About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

1961

Death of Alice Sisulu, Walter's mother.

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.

Fietas, Johannesburg: The Group Areas Development Board begins to provide public housing in Lenasia.

Urban Blacks Council Act No 79:

The first provision for black 'self-government' in the urban townships. Assent gained: 30 June 1961; commencement date not found.

Repealed by s 14 of the Community Councils Act No 125 of 1977.

6 January - 12 January 1961

The United Nations Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold, visited South Africa. He reported to the Security Council on 23 January that in the course of his discussions with the Prime Minister of South Africa, "so far no mutually acceptable arrangement" had been found on racial policies in South Africa.

23 January 1961

Report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold, on implementation of Security Council resolution of 1 April 1960. He stated that in the course of his discussions with the Prime Minister of South Africa, "so far no mutually acceptable arrangement" had been found on racial policies in South Africa.

27 January 1961

Justice Minister Erasmus told the Assembly that during the recent disturbances (November-December 1962) in Pondoland, 4,769 Africans, 2 Europeans and 2 others had been taken into custody.

February 1961

Delegations of South Africa United Front visited capitals of Commonwealth States to lobby for expulsion of South Africa.

26 February 1961

Announcement of the continuation of current defence relations with the United Kingdom.

March 1961

The accused in the Treason trial are found not guilty, after a four year long trial.

March - April 1961

Debate on apartheid at the resumed 15th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. African and Asian delegations pressed for sanctions against South Africa.

The representative of UK said on 5 April that while the importance attached by UK to Article 2 (7) of the UN Charter remained undiminished, it regarded apartheid as being now so exceptional as to be sui generis, and his delegation felt able to consider proposals on the question of the merits.

The Special Political Committee recommended two draft resolutions: an African resolution calling for specific measures and another by 5 Asian countries asking all States to consider separate and collective action as was open to them. In the Plenary on 13 April, the key paragraph of the African draft was voted separately and received 42 votes in favour and 34 against, with 21 abstentions, and was not adopted. The sponsors then withdrew the resolution.

The Asian draft - which condemned apartheid a "reprehensible and repugnant to human dignity" - was adopted by 96 to 1, with 0 abstentions as resolution 1598 (XV). Only Portugal voted against. The United Kingdom voted for a resolution against apartheid for the first time. (India, sponsor of this resolution, voted in favour of both drafts).

2 March 1961

The Bishop of Johannesburg, Ambrose Reeves, resigned after having been deported from South Africa in September 1960 for his strong condemnation of the Government, particularly at the time of Sharpeville and the subsequent emergency. Reeves' action was vigorously supported by the Archbishop of Cape Town, Joost de Blank.

12 March 1961

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions submitted a memorandum to the UN General Assembly calling for economic sanctions against South Africa.

15 March 1961

Following strong opposition in the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers, Dr. Verwoerd announced the withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth "in the interests of South Africa's honour and dignity".

15 March 1961

Following three days of bitter opposition in the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers, Dr. Verwoerd announced the withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth "in the interests of South Africa's honour and dignity", and provoked a strong reaction amongst the English-speaking white population. Dismay was voiced by the latter and by leaders of the industrial community.

Sections of the Afrikaaner population said the country was better off outside "the Kaffir Commonwealth".

Albert Luthuli, former President of the banned African National Congress, said in regard to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' strong opposition to apartheid: "I am overjoyed".

The Synod of 350 delegates of the Dutch Reformed Church endorsed the Church's current policy of racial separation. The Synod expressed support for the Government's policy of apartheid and asked that its implementation be expedited. The Church stated its conviction that its work would be handicapped if it allowed itself to be diverted from its proven way for the sake of world opinion.

Professor A.S. Geyser, who had queried whether Article 3 of the Church's principles, which discriminates between white and black, was in line with the Scriptures, was bitterly attacked. The Chairman of the Synod condemned his attitude as arrogant.

25 March - 26 March 1961

All-in African Conference - with 1,400 delegates from 145 religious, cultural, peasant, intellectual and political bodies - held in Pietermaritzburg. Conference called for a national convention of elected representatives of all adult men and women, without regard to race, colour or creed. The Republic, it declared, "rests on force to perpetuate the tyranny of minority". If the Government ignored the demand for a national convention, the people were called upon to organise mass demonstrations on the eve of the proclamation of the Republic. Mr. Nelson Mandela was appointed secretary of the National Action Council.

29 March 1961

Sisulu and other accused were found not guilty on a charge of High Treason, in the special court at Pretoria, and released.

29 March 1961

Twenty-eight persons (22 Africans, 3 Indians, 2 Whites, 1 Coloured) on trial for high treason since 1956 were found not guilty and discharged. The three judges unanimously said there was no evidence of communist infiltration into the African National Congress. "On the evidence presented and our findings, it is impossible for this court to come to the conclusion that the ANC had acquired or adopted a policy to overthrow the State by violence".

Hours later the Government retaliated by renewing the ban on the ANC and PAC for another year, placing a nation-wide ban on all meetings, and breaking up the African conference in Pietermaritzburg.

30 March 1961

African and Asian delegations at the UN pressed for sanctions against South Africa.

April 1961

Conference of the Nationalist Organisations of the Portuguese Territories (CONCP) founded in Rabat.

1 April 1961

Robben Island turned into a prison.

5 April 1961

United Kingdom Government announced support for a UN General Assembly resolution against apartheid for the first time.

6 April 1961

Renewal of the ban on the African National Congress and the Pan Africanist Congress.

13 April 1961

The UN General Assembly condemned South African racial discrimination as "reprehensible and repugnant to human dignity" by vote of 95-1.

27 April 1961

Walter Sisulu and his home at Orlando West are searched and various documents are seized, in which blacks are instigated to strike on 29, 30 and 31 May 1961. A case in compliance with Section 2 (A) of the Act 8/1953 (Instigation) is made against him.

3 May 1961

All police leave was cancelled in anticipation of expected strikes at the end of May.

Defence legislation amended to enable use of the armed forces for the suppression of internal disorder and reorganise the police so as to co-ordinate its command headquarters with that of the military.

Nationalist Party won three by-elections with a larger majority than in the 1958 general election.

12 May 1961

The General Law Amendment Act provided for detention of persons for twelve days without bail, trial without jury in cases of murder and arson, and resting the proof of innocence rests on the accused.

19 May 1961

General Law Amendment Act No 39:

Provided for twelve-day detention. Amended:

Ø     the Arms and Ammunition Act 28 of 1937 regarding the issuing and ancellation of firearm licences;

Ø     the 1955 Criminal Procedure Act regarding powers of the Attorney-Generalto prohibit release on bail or otherwise; and

Ø     the 1956 Riotous Assemblies Act.

Commenced: 19 May 1961

Sections 6 and 7 repealed by the Internal Security Act No 74 of 1982.

29 May 1961

Nation-wide general strike. It was reported that only 10-15 percent of the labour force struck work. In Johannesburg, however, there was high African absenteeism. More than 40 per cent of the Rand's huge labour force stayed at home. Fifty per cent of the Asians were out at Durban and 25 per cent of the Cape Coloured.

A split developed within the African leadership at the last moment. Nelson Mandela and the ANC had taken the initiative in organising the strike, but leaders of the banned PAC called on non-Whites to ignore it.

30 May 1961

The union of South Africa officially ceases to exist, at midnight

31 May 1961

South Africa is declared a republic, independent and outside the commonwealth. C.R. Swart, the former Governor-General, is sworn in as the first President of the Republic of South Africa.

31 May 1961

South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth and proclaimed itself a Republic.

31 May 1961

Country placed on a war footing to smash the nation-wide strike called to protest against the establishment of the so-called Republic of South Africa.

South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth and proclaimed itself a Republic.

4 June 1961

The Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hassim Jawad, announces that Iraq will not recognize the government of South Africa because of its apartheid policies.

14 June 1961

South Africa:Signs agreement with Great Britain in regard to guaranteed preferences on the British market.

21 June 1961

South Africa:Signs multilateral protocol on international civil aviation.

26 June 1961

South Africa:Signs International Labour Organisation Convention, no. 116, concerning the partial revision of conventions adopted.

27 June 1961

The government of Ghana imposes a total ban on the export of all Ghanian produce to South Africa and South West Africa, as a protest against apartheid.

29 June 1961

During its plenary conference in Geneva, the International Labour Organisation adopts a Nigeria resolution condemning the racial policies of the South African government and calling for South Africa's withdrawal from the ILO, by 163 votes to nil, with 29 abstentions. The South African Government has no intention of acceding to this request.

29 June 1961

The International Labour Organisation voted 163-O-89 in favour of a resolution calling for South Africa's withdrawal from the Organisation.

29 June 1961

The International Labour Organisation voted 163-O-89 in favour of a resolution calling for South Africa's withdrawal from the Organisation.

30 June 1961

The 'Treason Trial' ends. The total cost of the four-year trial is estimated at R1 million.

4 July 1961

A United Nations eight-man committee with instructions to investigate conditions in the Mandated Territory of South Africa, is refused permission to enter the Territory. The minister for External Affairs, Eric Louw announces that if members of the committee try to enter they will be detained and sent back and that this will involve the United Nations in an act of aggression.

4 July 1961

The Sierra Leone government imposes a ban on all trade and commerce with South Africa, as a protest against its apartheid policies. Ports and airports will be closed to all South African ships and aircraft; no white South Africans will be allowed to enter Sierra Leone; already in the country will not be granted re-entry visas.

5 July 1961

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announces it has entered into a stand-by agreement with South Africa under which South Africa may draw up to the equivalent of $75, 000,000 in a various currencies, during the next twelve months.

5 July 1961

Indemnity Act No 61:

With retrospective effect from 21 March 1960. This Act indemnifies the government, its officers and all other persons acting under their authority in respect of acts done, orders given or information provided in good faith for the prevention or suppression of internal disorder, the maintenance or restoration of good order, public safety or essential services, or the preservation of life or property in any part of the Republic.

Commenced: 5 July 1961

8 July - 10 July 1961

Malmesbury Convention of Coloured leaders.

15 July 1961

H.A. Fagan, former Chief Justice and Minister of Native Affairs, agrees to become leader of the National Union. Its founder, J. du P. (Jappie) Basson will remain party chairman.

22 July 1961

Sisulu, together with Moses Kotane and P.P.D. Nokwe, travel through the country to rally support.

24 July 1961

South Africa:Signs multilateral agreement under article 18 of the Antarctic Treaty.

August 1961

Sisulu visits Cape Town and organised for the extension to the ANC Youth League.

August 1961

Fietas, Johannesburg: The Group Areas Development Board is replaced by the Department of Community Development.

1 August 1961

The Prime Minister announces that there will be a general election on 18 October1961. The necessary proclamation will be issued on 28 August 1961, nomination day 15 September 1961, and the House of Assembly will be dissolved.

2 August 1961

A re-organisation of the Cabinet is announced by Dr. Verwoerd.

4 August 1961

South Africa:Signs treaty with France amending the air agreement of 17 September 1954.

15 August 1961

An electoral alliance is announced between the United Party (UP) and the National Union (NU) in Bloemfontein, in a form of a nine-point pact determining the basic objectives.

26 August 1961

A.K. Ganyile, a Pondo leader and refugee in Basutoland is kidnapped with two companions by six South African policemen, taken across the border into South Africa, and imprisoned in the Transkei.

September 1961

Government established a Department of Indian Affairs and recognised that "the Indians are a permanent part of the population of this country".

1 September 1961

Establishment of the Department of Indian Affairs.

18 September 1961

South Africa:Signs multilateral agreement on aviation.

4 October 1961

Separate elections for the four Cape Coloured representative seats are held. They are won by Independents with the United Party support.

6 October 1961

Sisulu is sentenced to R30-00 or 90 days imprisonment because he is not in possession of a reference book.

8 October 1961

The Nationalist Party won the general election and showed a gain of 10 per cent in its popular vote. In addition, it increased its Parliamentary majority by three seats. The results were:

Nationalist Party - 105 seats

United Party - 49 seats

Progressive Party - 1 seat

National Union - 1 seat

First case of sabotage against Government installations near Johannesburg.

11 October 1961

South Africa:Signs multilateral treaty amending the Phyto Sanitary Convention of 1954.

The Foreign Minister, E. Louw, defends South Africa's apartheid policy in the United Nations, against African criticism. On the same day the Assembly adopts a Liberian censure motion on South Africa, with sixty-seven in favour, one against, twenty abstaining, nine not participating in the vote (including the Britain and the United States) and three absent.

11 October 1961

The General Assembly decided - by 67 votes to 1, with 20 abstentions - to censure the Foreign Minister of South Africa for his offensive speech in the General Assembly. Only South Africa voted against.

11 October 1961

The General Assembly decided - by 67 votes to 1, with 20 abstentions - to censure the Foreign Minister of South Africa for his offensive speech in the General Assembly. Only South Africa voted against.

13 October 1961

The Minister of Justice issued the first house arrest order.

17 October 1961

Sisulu is arrested on a charge that Sisulu does not own a reference book. Sisuslu is confined to his house for 5 years.

18 October 1961

The government increases its strength in the elections. The final results are: Nationalists 105, United Party 49, Progressive Party 1, and National Union 1.

18 October 1961

General Election. Nationalists increased their majority in Parliament and obtained majority of total vote. Progressives reduced from 11 seats to one (Helen Suzman).

20 October 1961

The Minister of Justice banned all meetings to protest against arrest, trial or conviction of any person.

23 October - 26 October 1961

The Special Political Committee in the United Nations, with South Africa participating, debates South Africa's racial policies.

25 October 1961

South Africa:Signs treaty with Italy regarding air services.

26 October 1961

South Africa:Signs multilateral treaty for protection of performers, producers of phonograms and broadcasting organizations.

28 October 1961

Sisulu attends a gathering in the form of a party at the house of Lilian Ngoyi. He is, together with Lilian Ngoyi and Alfred Nzo, arrested and charged for inter alia 9(1) of Act 44 of 1950. The case is later withdrawn because sufficient evidence could not be supplied to prove that the party was in fact a meeting.

29 October 1961

Forty-five ANC leaders met in Lobatsi, Bechuanaland, to plan increased political activity against the Government of South Africa.

14 November 1961

The British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, informs the House of Commons that responsibility for the conduct of Britain's relations with South Africa will be transferred from the Commonwealth Relations Secretary to the Foreign Secretary, from 1 December 1961. Sir John Maud will continue to hold the posts of Ambassador to South Africa and of High.

28 November 1961

The United Nations General Assembly adopts an eight nation resolution, by seventy-two votes to two, with twenty-seven abstentions, calling on all member states to take such separate and collective action, as is open to them to bring about the abandonment of South Africa's racial policies. It did not specifically call for sanctions.

December 1961

Handbills are distributed by the organisation Umkhonto we Sizwe (the spear of the nation) announcing new methods to be adopted in the struggle for freedom and democracy.

1 December 1961

South Africa:Signs agreement with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

11 December 1961

Chief Albert Luthuli receives the Nobel Prize in Oslo.

11 December 1961

South Africa:Signs multilateral treaty extending the declaration on the provisional accession of Tunisia to the General Agreement on Tarrifs and Trade.

11 December 1961

Albert Luthuli is awarded the Nobel Peace prize in Oslo. The government issues a special ten-day passport, with restrictions on his movements and public appearances.

12 December 1961

Dr. Verwoerd tells the union Council of Coloured Affairs that the Council will be transformed into a coloured 'Parliament' with a 'Cabinet', initially of four members, within the framework of a ten-year plan for the development towards self-determination of the Cape Coloured population.

16 December 1961

Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) is formed to "hit back by all means within our power in defence of our people, our future and our freedom".

16 December 1961

Five bomb explosions occur in Johannesburg and five others at Port Elizabeth.

16 December 1961

Handbills calling for sabotage were distributed in English and Zulu. During the night a series of explosions were set off, damaging a post office, several African affairs offices and an electric power station near Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.

18 December 1961

Three further attempts to sabotage buildings in and near Johannesburg are discovered.

South Africa:Signs treaty with Sweden to further extend the period of validity of traffic rights granted to Scandavian Airlines System.

South Africa:Signs treaty with Norway to further extend the period of validity of traffic rights.

21 December 1961

As a result of investigations into the Port Elizabeth explosions, Security Police arrest and charge Robert H. Strachan with causing malicious damage to property.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.