation for urban blacks and future dual citizenship rights to 'homeland' blacks.

24 April 1985

Foreign Minister 'Pik' Botha announces in Parliament that South Africa and Mozambique are to establish joint operational centres on their borders to fully implement the Nkomati Accord.

30 April 1985

The Rand Daily Mail, a leading anti-apartheid newspaper, ceases publication.

May 1985

Sipho Mutsi of the Congress of South African Students dies during police custody and Andries Raditsela, an executive member of the Federation of South African Trade Unions dies hours after charges under the Internal Security Act are withdrawn against him.

The ruling National Party wins a parliamentary seat in Newton Park and provincial council seats in the Orange Free State and Eastern Cape.

May 1985

In May trade unionist Andries Raditsela died a few hours after being released from detention.

7 May - 10 May 1985

International Conference on Women and Children under Apartheid, Arusha, organised by the Special Committee against Apartheid in cooperation with OAU and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania.

16 May - 18 May 1985

International Conference on Sports Boycott against South Africa, UNESCO House, Paris, organised by the Special Committee against Apartheid in cooperation with the Supreme Council on Sports in Africa and the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee.

25 May 1985

The Prohibition of Political Interference Act which bans racially mixed political parties, is to be repealed. June 1985 The Kannemeyer Commission of Inquiry into the Langa shootings of 21 March 1985, blames the police for the events leading to the shooting.

June 1985

Kabwe Conference of ANC. "Marxist Workers' Tendency, formed in 1979, expelled from ANC.

June 1985

South African troops attacked Botswana: 8 South Africans and 4 others were killed.

June 1985

The African National Congress had its first consultative conference since 1969 in Zambia.

In June a raid on Gaborone, Botswana by the SADF resulted in the death of 15 people.

At least 11 political activists were either killed by unknown assailants or went missing.

1 June 1985

South Africa:Signs agreement with Swaziland on the issue of notes and coin.

14 June 1985

ANC bases in Gaborone, Botswana, are attacked by South African commanders. At least fifteen people are killed.

16 June - 25 June 1985

Second national consultative conference of ANC in Zambia.

19 June 1985

Immorality and Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Amendment Act No 72:

Repealed s 16 of the 1957 Sexual Offences Act.

Commenced: 19 June 1985

25 June 1985

At its conference held in Lusaka, Zambia, the ANC opens its national executive committee to all race groups by appointing five Indian, White and Coloured people to the committee.

30 June 1985

John Nyati Pokela, PAC chairman dies in Harare.

July 1985

A state of emergency is declared over many parts of the country. It lasted for six months.

July 1985

A Dutch subject, Klaas de Jong, is detained under the Internal Security Act for distributing arms and ammunition to the ANC. He seeks refuge in the Dutch Embassy in Pretoria.

July 1985

The value of the rand dropped to below US$ 0.40c. Foreign exchange dealings were suspended for three days in July.

1 July 1985

Minor cabinet changes are made.

2 July 1985

Constitutional Affairs Amendment Act No 104:

Amended the 1968 Prohibition of Political Interference Act to allow non-racial political parties. Separate voters' rolls remained. However, s 3, which prohibited a political party from receiving foreign financial assistance, was re-enacted with technical amendments. The 1968 Act was also renamed to the 'Prohibition of Foreign Financing of Political Parties Act' (RRS 1985: 57).

Commenced: 2 July 1985

Repealed by s 230 of the Constitution of Republic of South Africa Act No 200 of 1993.

5 July 1985

Two white medical doctors are found guilty of misconduct by the Medical Council in the 1977 death of Black Consciousness leader, Steve Biko.

7 July 1985

Government Notice No 76:

Provided for emergency regulations for the maintenance of law and order.

Commenced: 7 July 1985

10 July 1985

Four British men are jailed for conspiring to smuggle military component into South Africa.

20 July 1985

20 July midnight: State of emergency declared in terms of Public Safety Act No 3 of 1953, affected 36 magisterial districts.

Regulations (Proc R 121 of 1985) were amended as follows:

Ø. The power to detain was extended to every member of the police, railways police, prisons and army.

Ø. Detainees had no right to visitors or a lawyer, nor were they entitled to receive letters or any reading material other than the Bible.

Ø. No member of the force could be brought to account, by civil suit or criminal charge, for unlawful actions in carrying out emergency laws.

Ø. It became a crime to disclose the identity of any detainee without prior disclosure by the Minister of Law and Order.

Ø. The Commissioner of Police was authorised to impose blanket censorship on press coverage of the emergency.

Ø. The Minister of Law and Order was empowered to ban organisations, individuals, or publications which were 'calculated to endanger the security of the State or the maintenance of public order'.

Courts were denied jurisdiction to set aside any order or rule issued under emergency regulations.

21 July 1985

State of Emergency is declared affecting the Eastern Cape. Johannesburg and industrial areas east of Johannesburg.

1985 - 1986

21 July - 7 March

A state of emergency was declared by the state president and it affected 36 magisterial districts. He withdrew the proclamation on 7 March 1986.

During the first six months 575 people were killed in political violence incidents during the state of emergency. More than half were killed by the police.

7 200 people were detained under emergency regulations.

23 July 1985

State of Emergency declared in much of the country.

25 July 1985

Indemnity Act No 31:

Indemnified the Ciskei administration against any court proceedings arising from their actions.

Commenced: 25 July 1985

26 July 1985

The Security Council urged Member States to adopt a wide range of economic measures against South Africa. The resolution was, however, not binding on Member States. [resolution 569]

26 July 1985

Defence Amendment Act No 11:

Incorporated the Department of Defence into the Ciskei defence legislation.

Commenced: 26 July 1985

August 1985

A march to Pollsmoor prison, where a message of solidarity is to be delivered to Nelson Mandela, is prevented by the government. The message is eventually read out at a press conference by Dorothy Boesak, wife of Dr. Allan Boesak, who had called the march. He was detained to prevent him from leading it.

August 1985

In August clashes between protesters, impis, resident and the police leave 70 dead and 140 injured in urban townships.

The Congress of South African Students was banned in August.

The government freeze foreign loan payments.

The USA imposed limited sanctions against South Africa in August

15 August 1985

President Botha, leader of the National Party, takes a hardline stance at the party's Natal congress.

16 August 1985

In response to President Botha's hardline speech at the party's Natal congress, the president of the ANC, Oliver Tambo, reaffirms in Lusaka, that the armed struggle will be intensified and whites will lose their lives and property.

23 August 1985

National Security Amendment Act No 24:

Empowered the Minister of Justice to lift banning orders.

Commenced: 23 August 1985

23 August 1985

Repeal of Laws Act No 22:

Further eliminated legislation adopted from South Africa.

Commenced: 23 August 1985

30 August 1985

Government Notice No 109:

Gave power to a district commissioner or non-commissioned officer of the Transkeian Police, or a chief having jurisdiction in respect of a place where a meeting is held, to cancel such a meeting and/or impose conditions to be adhered to.

Commenced: 30 August 1985

September 1985

At the National Party Congress in the Orange Free State, President Botha announces the government's willingness to restore South African citizenship to blacks deprived of it under the policy of separate development.

South Africa suspended repayments of its short-term debts.

In September the Metal and Allied Workers Union launched a boycott of white shops in Pietermaritzburg to pressurise BTR Samcol into reinstating their workers.

In September Inkatha and the Progressive Federal Party hosted a meeting to form the Convention Alliance. Both organisations later withdrew from the steering committee.

16 September 1985

South Africa and Namibian Security Forces cross into Angola in pursuit of SWAPO forces.

21 September 1985

A Convention Alliance is launched to promote the idea of a national convention to formulate a democratic and multi-racial constitution.

27 September 1985

In anticipation of a national day of prayer on 9 October, the government outlaws gatherings and meetings.

October 1985

Dr. Benjamin Tucker is struck off the roll for disgraceful conduct over the death in detention of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko in September.

The Soweto and Parents Crisis Committee was formed in October.

9 October 1985

General Constand Viljoen, Chief of South Africa's Armed Forces admits on television that the military, without the government authority, has flaunted the Nkomati Accord by supporting RENAMO.

9 October 1985

General Constand Viljoen, Chief of South Africa's Armed Forces admits on television that the military, without the government authority, has flaunted the Nkomati Accord by supporting RENAMO.

9 October 1985

General Constand Viljoen, Chief of South Africa's Armed Forces admits on television that the military, without the government authority, has flaunted the Nkomati Accord by supporting RENAMO.

13 October 1985

The PFP meets the ANC in Lusaka and calls for the release of Nelson Mandela.

13 October 1985

The PFP meets the ANC in Lusaka and calls for the release of Nelson Mandela.

18 October 1985

Benjamin Moloise - worker, poet and member of ANC - executed.

31 October 1985

The ruling National Party loses a string of by-elections to the ultra-right parties with the exception of Port Natal.

November 1985

COSATU formed.

1 November 1985

Government bans television coverage of unrest in black townships in the thirty-eight magisterial districts where the State of Emergency is in force, except with permission from the Commissioner of Police. Curbs on newspaper reports are also imposed.

3 November 1985

South Africa:Signs multilateral treaty on radio regulations.

4 November 1985

In a cabinet reshuffle, Louis le Grange, Minister of Law and Order, is replaced by Adriaan Vlock, Deputy Minister of Defence and Law and Order.

8 November 1985

The National Key Points Act No 26:

Aimed at tightening up security following sabotage in Umtata.

Commenced: 8 November 1985

The University of Transkei Amendment Act No 17:

Empowered the Transkei Minister of Education to veto, without giving reasons, the appointment of any person to a post at the University.

Commenced: 8 November 1985

21 November 1985

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

28 November 1985

Two strategic oil-from-coal plants based in Secunda are attacked by saboteurs.

30 November 1985

The Congress of South African Trade Unions was formed with a membership of 500 000.

December 1985

A shopping centre in Amanzimtoti, Natal, is bombed.

In December Inkatha said its membership was now over a million people.

Twelve UDF treason trialists were acquitted in December.

Six people died in a landmine explosion in the Northern Transvaal in December.

A bomb in a shopping centre in Amanzimtoti near Durban killed five people.

9 December 1985

Twelve of the sixteen UDF members, charged with treason, have these withdrawn.

10 December 1985

The General Assembly adopted and opened for signature the International Convention against Apartheid in Sports.

10 December 1985

General Assembly adopted and opened for signature the International Convention against Apartheid in Sports.

20 December 1985

Internal Security Amendment Act No 39:

Empowered the President to close certain educational institutions in certain circumstances (notably circumstances of unrest etc.), in particular the University of Bophuthatswana.

Commenced: 20 December 1985

20 December 1985

Security Clearance Act No 40:

Required security clearance of people as a prerequisite to their employment in certain educational or training institutions and certain parastatal bodies.

Commenced: 20 December 1985

30 December 1985

Winnie Mandela is arrested for contravening a banning order prohibiting her from being in the magisterial district of Johannesburg and Roodepoort.

31 December 1985

Government extended orders, in force since March, prohibiting anti-government groups from holding meetings, for another six months.

Initially, they affected 29 organisations in 18 districts. In June they were extended to 64 organisations and 30 districts.

Now 10 more groups linked to UDF and AZAPO were added.

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.