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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

History of Umkhonto we Sizwe

© http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/mk/mk-history.html

1961, December 16:

The formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe by the ANC, SACP and fraternal organisations is announced by a series of bomb blasts against apartheid structures in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban.

1962, January:

Nelson Mandela leaves South Africa for military training.

1963, October to June:

The Rivonia trail, which results in MK high command members Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Dennis Goldberg, Ahmed Kathrada, Raymond Mhlaba, Andrew Mlangeni and Elias Motsoaledi's being sentenced to life imprisonment. The charge sheet at the trail lists 193 acts of sabotage.

1964, November 6:

Vuyisile Mini, Wilton Khayingo and Zizakile Mkhaba, three prominent trade unionists from Port Elizabeth, are sent to the gallows for MK activities.

1967, July 30-3:

The "Luthuli Detachment" comprising ANC and ZAPU guerrillas crosses the Zambezi river into the then Rhodesia and engages joint Smith-Vorster troops at the start of the Wankie and Sipolio battles which rage until late 1968.


MK reconsolidates its underground structures. Among others, Chris Hani returns to South Africa.

1971, December 16:

MK celebrates its 10th Anniversary.

1975, June 25:

The People's Republic of Mozambique is created after a protracted 10-year battle by FRELIMO troops against the Portuguese colonialists in which MK troops participated.

1975, November 11:

The People's Republic of Angola is born and within months, after the defeat of the invading South African army by the Angolan people's armed forces, MK is invited to train its cadres on Angolan soil.


Early MK commanders who are active in the early 1961-64 sabotage campaign are released from Robben Island. Among them are Joe Gqabi, Indres Naidoo, Ismael Ebrahim and Andrew Masondo.

1976, June 16:

More than 1,000 children are killed in Soweto by South African Police. Thousand of students leave South Africa to join MK. They are henceforth called "The June 16 Detachment".

1976, December 16:

The 15th anniversary of Umkhonto we Sizwe.


There is a dramatic increase in MK operations including sabotage of railway lines, attacks on police stations and so on.


The Year of the Spear. Named in tribute to the history of unbroken resistance and to the military of our people from the Battle of Isandelwana on January 22 1879.

1979, April 6:

Mk hero Solomon Mahlangu is hanged in Pretoria. (his comrade Monty Motloung suffered brain damage from his torture he received at the hands of his captors).

1980, January:

The Silverton siege, in which MK combatants intercepted en route to a mission take refuge in a bank in Silverton, Pretoria. Our comrades explain the policies of the ANC to the hostages, pledge not to hurt them, demand Nelson Mandela's release. The SAP bundle the operation, and kill some of the hostages as well as the three MK comrades.... but not before several police have been killed as well.

1980, June:

Umkhonto we Sizwe hits at the massive Sasol complex, causing damage estimated at R66 million.

1981, June:

As part of nationwide defiance against the regime's racist Republic celebrations, MK strikes at several strategic targets, blows up railway lines, power plants, military bases and recruiting offices. Altogether there are more than 90 armed actions against the regime and its installations this year.

1981, August 9:

The SADF's major military installation, Voortekkerhoogte, is attacked by MK combatants using 122mm rocket launchers.

1981, November 3:

The "Indian Affairs" building in Durban is blasted, the day before the fraudulent South African Indian Council elections.

1981, December 16:

MK celebrates its 20th anniversary.

1982, January 8:

On the 70th anniversary of the formation of the ANC, MK attacks Koeberg nuclear power plant in Cape Town.

1983, May:

Pretoria car bomb explodes outside South African Air Force HQ and SADF Military Intelligence HQ killing SADF and SAP personnel. MK claims responsibility.

1983, June 9:

Jerry Mosolodi, Terry Mogerani and Thjabo Montaung are executed for their part in an attack on Wonderboom police station.

1984, September:

MK operatives increase dramatically in response to the Vaal Uprisings. Actions include engaging SADF and SAP personnel, sabotaging economic and military installations.


The Amamzimtoti bomb attack takes place.

1985, October 18:

Malesela Benjamin Moloise is executed in defiance of international calls for clemency.


The second state of emergency is declared and Andrew Zondo is hanged by the regime for his part in the Amamzimtoti bomb blasts.

1987, May:

A car bomb explodes outside the Johannesburg Magistrates Court killing four policemen.

1987 July:

The SADF's Witatwersrand Command complex in Johannesburg is severely damaged by a massive car bomb. The SADF refuses to disclose casualties.


A large contingent of MK combatants attack a South African Air Force secret radar installation at Klippan in the Western Transvaal causing extensive damage and undisclosed casualties.

1990, August 1:

ANC/MK suspends armed actions after 29 years.

"The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices: submit of fight. That time has come to South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means within our power in defence of our people, our future and our freedom....."

MK Manifesto, 16 December 1961

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