African National Congress

Explore some of the key moments and events that have helped shape the course of African National Congress. Follow the links for more detail.

8 January, Chiefs, representatives of people's and church organisations, and other prominent individuals gathered in Bloemfontein and formed the African National Congress (then South African Native National Convention-SANNC). The ANC declared its aim to bring all Africans together as one people to defend their rights and freedoms.
The Native Land Act formally divides land between black and white people.African women resist the imposition of residential passes, organising a passive resistance campaign that left many women jailed.
An ANC delegation visits Britain to protest the Land Act.
The “anti-war” internationalist section in an effort to stand for all South Africans without any colour distinctions, founds the International Socialist League (ISL).
The Beaumont Commission tours The Union of South Africa, trying to find areas that could be incorporated into the reserves, without disturbing white farming.
October, At a meeting in Pietersburg, the ANC describes the report of the Beaumont commission as unsatisfactory.
Industrial Workers of Africa founded by the International Socialist League.
The Natives Administration Bill
Women's anti-pass campaign led by the Bantu Women's League of South Africa, the then women's branch of the ANC.
May, Bucket strike by African sanitary workers, 152 of which were sentenced to two months imprisonment for breach of contract, under the Masters and Servants Act.
ANC delegation visits Britain to protest the Land Act for the second time.
The ANC in Transvaal led a campaign against the passes.
The Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) - a general union formed.
The Native Affairs Act.
The ANC supports the militant strike by African mineworkers in 1920. The Bulhoek massacre takes place outside Queenstown, against the Israelites religious sect that had gathered on the land.
June, Non-European Convention held in Kimberly to protest against the pass laws and the Hertzog Bills, where he proposed the removal of the limited cape Franchise. Dr. Abdurahman of the African People's Organisation (APO) was elected as the chairperson.
July, The International Socialist League together with other socialist organisations formed the Communist Party.
December 16, The Communist Party (CP) called for a united front in a pass burning campaign on Dingaan's Day.
White miners embark on what has become known as The Rand Rebellion.
The European-Bantu conference encouraged the ANC to withdraw from direct political action.
The Natives (Urban) Areas Act
Rev. Z.R. Mahabane is elected President-General of the ANC
The Pact government comes to power, under Jan Smuts and Barry Hertzog.
The Bill of rights is adopted at the National conference.
The new name: African National Congress (ANC) is adopted, replacing the old South African native National Congress (SANNC)
Prime Minister General Barry Hertzog introduces a Bill to eject Africans from the political system.
J.T. Gumede is elected President of the ANC.
James La Guma is sent to Brussels by the SACP.
Communist Party adopts a plan for a “Native Republic”.
The ANC organises workers in Cape rural areas.
Barry Hertzog wins general election.
League of African Rights is formed.
J.T. Gumede is voted out of office as president for being too close to the Communist Party, and is replaced by Pixley Seme.
The formation of the Independent ANC
June, Clements Kadalie is banned from the Rand.
The Non-European Conference is held.
Pixley Seme outlines his reform scheme, desperately seeking to improve the financial matters of the congress.
The Supreme Court removes Pixley Seme's name from the Roll of attorneys.
1933 - 1938
The ANC goes through a sharp decline
James Calata tours the union in the hope that dormant ANC branches could be revived.
The Non-European Front is formed.
Dr. A.B. Xuma is elected President-General of the African national Congress(ANC).
Council for Non-European Trade Unions founded.
ANC call for racial unity in a statement made by Dr. A.B. Xuma in Inkululeko.
The African Mine Workers' Union is formed.
Government starts relaxing influx control measures.
The ANC draws up a Bill of Rights based on the Atlantic Charter drafted by Churchill and Roosevelt.
The ANC Women's League is formed.
The congress's young radicals form the ANC Youth League, a shift from the passive resistance tactics that were used in the past.
“African Claims in South Africa” are presented at the ANC's annual conference.
June 13, Indian Passive resistance campaign led by Y.M. Dadoo and Dr. G.M. Naicker against the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act.
African miners strike from the east to the West Rand, police open fire, kill and injure hundreds of workers.
The ANC and the Indian Congresses signed the Xuma-Naicker-Dadoo pact stating full support for one another's campaigns
The Nationalist Party comes to power, entrenching fascist domination of South Africa.
October, Dr. A.B. Xuma calls a meeting of African leaders to end the rift between the ANC and the All-African Convention.
The Programme of Action is adopted by the ANC, the year after the National party came to power. This led to the Defiance Campaign of the 1950s
The South African government bans Communism.
Group Areas Act
May 1, The ANC called for a massive stay-away from work and intimidated those blacks seeking to go to work. Police action to protect non-strikers resulted in a fierce clash in which eighteen blacks lost their lives. A day of mourning was organized on June 26th by the ANC to honour those killed.
Coloured people from the Cape are removed from the voter's roll.
June 17, Executive members meet their Indian counterpart so as to recommend massive defiance campaign to their respective annual conferences. The Defiance campaign was accepted by the ANC in December.
The Suppression of Communism Act.
The Native Laws Amendment Act.
The Defiance Campaign of 1952 is launched when African nationalists and communists drew closer together and adopted a provocative policy of actively fomenting civil disobedience, boycotts and strikes. On 26 June 1952, defiant blacks pleaded guilty to ignoring apartheid laws, and chose to serve prison sentences rather than pay fines. Riots occurred accompanied by arson and murder in Port Elizabeth, East London and Kimberley townships.
Walter Sisulu, Duma Nokwe and others leave South Africa without passports to visit various counties.
Coloured People's Organisation (later Coloured People's Congress) is formed under James La Guma and became the successor to the APO
December, Chief A.J. Luthuli elected President-General.
Congress of the People called for by the ANC at the annual conference to deal with deprivations such as the Pass Laws, Forced Removals and Bantu Education.
April, Federation of South Africa Women is formed
The government announces that women must carry passes.
February, About 60 000 people are forcibly removed from Johannesburg's Western Areas as part of the policy of Group Areas Act. These areas then became white areas and renamed Triumph.
March 5, The South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), the first non-racial union is formed.
April, Both teachers and students stage a massive boycott of Bantu Education and schools.
June 26, Freedom Charter is adopted at the Congress of the People in Kliptown. Albert Luthuli, Yusuf Dadoo and Father Trevor Huddleston are each awarded the Isithwalandwe-the nation's highest honour.
August 9, Over 20 000 women march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria against the extention of passes to women.
African women were issued with reference books amid a storm of protest. Police arrested 156 people of all races for high treason.
Alexander Bus Boycott saw African workers walking to work rather than pay the increased fares.
A-Pound-a-Day national minimum wage campaign is launched following the Bus boycott.
Women in Zeerust destroy their passes, and this is followed by massive unrest.
May, Sekhukhuneland revolt against “Bantu” authorities takes place. The government was to impose these, as part of the campaign to create a Bantustan. Similar battles are fought in Tembuland, Pondoland and Zululand.
May 31, The “Potato Boycott” is staged against the harsh treatment of farm labourers.
October, The first issue of the African Communist, a journal of the SACP
The Africanists break away and form the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).
Both the ANC and the PAC take up anti-pass campaigns.
The government banned the ANC and the PAC, declared a state of emergency and arrested thousands of Congress and PAC activists
February, The Pondoland rebellion: an uprising of peasants in the Transkei.
March 21, At Sharpeville the police opened fire on the unarmed and peaceful crowd, killing 69 and wounding 186.
All-in African Conference held in Pietermaritzburg. Calls for a national convention are made, so as to decide on a new constitution.
The ANC took up arms against the South African Government, goes underground and continues to operate secretly.
March,The accused in the Treason trial are found not guilty, after a four year long trial.
December 11, Chief Albert Luthuli receives the Nobel Prize in Oslo.
December 16, Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) is formed to "hit back by all means within our power in defence of our people, our future and our freedom".
The Programme of action: the South African Communist Party adopts “The Road to South African Freedom”.
January, Nelson Mandela secretly leaves South Africa to attend a Pan African Freedom Movement conference in Addis Ababa. He travels to other countries to receive military training and then comes back into the country to continue operating underground.
September, Congress of Democrats banned.
October, ANC conference in Botswana
Police raided the secret headquarters of MK, arresting the leadership. This led to the Rivonia Trial where the leaders of MK were charged with attempting to cause a violent revolution, and thus sentenced to life imprisonment.
Some ANC leaders - among them Oliver Tambo and Joe Slovo avoided arrest and left the country. Other ANC members left to undergo military training.
Vuyisile Mini, W. Mkaba and Z. Khanyiga, all eastern Cape trade union leaders are executed for killing a police informer.
Whites in Rhodesia rebel against the British government.
Verwoerd is murdered in parliament and is succeeded by Prime Minister Voster.
MK began a joint campaign with ZAPU, a people's army fighting for the liberation of Zimbabwe. They aimed to find a route into South Africa by first crossing the Zambezi River from Zambia and into Zimbabwe, then marching across Zimbabwe through Wankie Game reserve, and crossing the Limpopo River into South Africa.
July 21, Chief Albert Luthuli is killed in suspicious circumstances while walking along a railway line.
Attempts at opening the “Eastern Front” in Zimbabwe are made, after fierce encounters; ANC-ZAPU units are forced to withdraw to Zambian territory.
May, The Mogorogoro conference called for an all-round struggle. Both armed struggle and mass political struggle had to be used to defeat the enemy. But the armed struggle and the revival of mass struggle depended on building ANC underground structures within the country.
July, South African Students Organisation (SASO) is launched
Prices begin to rise sharply, making it even more difficult for workers to survive on low wages. Spontaneous strikes resulted: workers walk out of the workplaces demanding wage increases.
The Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act strips blacks of their South African Citizenship.
The natal Indian Congress is revived.
July, The South African Communist Party paper, Inkululeko-Freedom is launched: a sign of underground activities inside the country.
The Black People's Convention is formed to co-ordinate the Black Consciousness movement.
Bophuthatswana, Ciskei and Lebowa are granted self-government status.
Military conscription for white youths is extended to one year.
A massive strike begins in Durban.
The United Nations General Assembly (under the chairpersonship of the Algerian Foreign Minister) refuses to recognise the credentials of the South African delegation, a significant victory for the ANC.
The People's Republic of Angola is born.
May 8, Bram Fischer dies in prison.
June 25, Mozambican Independence is obtained under the leadership of Frelimo.
August 9, Moses Kotane is awarded the Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe.
South African Army defeated by Angolan People's Army.
Many Soweto student leaders were influenced by the ideas of black consciousness. The South African Students Movement (SASM), one of the first organisations of black high school students, played an important role in the 1976 uprising. There were also small groups of student activists who were linked to old ANC members and the ANC underground. ANC underground structures issued pamphlets calling on the community to support students and linking the student struggle to the struggle for national liberation.
June 16, Student anger and grievances against Bantu education exploded in. Tens of thousands of high school students took to the streets to protest against compulsory use of Afrikaans at schools. Police opened fire on marching students, killing thirteen-year old Hector Petersen and at least three others. This began an uprising that spread to other parts of the country leaving over 1,000 dead, most of whom were killed by the police.
September 12, Death in detention of Stephen Bantu Biko, the leader of the Black Consciousness Movement.
October, The South African government bans 17 organisations and some newspapers.
P.W. Botha replaces John Voster as Prime Minister.
1979 is declared the year of the Spear, a tribute to the unbroken struggle since the Battle of Isandlwana of 1879.
April 6, Solomon Mahlangu is hanged in Pretoria.
1980 is declared the Year of the Charter, marking the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Freedom charter in 1955.
SACTU declares the year as the year of the Worker
Massive national school boycotts rocks the townships.
March, The Sunday Post launches a nationwide “Release Mandela” campaign, about 15 million sign the petition.
March 13, Lilian Ngoyi, a leading member of the Executive of the ANC dies.
April 18, Zimbabwe gains its independence.
June 1, Umkhonto weSizwe strike at the Sasol Complex, causing damage estimated at R66 million.
June 26, ANC award Isithwalandwe to Govan Mbeki and Bishop Ambrose Reeves.
November 28, Mandela receives the Jawaharlal Nehru Award.
Declared the Year of the Youth to pay tribute to the heroism displayed by the youth.
January 30, The South African Army raids Mozambique and assassinate 12 ANC members.
February 14, President Samora Machel of Mozambique, declares solidarity with the plight of the South African people, as a reaction to the massacre.
March 11, Govan Mbeki is presented with the Fucik Award.
June, A nationwide campaign to reject the so-called “Republic celebrations” is launched. Mass detentions and banning follow.
South African army raids Maseru, Lesotho, killing 42 people.
The bombing of South Africa's only nuclear power station at Koeberg, outside Cape Town, took place on 18 December 1982.
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.
May 20, A car bomb exploded outside Pretoria's air force headquarters leaving seventeen killed and more than 200 injured.
June 9, Three ANC members, convicted of attacking police stations, were hanged.
June 14, United Democratic front (UDF) is formed in Cape Town.
November, The constitutional referendum showed that the majority of whites were in favour of P W Botha's ideas for evolutionary reform.
P.W. Botha and Samora Machel sign the Nkomati Accord.
Bishop Tutu is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Troops and police had moved into the townships at the end of 1984 engaged in running battles with youths - armed with stones and petrol bombs - in an effort to re-establish control.
Worker organisation and power also take a major step forward with the formation of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).
The ANC called on township residents to make townships ungovernable
Another raid on Lesotho is followed by a coup. Jonathan Leabua's administration falls.
July, A state of emergency is declared over many parts of the country. It lasted for six months.
By 1986, the ANC, with headquarters in Lusaka, London, and New York, had taken on the key role position of any future black regime. ANC recruits at military camps were influenced by Russian and East German instructors, and the practice of sending ANC students to Russia on scholarships was having a visible effect on the ideological leanings of the younger leaders. Consequently, in its struggle to achieve its aim, the ANC appeared less concerned about ideological arguments, more with change in tactics. Through Radio Freedom it announced a ‘Peoples' War' calling on members to incite local violence to make the country ungovernable. But those who joined in promoting violence faced the ascending role of the South African military.
The Reagan administration found itself caught in the divisive sanctions debate. In an effort to influence the struggle out of revolutionary channels into political discussions, it increased its policy of constructive engagement to include all the main participants in the South African cauldron of politics. At the same time, it continued to express its disapproval of the violent methods used by the ANC and the degree of Soviet involvement in it.
June, A national emergency was declared, that lasted until 1990.
September 9, Andrew Zondo, who was responsible for the 1985 Amanzimtoti bomb is hanged.
The highest number of strikes ever, including a strike by over 300,000 mineworkers.
Joe Slovo resigned his post as a chief of staff of Mkhonto, giving rise to speculation that he would concentrate on the labour movement in South Africa. At this time, confusing reports from London and Washington showed a contradictory shift of position at the top. Much international publicity was given to ANC president Oliver Tambo's more conciliatory comments on the occasion of the ANC's 57th anniversary address, when he indicated that the military wing would not deliberately attack civilian targets. On the other hand, Joe Modise, the banned military commander of Mkhonto we Sizwe, told Agence France-Press the ANC was planning to take the war into white households.
The ANC executive's attitude to racialism, tribalism and sectarianism was made clear in the more specific constitutional guidelines it drafted for a multiparty democracy in South Africa.
F.W. De Klerk replaces Botha as Prime Minister and immediately declares the need for change.
Nelson Mandela is released from prison.
February, The regime is forced to remove the ban on the ANC and other organisations.
At the conference of the ANC Nelson Mandela is elected President. Oliver Tambo, who served as President from 1969 to 1991 was elected National Chairperson.
CODESA discussions begin to pave the way for change in South Africa.
Boipatong and Bisho massacres
Oliver Tambo dies in April after serving the ANC his entire adult life.
Constitutional agreements are reached.
April, Oliver Tambo dies in after serving the ANC his entire adult life
The ANC-led government proceeds to implement the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), adopted in as the basic policy framework guiding the transformation of the country.
April, The negotiations initiated by the ANC resulted in the holding of historic first elections based on one-person-one vote. The ANC won these first historic elections with a vast majority. 62,6% of the more than 22 million votes cast was in favour of the ANC.
May 10, Nelson Mandela is inaugurated as the President of South Africa.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state and governments meet in Kempton Park.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is set up under Bishop Desmond Tutu.
The new South African Constitution is adopted.
Bantu Holomisa fireded as Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigates allegations against Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the wife of Nelson Mandela.
ANC's military and political leadership structures apply to the Truth and reconciliation Commission for amnesty, publicly accepting responsibility for the actions committed during the struggle years.
50th annual congress of ANC at Mafikeng in North-West Province: Mandela hands over presidency of ANC to Thabo Mbeki
United Democratic Movement led by Roelf Meyer and Bantu Holomisa founded.
Nelson Mandela addresses the Moral Summit, where he spoke of the “RDP soul”, suggesting a moral regeneration so as to restore the moral fibre of the South African nation.
South Africa's second democratic election is held with the ANC winning for the second time.
Thabo Mbeki is inaugurated as the second president of a democratic South Africa.
ANC joins leaders and organisations across the continent in declaring the 21st century an African Century.
July, Programme of action for a multi-pronged strategy to eradicate poverty and place African countries on a path of sustainable growth and development is adopted by the OAU and endorsed by a number of developed countries and organisations.
The ANC the year ”The Year of the Volunteer”, organising and mobilising people to contribute to a culture of community service and development.