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The ANC: a century-long struggle against segregation

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), which turns 100 on January 8, started out as an elite black body.

The continent’s oldest liberation movement took power in 1994, four years after the lifting of a four-decade ban.

– 1912:

January 8: Influential blacks found the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), two years after Britain and the descendants of Dutch settlers form the Union of South Africa in which only the rights of whites are protected.

– 1913: The Native Land Act limits black land ownership to seven percent of the territory. The SANNC reacts with petitions and sends an unsuccessful delegation to London.

– 1923: The SANNC changes its name to the African National Congress (ANC).

– 1940: New head Alfred Xuma revives the ANC which remained mostly inactive for two decades.

– 1943: Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu start the ANC Youth League (ANCYL). Mandela later writes they felt the old leadership was “a tired, unmilitant, privileged African elite more concerned with protecting their own rights than those of the masses.”

– 1948: The National Party wins elections and introduces apartheid. The ANCYL advocates strikes, boycotts and civil disobedience.

– 1952: ANC organises its first large “Defiance Campaign”. Tens of thousands break curfews, burn internal passports, and enter whites-only areas, risking jail.

– 1955: The Congress of the People, a summit uniting the ANC and other groups, adopts the Freedom Charter, which insists “the rights of the people shall be the same, regardless of race, colour or sex.”

– 1960:

March 21: Police kill 69 people during the Sharpeville Massacre. The ANC and an offshoot are banned amid a state of emergency.

December: ANC president Albert Luthuli is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle against apartheid.

– 1961: The ANC goes underground and abandons non-violent protest. Mandela starts the ANC military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and launches a wave of terrorist attacks.

– 1962/1963: Mandela, Sisulu and other ANC leaders are arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The movement continues the struggle in exile from London, Dar es Salaam and Lusaka and allies itself with the Soviet bloc.

– 1976:

June 16: Police violently suppress a student uprising in Soweto of youths demanding better education.

– Late 1980s: Two states of emergency are declared to curb violent riots in black townships. The government holds secret talks with the ANC.

– 1990: New South African President FW de Klerk legalises the ANC and other groups. He also frees political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela.

– 1991: Mandela becomes ANC president.

Negotiations for the transition to democracy start and parliament scraps the remaining apartheid laws.

– 1994:

April 27: The ANC wins 62.6 percent in the first multi-racial elections. Mandela becomes South Africa’s first black president.

– 1999: Thabo Mbeki succeeds Mandela as president. His two terms are tarnished by allegations of abuse of power and denialist policies over AIDS.

– 2007: A populist wing removes Mbeki from the presidency of the ANC during a leadership vote.

– 2008: Mbeki is forced to resign as South African president after reports he pushed prosecutions against his sacked deputy Jacob Zuma.

– 2009: The ANC wins 65.9 percent of the vote in the fourth general elections since the demise of apartheid. Zuma, cleared of previous corruption and rape charges, becomes the country’s president.

– 2011: The ANCYL questions Zuma’s authority amid slow socio-economic transformation during the party’s 17 years in power and demands the nationalisation of mines and forced expropriation of white-owned farms.

By the end of the year the ANCYL’s main leaders, including president Julius Malema, are suspended. Malema appeals the suspension.