The anti-Apartheid struggle frames a noteworthy piece of South Africa’s history since it signifies the moment when people of color across the Rainbow Nation decided to rebel against strategies of racial isolation under the system of Apartheid.
It also reminds the current generation of South Africans of the struggles and cruelties their forefathers had to go through under all-White rule in order to bring forth the many freedoms the country enjoys today.
For the world to clearly appreciate the importance of the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa, there are several significant events that must forever remain ingrained in our memories.
Consequently, here are nine unforgettable moments from the South African anti-Apartheid struggle.
- Approval of Freedom Charter (1955)
In 1955, after eight years of Apartheid, ruling party the African National Congress (ANC) sent out 50,000 delegates in to towns and villages across South Africa to collect “freedom demands” from the people.
The final report was called the “Freedom Charter” and was adopted on June 22, 1955, at the Congress of the People conference held in Kliptown, South Africa. The charter is popular for its demand for and commitment to a non-racial South Africa, which remains the main platform for the ANC.
2. Women’s March (1956)
The Women’s March against the Pass Laws on August 9, 1956, is regarded as one of the largest demonstrations to have ever been held in South Africa. On that day, at least 20,000 women of all races marched to Pretoria’s Union Buildings to present a petition against the carrying of passes by women to the then-Prime Minister J. G. Strijdom. The march, which was organized by the Federation of South African Women, is celebrated as Women’s Day on August 9th every year.
3. Sharpeville Massacre (1960)
The Sharpeville Massacre is one of the most painful moments of South Africa’s anti-Apartheid struggle. On March 21, 1960, when a crowd of at least 7,000 Black protesters went to Sharpeville police station (now part of Guateng) to protest Pass Laws, the South African Police opened fire on the crowd, killing at least 69 people on the spot. Today, March 21st is celebrated as a public holiday to commemorate the victims of the massacre and honor human rights.
4. Durban Strike (1973)
On January 9, 1973, employees of the Coronation Brick and Tile factory went on strike, demanding better working conditions and racial equality. Workers from other small factories also joined in the strike, marching across the streets of Durban. By the end of March the same year, at least 100,000 workers, most of them Africans, had come out on strike. The strike marked the beginning of mass revolt that played a significant role in arousing the spirit of anti-Apartheid rebellion in the country.
5. Soweto Students Uprising (1976)
The Soweto Student Uprising was a series of demonstrations by Black school children in South Africa that started on June 16, 1978. Students from various schools within Soweto took to the streets in response to the introduction of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in local schools. Afrikaans is the language spoken by White South African colonizers.
It is estimated that close to 20,000 students participated in the protests. Many students were killed by the police who responded brutally to the protests. June 16th is now a public holiday in South Africa.
6. Steve Biko’s Death (1977)
In August 1977, Steve Biko, the founding member of the South African Student Organization (SASO), and his companion Peter Jones drove to Cape Town to meet with members of other liberation movements.
The two were arrested for interrogation under Section 6 of the 1967 Terrorism Act that allowed indefinite detention without trial. It’s alleged that Biko died from the serious brain injuries he sustained from the brutal beating and torture he received from police during the interrogation.
The announcement of Biko’s death on September 12, 1977, sparked nationwide protests, with protesters calling for a thorough inquiry in to his death.
7. Release of Nelson Mandela from Prison (1990)
After spending 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, the leader of the South African anti-Apartheid movement, was set free on February 11, 1990. The freedom fighter was welcomed by hundreds of thousands of Black South Africans in the streets of Cape Town, where he delivered a rousing speech. But the celebrations soon turned violent as the crowd went on a looting spree, vandalizing shops and other businesses in Cape Town. Mandela was later appointed as the leader of the ANC.