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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
P.W. Botha replaces John Voster as Prime Minister.
Fietas, Johannesburg: By this year all the traders in the area had left and the Oriental Plaza was established in Fordsburg. Fietas had disappeared.
1978 - 1988
Fietas, Johannesburg: The name Pageview is used more regularly and becomes the generally used term. The area during this period was known as the 'Malay Location', 'Fietas', 'Pageview' and even 'Vrededorp', although Vrededorp, a white area, was in fact situated opposite Pageview.
A new black political movement, the Azanian People's Organization (AZAPO), is formed at an inaugural conference at Roodepoort, near Johannesburg. It is open to Blacks, Coloureds and Indians, but closed to Whites. It adopts the slogan of the banned Black People's Convention - 'One Azania, one People' and will oppose all institutions created by the government, from homelands to Community Councils.
Riotous Assemblies Amendment Act
Amended the 1956 Riotous Assemblies Act [SA] and made provisions relating to the prohibition of gatherings and the dispersal of unlawful gatherings.
Marriage Act No 21:
Made further amendments to the Marriage Act No 4 of 1972, largely in keeping with South African trends.
Commenced: 2 July 1979
Lebowa: Social Pensions Act No 11:
Commenced: 1 September 1979
1978 - 1979
Commission of Inquiry into Alleged Irregularities in the Former Department of Information
Mandate: To evaluate and make findings and recommendations on certain evidence of alleged irregularities in the former Department of Information which had come to light through other authorities and through the press; and [for the supplementary report] to extend the inquiry into new facets and areas brought to light in the course of the Commission's first inquiry.
Date of Report: 1978, supplementary report 1979
Chair: ERASMUS, R.P.B.
Ref: RP 63/1979 (supplementary report)
Mr P. W. Botha was elected as Prime Minister.
The (Coloured) Labour Party, (Indian) Reformed Party and Inkatha formed the South African Black Alliance.
It was estimated that 4 000 refugees were undergoing military training in Angola, Mocambique, Libya and Tanzania.
Bophuthatswana becomes an independent homeland.
In 1978, 1 096 publications were banned and 300 films banned or subjected to age restrictions and excision.
During 1978, 9 832 persons were removed to the homelands.
In January, Dr Richard Turner was shot dead in his home.
1 January 1978
The study privileges of Sisulu and Mandela are permanently withdrawn.
6 January 1978
Donald Woods, banned editor of the Daily Dispatch (East London) reaches Britain with his family, having fled South Africa via Lesotho and Botswana. The pro-government Afrikaans press launches a virulent campaign against him: the British and American press in contrast give wide and sympathetic coverage to the story of his escape.
8 January 1978
The murder of political scientist and author Dr. Richard Turner, in Durban, by an untraced assassin, is thought to have political implications. As one of eight leaders of NUSAS (the National Union of South African Students) Dr. Turner was served with a banning order in 1973.
11 January 1978
A meeting is held in Ulundi between Chief Gatsha Buthelezi (Inkatha), Sonny Leon (Coloured Labour Party) and Y.S. Chinsamy (Indian Reform Party) who agree to formulate a common strategy against the government's race policies.
12 January 1978
The Transkei government is to ban the South African Methodist Church, and replace it with a Transkei Methodist Church, which will acquire all the previous church's assets. The South African Council of Churches calls on Transkei to reconsider its decision.
22 January 1978
At a meeting of the newly organized Soweto Students' League it is decided to continue the students' boycott of State schools, to call for a national conference to launch a new education system and to take no part in elections to the Soweto Community Council.
25 January 1978
Government assurances are given that reform will be introduced, appeals for return to schools are made and between fifty and seventy per cent of pupils respond.
In a government reorganization following the elections of 30 November 1977, John Vorster reappoints most his Ministers, but mades a limited number of changes.
26 January 1978
Signs agreement with Taiwan on mutual fishing relations.
Amnesty International's detailed report on human rights violations in South Africa is banned. It presents comprehensive documentation on deaths in detention, detention without trial, treatment of convicted political prisoners, bannings and banishment.
At the request of the African delegates, Donald Woods addresses the United Nations Security Council and urges member states to pursue a policy of disengagement from all ties with South Africa.
31 January 1978
Jimmy Kruger announces in the House of Assembly that new measures for the protection of political detainees and prisoners are being considered and that all police instructions on their treatment will be reviewed.
1 February 1978
When nominations for the Soweto Community Council close, only twenty-nine candidates have been nominated. Sixteen are later disqualified on technical grounds, nine are returned unopposed and the other four will stand for election in two wards.
2 February 1978
Chief Matanzima announces that all South Africans seconded to the Transkei Army will leave Transkei by 31 March 1978.
The Attorney-General of the Eastern Cape states that he will not prosecute any police involved in the arrest and detention of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko.
3 February 1978
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, 'Pik' Botha, says in the House of Assembly that the Biko affair has done unending harm to South Africa.
9 February 1978
Winnie Mandela, restricted to a black township at Brandfort (Orange Free State), is sentenced to six months' imprisonment (suspended for four years) for breaking her banning and house arrest order by receiving unauthorized visits by friends and relatives. Earlier four white women had been sentenced to prison terms for refusing to give evidence as to whether they had visited Winnie Mandela.
South Africa is to make its own missiles. Kentron (Pty) Ltd, a newly formed subsidiary of ARMSCOR (the South African Armaments Corporation) will produce these.
15 February 1978
The Prime Minister states that South Africa is still committed to granting independence to Namibia before the end of 1978.
16 February 1978
The Minister of Bantu Administration and Development, Dr. Connie Mulder, announces that he will in future be known as the Minister of Plural Relations and Development, reflecting the plural nature of the population.
18 February 1978
The election of the first government sponsored Soweto Community Council is poorly supported. Nine candidates are returned unopposed, nineteen wards attract no candidates at all. In the two wards contested the percentage poll is less than 6 per cent. The elections fill only eleven of the thirty seats.
27 February 1978
Robert M. Sobukwe, founder of the Pan Africanist Congress, dies of cancer at the age of fifty-three and is buried in his home town, Graaff Reniet.
28 February 1978
The Minister of Justice announces that detainees held under security laws will soon he allowed to have monthly visits from doctors and legal representatives.
1 March 1978
KwaZulu: Black Taxation Amendment Act No 13:
Commenced: 1 March 1978
10 March 1978
Percy Qoboza, editor of the banned newspaper, The World, is released from detention, together with nine other black leaders seized in security raids in October 1976.
11 March 1978
The government agrees to eliminate racial segregation in theatres but not in cinemas.
13 March 1978
The first public rally of the new South African Black Alliance (SABA) is held under the leadership of Chief Gatsha Buthelezi in Cape Town. Its main objective is to convene a National Convention of representatives of all population groups to seek a peaceful, negotiated solution to the country's problems. The Dikwankwetla Party from the Qwa Qwa 'homeland' is joining the alliance. The organizations represented will not merge, however, since to do so would infringe the Political and Interference Act of 1968 which bans inter-racial mixing in political parties.
15 March 1978
A Durban magistrate rules that no one is to blame for the death of a young Indian dentist, Dr. Hoosen Haffejee, who died in police custody in August 1977. It is found that he committed suicide.
21 March 1978
South Africa is informed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that it may not re-apply to join the world sporting body. Consequently South Africa will not be able to send any teams to the Olympic Games in Moscow.
It is reported that about 15,000 students have returned to secondary schools in Soweto and that thirty-two of the forty state-run schools in the townships will re-open by the beginning of April.
21 March - 20 March 1978 - 1979
International Anti-Apartheid Year [proclaimed by the General Assembly in resolution 32/105B of 14 December 1977].
1978 - 1979
21 March - 20 March
International Anti-Apartheid Year [proclaimed by the General Assembly in resolution 32/105B of 14 December 1977].
23 March 1978
Three more detainees are released: the Chairman of the 'Committee of, Dr. N. Motlana, a member of the Committee, L. Mosala, and Soweto Journalist, Aggrey Klaaste.
29 March 1978
Chief Minister of Venda, Chief Patrick Mphephu is to hold talks with John Vorster on the issue of homeland independence.
Mid-April. Brigadier C.F. Zietsman, the head of the Security Police, confirms that African National Congress (ANC) guerrillas have been involved in skirmishes with counter-insurgency forces in the Eastern Transvaal.
End April.A new black political movement, the Azanian People's Organization (AZAPO), is formed at an inaugural conference at Roodepoort, near Johannesburg. It is open to Blacks, Coloureds and Indians, but closed to Whites. It adopts the slogan of the banned Black People's Convention - 'One Azania, one People' and will oppose all institutions created by the government, from homelands to Community Councils.
1 April 1978
The Office of the Canadian Consul-General in Johannesburg closes.
4 April 1978
Dr. Andries Treurnicht is re-appointed as a Deputy Minister of Plural Relations. Opposition spokesperson Helen Suzman calls this an insensitive move.
5 April 1978
Formation of Azanian People's Organisation (AZAPO)
10 April 1978
Chief Kaiser Matanzima, Prime Minister of Transkei, announces that his government has decided to sever its diplomatic relations with the Republic of South Africa. The announcement follows the adoption of a Bill transfering the control of East Griqualand from Cape Province to Natal, with effect from 1 April 1978.
11 April 1978
Fifty Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) members arrested by Swaziland government orders, are to be expelled from Swaziland. They are accused of being involved in faction fighting and of providing arms and training people in the use of arms. South Africa has not requested their detention or deportation.
The South African Prime Minister expresses regret at Chief Matanzima's declaration, which is to his own disadvantage, but states that South Africa will continue to honour its obligations to Transkei, including financial assistance.
13 April 1978
Chief Matanzima says he will demand majority rule in South Africa.
17 April 1978
Minister of Defence, P.W. Botha, announces that a new army base is to be built at Phalaborwa, and that a new airhase has been constructed at Hoedspruit in the Eastern Transvaal.
25 April 1978
Sixteen of the independent members of the Transkei Assembly announce that they have formed the Transkei National Progressive Party (TNPP) under the leadership of C. Mda, a former chief whip of the TNIP and earlier a member of the Democratic Party.
28 April 1978
The South African Defence Headquarters state that Transkei soldiers will not be admitted for training courses in South Africa until diplomatic relations are normalized.
Venda's request for 'independence' has been granted and the second half of 1979 set as the target date.
In May the Azanian Peoples Organisation (AZAPO) was formed to fill the gap left by the black consciousness movement, banned in 1977.
2 May 1978
PAC Central Committee announce in Dar es Salaam that its chairman, Potlako Leballo, is to retire for health reasons.
4 May 1978
AZAPO's two principal leaders, I. Mkhabela and L. Mabasa are arrested in Soweto. Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu protests and queries why the authorities are so unwilling to listen to the voices of authentic black leaders.
4 May 1978
South African troops attacked Cassinga in Angola and killed hundreds of SWAPO refugees.
6 May 1978
Eschel Rhoodie, the Secretary for Information, reveals that he has been operating a secret fund for which he was accountable only to a three-member Cabinet Committee and which has never been approved by Parliament.
8 May 1978
The newly-formed Transkei National Progressive Party (TNPP) is recognized as the official opposition in the National Assembly.
John Vorster declares that he has personally authorized the Department of Information to use secret funds without Parliamentary approval for purposes in the highest national interest. There will be a full investigation into alleged irregularities.
10 May 1978
Transkei abrogates its non-aggression pact with South Africa. From this date, Chief Matanzima says no South African military aircraft will be allowed overflying rights, neither will ships of the South African Navy be allowed into Transkeian waters.
12 May 1978
The Minister of Justice, Police and Prisons, Jimmy Kruger, tells Parliament that nearly 700 terrorists were arrested in 1977 and of these ninety-one bad had terrorist training. At present sixty-six terrorist trials are in progress.
19 May 1978
Undesirable Organisations Act No 9:
Granted the state power to act against illegal organisations.
Commenced: 19 May 1978
24 May 1978
Legislation for three major components of the governments plans to defuse black grievances is introduced. Bills provide for ninety-nine year leases to be granted to qualified urban blacks; for black identity documents to be replaced by travel documents issued by 'homeland' governments; and for the word 'Bantu' to be replaced by the word 'Black' in all government legislation.
26 May 1978
The Transkei Minister of Justice orders the Methodist Church of South Africa to cease all activities, and cede its property within six months. The property is insured for R3.6m.
2 June 1978
A new independent Methodist Church of Transkei is proclaimed at a conference in Umtata.
3 June 1978
Security Police chief. Brigadier C.F. Zietsman, announces that about 4,000 South African exiles are undergoing guerrilla training in Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania and Libya; of these about three quarters have been recruited by the ANC.
15 June 1978
The Department of Information is to be disbanded and replaced by a Bureau for National and International Communications, for which Dr. Connie Mulder will be responsible. Dr. E. Rhoodie will resign. An evaluation of secret projects will he made by General H.J. van den Bergh, head of the Bureau of State Security.
The new Soweto Council is inaugurated. The Council, under the Chairmanship of David Thehahadi, is given considerable powers, hut its decisions have to he ratified by the Minister of Plural Relations, and are not subject to approval by either the Johannesburg City Council or the West Rand Administration Board.
Signs treaty with the Perishable Products Export Control Board for the ocean conveyance of goods between South Africa and Europe.
16 June 1978
The anniversary of Sharpevi lie passes off without serious incidents. The main service in Soweto is held by Bishop Desmond Tutu and addressed by Dr. N. Motlana who is later warned by Sowetos Police Chief. Brigadier Jan Visser. against making any more inflamatory speeches.
30 June 1978
14 390 people were convicted on unrest related charges.
18 July 1978
The ANC's President-General, Nelson Mandela, celebrates his sixtieth birthday on Robben Island.
20 July 1978
In reaction to further deaths of people in police detention, ten policemen have been suspended from duty and six have been charged with murder.
14 August - 25 August 1978
World Conference to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, Geneva.
21 August 1978
The State President Dr. Nicoiaas J. Diederichs dies of a heart attack. Following an earlier heart attack on 12 August he had been temporarily succeeded as State President by Senator Marais Viljoen.
24 August 1978
John Vorster announces that while Dr. Connie Mulder will remain Minister of Plural Relations and Development, the Bureau for National and International Communications will be placed under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as from I September 1978.
End Sept. An Ivory Coast delegation arrives in Transkei on an official visit. The mission is the first from a black African country.
6 September 1978
Sonny Leon, leader of the Labour Party in the Coloured Representative Council (CRC), resigns, ostensibly for health reasons. His resignation raises the possibility of a split between the Left and Right wings of his party.
12 September 1978
On the eve of the first anniversary of the death of Steve Biko, police arrest sixteen people including his brother, his sister and her husband and close friends of the family. No reason is given to them hut police say the arrests are preventive measures covered by the 1977 Internal Security Act.
13 September 1978
The Venda Independence Party (VIP) boycotts the opening of the Venda Parliament despite having won thirty-one of the forty-two elected seats. The boycott is prompted by the arrest, after the election of twelve of the new VIP Parliamentarians. They were detained together with nearly forty other opposition supporters.
15 September 1978
France returns the deposit paid by South Africa for two corvettes and two submarines. Their order was cancelled by France in November 1977 in accordance with an international arms embargo against South Africa.
20 September 1978
Prime Minister Vorster announces that he will resign shortly, for health reasons, but that he will be available for election as the next State President.
21 September 1978
Seven more people are detained in Venda, bringing the total number of detentions since the opposition Venda Independence Party won a majority of elected seats in the Legislative Assembly. The Pretoria government's inaction in persuading Venda to charge or release the detainees is widely criticized, since South Africa is still technically responsible for the administration of Venda.
25 September 1978
The trial begins of eleven Soweto students charged under the Terrorism Act. The fifty-six page indictment alleges that as officers, members or supporters of the now banned Soweto Students' Representative Council (SSRC) they conspired to commit sedition and terrorism between May 1976 and October 1977.
27 September 1978
A Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry has found no irregularities in the accounts of the Department of Information. However a wider inquiry is still in progress to examine the purposes for which the money was spent and to establish whether the officials involved have received any financial gain from their actions.
28 September 1978
The caucus of the National Party elects as party leader, and thereby as Prime Minister, Pieter Willem Botha, the Minister of Defence and leader of the National Party in the Cape Province. He declares that there will be no immediate changes in the composition of the Cabinet and that he himself will retain the Defence portfolio.
29 September 1978
The Electoral College elects B.J. Vorster as State President by 173 votes to the nineteen cast for Sir de Villiers Graaff, former Leader of the opposition, nominated by the New Republic Party and the twelve cast for Professor G. Bozzoli, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, proposed by the Progressive Federal Party.
30 September 1978
South Africa:Signs treaty with Japan on certain portions of land granted to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at Yokohama.
In October the Federation of South African Trade Unions (FOSATU) was formed.
2 October 1978
The Transkei will resist the government's plan for a mass removal of nearly 20,000 blacks from the Crossroads settlement near Cape Town, to a settlement centre on land due to be incorporated into Transkei.
3 October 1978
At the end of a ten-day inquest, LA. Coetzee, Deputy Chief Magistrate of Port Elizabeth, rules that no one is to blame for the death of L. Tabalaza who died after falling from the fifth floor of the Port Elizabeth Security Police headquarters on 10 July 1978. Mr. Tabalaza was not a detainee under the Terrorism Act, nevertheless a high level police inquiry had been ordered into his death.
10 October 1978
B.J. Vorster is sworn in as State President in Pretoria, the occasion being marked by a display of the country's military forces, including a fly-past of Mirage fighter bombers and Impala jet trainers.
P.W. Botha makes a number of changes in the allocation of portfolios, but retains the post of Minister of Defence himself. Louis le Grange becomes Minister of Public Works and Tourism. A new post of Deputy Minister for Defence and National Security is created, and the MP for Bloemfontein West and Chairman of the National Party defence group in Parliament, HI. Kobie' Coetzee is appointed to it.
11 October 1978
At a special meeting of the General Assembly, the United Nations gave awards to the following seven persons in recognition of their contribution, in cooperation with the United Nations, to the international campaign against apartheid:
The Reverend Canon L. John Collins (United Kingdom)
Michael Manley (Jamaica)
The late General Murtala Mohamed (Nigeria)
The late Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt)
The late Jawaharlal Nehru (India)
Olof Palme (Sweden)
The late Paul Robeson (United States of America)
11 October 1978
At a special meeting of the General Assembly , the United Nations gave awards to the following seven persons in recognition of their contribution, in cooperation with the United Nations, to the international campaign against apartheid:
The Reverend Canon L. John Collins
The late Murtala Mohamed
The late Gamal Abdel Nasser
The late Jawaharlal Nehru
The late Paul Robeson
26 October 1978
A report drawn up by the Progressive Federal Party calls for power-sharing among all the races in the country, under a federal constitution, providing for political rights without the danger of majority domination. Elections would be on the basis of proportional representation.
The Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK) unanimously rejects proposals for a merger with its three sister churches in the African, Coloured and Indian communities. The policy of different churches for the different peoples is reaffirmed.
31 October 1978
A full scale police search, headed by a specially trained anti-terrorist unit is launched following a shoot-out between police and suspected nationalist guerrillas some forty miles west of Louis Trichardt, Northern Transvaal.
2 November 1978
Justice Anton Mostert, Chairman of a one-man Commission of Inquiry into exchange control contraventions (set up in December 1977) discloses evidence of corruption and the misappropriation of public funds, taken during his investigations into the Information scandal. This improper application of taxpayers money involves, among other things, the financing of the newspaper 'The Citizen'. Judge Mostert publishes some of the evidence despite a request from P.W. Botha not to do so.
3 November 1978
The Prime Minister appoints a judicial commission to investigate the allegations of corruption. Its three members, Justice R.P. Erasmus of the Orange Free State Division of the Supreme Court, A.J. Lategan, the Cape Attorney-General and G.F. Smallberger the Chief State Law Adviser will present findings to a Special Session of Parliament.
6 November 1978
The Commission begins its investigation into any misappropriation of funds by the former Information Department and into any irregularities of private benefit to individuals that may have occurred. Judge Erasmus decides to hear all evidence in camera.
7 November 1978
Dr. Connie Mulder resigns from the Cabinet, but retains his seat as a Member of Parliament.
The Prime Minister announces that Judge Mostert's Commission of Inquiry into exchange control contraventions has been terminated and replaced by a twelve-man Parliamentary Commission with the same instructions as that of the Judge. This termination arouses widespread anger.
8 November 1978
Britain announces a probe into allegations that the West Indian island of Antigua has been used in illegal arms traffic to South Africa.
11 November 1978
Dr. Connie Mulder resigns from his post as leader of the National Party in the Transvaal.
14 November 1978
Prime Minister Botha announces an important Cabinet reshuffle, involving the promotion of moderate ('verligte') members, the most dramatic of which is the appointment of Dr. Piet Koornhof as Minister of Plural Relations.
15 November 1978
John Vorster, State President and former Prime Minister, appears before the Erasmus Commission.
17 November 1978
Prime Minister Botha gives evidence before the Erasmus Commission, at his own request.
17 November 1978
Blacks (Urban Areas) Amendment Act No 97:
Introduced a ninety-nine-year leasehold system. Full ownership was not attainable until 1986.
Commenced: 17 November 1978
Repealed by s 17 of the Abolition of Racially Based Land Measures Act No 108 of 1991.
18 November 1978
Minister of Justice, J.T. Kruger, says the PAC has launched two insurgency campaigns Homecoming and Curtain Raiser against South Africa. The South African police have arrested twenty-three of the insurgents already.
20 November 1978
From this date the Bureau of State Security (BOSS) becomes a full portfolio of National Security under the Prime Minister who is now Prime Minister and Minister of Defence and of National Security.
21 November 1978
The Transvaal National Party leadership election produces a decisive win for Dr. Andries Treurnicht, Deputy Minister of Plural Relations. This is interpreted as a right-wing backlash against recent moves to 'humanize' apartheid.
It is announced that all Cabinet Ministers on the boards of newspaper groups are to resign their directorships.
The government decides to disband the Foreign Affairs Association, a front organization founded by the former Department of Information to project a favourable image of South Africa, and to promote dialogue on both internal and external levels.
24 November 1978
The Southern African Freedom Foundation (SAFF) is exposed as a government front financed out of public funds.
28 November 1978
In his first major speech since his election as Transvaal leader Dr Treurnicht revives the concept of a 'Colouredstan' to accommodate South Africa's one million Coloured people - an idea in direct contravention of the National Party's current policy of power-sharing.
30 November 1978
261 were detained during 1978.
1 December 1978
Transkei's first President, Paramount Chief Botha Sigcau, dies from a heart attack. Prime Minister K. Matanzima announces his retirement from active politics, but his preparedness to accept nomination as President.
The government extends the Erasmus Commission's terms of reference to 30 May 1979.
5 December 1978
The Erasmus Commission presents its report on its investigations into allegations of corruption and misappropriation of funds by the former Department of Information to Parliament. It alleges ineptitude, moral turpitude, malpractice and misappropriation in dealing with funds, It discredits Dr. Connie Mulder, General Hendrik van den Bergh and Dr. Eschel Rboodie and his brother Dr. Deneys Rhoodie, who served as his deputy at the Information Ministry, but exonerates State President Vorster and Prime Minister P.W. Botha. For reasons of state security no details are given of the 160 to 180 secret projects controlled by Dr. Rhoodie.
6 December 1978
South Africa:Signs agreement with Japan on fisheries.
7 December 1978
State President Vorster opens the first emergency session of Parliament to be held in peace-time and promises action against anyone found guilty of the mal administration and misappropriation of public funds. His Ministry does not accept collective responsibility for the scandal and will not resign.
8 December 1978
KwaZulu: Education Act No 7:
Commenced: 8 December 1978
9 December 1978
Sisulu's son Zwelakhe married Zodwa Mdladlamba.
19 December 1978
Signs International Sugar Agreement. 1977.
29 December 1978
Rev. Hi. Hendrickse is elected leader of the Coloured Labour Party of South Africa at its thirteenth Congress in Bloemfontein. The party declares its support for the banned ANC, and urges universal suffrage in a South African unitary state.