History of South Africa (including apartheid)

Post 1948 history
Trade Union History
Sports History
Apartheid South Africa

June in South African history


The ANC allies with the Transvaal Indian Congress and the Natal Indian Congress.


India severs trade relationships with the Union of South Africa, in protest against its discriminatory treatment of people with an Asian origin.


The ANC Youth League is formed.


Women are allowed to become full members of the ANC.


The United Party, led by Jan Smuts, won the most seats in the 1943 general election of the Union South African.


United Party


Herenigde Nasionale Party






September 1941

Jan Smuts is appointed Field Marshall for the Allied Forces.


The National Party split from the United Party after the Union of South Africa entered the Second World War as Britain's ally. The National Party sympathised with Nazi Germany during the war, and after the war wanted greater racial segregation.

6 September 1939

South Africa declares war on Germany.

5 September 1939

Prime Minister JBM Hertzog resigns and a new government is formed by Jan Smuts (now leader of the United Party). Hertzog resigned when his motion to remain neutral in the war was defeated by 80 votes to 67; he reconciled with Daniel F Malan (Herenigde Nasionale Party) to become leader of the opposition.

4 September 1939

Parliament decided for war by a small margin.


The United Party won the most seats in the 1939 general election of the Union South African.


United Party


Purified National Party


Dominium Party


Labour Party







When the Vaal Dam was completed in 1937, Imperial Airways, the predecessor of BOAC, established a flying boat base at Deneysville, with Hartbeespoort Dam as an alternative port. 

1 August 1936

The SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) was formed by an Act of Parliament.

7 May 1936

Amy Johnson lands at Cape Town's Wingfield Aerodrome, setting a new record for a flight from England to Cape Town of 3 days, 6 hours and 26 minutes. In 1941 Johnson disappeared in bad weather while on a wartime aircraft delivery flight - it is thought that she was accidentally shot down by British anti-aircraft fire over the Thames.


Seeking reconciliation between English and Afrikaans-speaking white, the National Party and South African Party merged to form the United Party.

17 May 1933

The National Party, led by General JMB Hertzog, won the most seats in the 1933 general election of the Union South African.


South African Party


National Party


Labour Party






6 Feb 1933

From the 6th to the 8th February 1933, Gayford and Nicholetts made the first non-stop flight from England to South Africa in a Fairey Long-Range Monoplane.

July 1932

Amy Johnson sets a solo record for the flight from London to Cape Town, in a Puss Moth, breaking her new husband's (Jim Mollison) record.

4 Mar 1932

Jim Mollison leaves Lympne (Kent, England) to begin an a record-breaking attempt to fly to South Africa. Mollison took 4 days, 17 hours, and 19 minutes flying in a D. H. 80A Puss Moth (G-ABKG), which was specially modified as a long-range single seater.

7 Oct 1931

Desmond Tutu is born. Tutu is later to become Anglican Archbishop of South Africa and in 1984 to win a Nobel Peace Prize for his opposition to apartheid in South Africa.


Women are allowed to become affiliate members of the ANC.

14 Jun 1929

The National Party, led by General JMB Hertzog, won the most seats in the 1929 general election of the Union South African.


South African Party


National Party


Labour Party






Huberta (originally named Hubert, because she was thought to be male), a wondering Hippo, begins her 1600km walk from KwaZulu-Natal (St Lucia) to the Eastern Cape (as far as East London), where she is shot and killed by hunters. Her remains can today be seen at the Amathole Museum in King William’s Town


The first luxury train between Johannesburg and Cape Town is introduced.

31 May 1928

Die Stem was sung publicly for the first time, at the official hoisting of the national flag in Cape Town.

30 Apr 1928

The daughter of an Irish peer, Lady Mary Bailey, becomes the 1st woman to fly solo from England to South Africa; in a de Havilland Moth. The route she followed took her through Sudan and down the side of Lake Victoria to Tanganyika and on to Cape Town. She then turned back and flew back over the Belgian Congo and the Sahara. At Khartoum, Lady Bailey crossed paths with Lady Heath.

Feb 1928

Lady Heath, nee Sophie Mary Pierce Evans, also Mrs. Elliott-Lynn, becomes the first woman to fly solo from Cape Town, South Africa to London, England. Flying an Avro Avian III, she left the Cape of Good Hope on February 12, 1928, and arrived in England on May 17 after being delayed at Cairo, where officials banned women flying through their airspace. When she reached Croydon, she announced: "Flying is so safe, a woman can fly across Africa wearing a Parisian frock and keeping her nose powdered all the way." She made the trip with a Bible, a shotgun, a couple of tennis racquets, six tea gowns and a fur coat, and alighted from the plane wearing said coat, a fashionable snug-fitting hat, stiletto heels and bright red lipstick. She was destitute when she died from poor health in 1939 at the age of 42.


A white paper is tabled before parliament proposing the investigation of the establishment of an oil-from-coal industry.

1 April 1927

The African Broadcasting Corporation was formed.


The first motor-powered mailship arrives in Cape Town.

9 June 1924

The National Party won the most seats in the 1924 general election of the Union South African.


South African Party


National Party


Labour Party






18 Dec 1923

South African Railways made the first 'wireless' broadcast in Johannesburg.


The South African Native National Congress is renamed the African National Congress (ANC).

8 Feb 1921

The South African Party, having absorbed the Unionist Party, won the most seats in the 1921 general election of the Union South African.


South African Party


National Party


Labour Party






20 Mar 1920

Two South African pilots complete the first flight from Britain to South Africa after a flying time of four days, 13 hours, 30 minutes.

10 Mar 1920

The National Party won the most seats in the 1920 general election of the Union South African.


South African Party


National Party


Unionist Party


Labour Party







South West Africa (Namibia) comes under South African administration.


An influenza epidemic kills thousands.

CJ Langenhoven writes a poem called "Die Stem", later to become the official national anthem of South Africa.

18 Jun 1918

Nelson Mandela is born.


Secret Broederbond is formed to advance the Afrikaner cause.

21 Oct 1915

General Louis Botha's South African Party won the most seats in the 1915 general election of the Union South African.


South African Party


National Party


Unionist Party


Labour Party






National party is formed.

Aug 1914

South Africa was led into the war in support of Great Britain by Louis Botha and Jan Smuts.

Aug 1914

Digging at the big hole in Kimberley ends, leaving a hole 1.6km in circumference with 14 504 carats of diamonds having been found.

14 Mar 1914

The Comforter, Frederick Samuel Modise, is born in Rooiberg in the Transvaal province of South Africa. Modise would later found the International Pentecost Church.


Ghandi leaves South Africa.

27 Jan 1914

Black women in the Orange Free State protest when they are included in Pass Laws previously reserved for Black men only. A petition is drawn up against Black women carrying passes, and by 1918 the matter was discussed with Prime Minister Louis Botha and the law subsequently relaxed until the 1950s.

23 Sep 1913

Anti-Pass Protests by a multi-racial group of women take place in response to a new requirement introduced in the Orange Free State that black women must carry reference documents (this is in addition to the existing requirement that black men must carry reference documents). Charlotte Maxeke leads the protestors, who include many professionals. Over the next few months, protests are held across the Free State, and eventually when South Africa enters World War I, the Free State authorities agree to relax the rule.

14 Jun 1913

The Immigration Act is passed. This limits the free movement of Asians, and restricts their entry into South Africa.

1913 Land Act

Prevented Africans from acquiring land ownership rights in 'White areas' (most of South Africa).


The Land Act is introduced, which prevent blacks (except those living in the Cape Province) from buying land outside reserves.


Pretoria's Union Buildings (Sir Herbert Baker's architecture) is completed.

13 Jun 1912

The South Africa Defence Act is passed, and the Union Defence Forces (UDF) formed.

8 Jan 1912

The South African Native National Congress (SANNC) is founded (which in 1923 would be renamed the African National Congress - ANC).

Nov 1911

The South African Party (Die Nasionale Suid-Afrikaanse Party) was formerly established after having ruled since the 15 September 1910 elections. The South African Party was an amalgamation of Die Afrikanerbond (Suid-Afrikaanse Party) in the Cape, Het Volk in the Transvaal, the Orangia-unie in the Orange Free State, and the Volksvereniging with a section of the English in Natal.

15 Sep 1910

General Louis Botha's South African Party won a majority in the 1910 general election of the Union South African, with Louis Botha (a Boer leader in the Anglo-Boer War) becoming the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa (1910–1919). Jan Smuts, also a Boer leader in the Anglo-Boer War, became Botha's Minister of Defence.


South African Party


Unionist Party


Labour Party





31 May 1910

The Union of South Africa was created from the Cape Colony, the Natal Colony and the republics of Transvaal and Orange Free State.

1 Jan 1910

French pilot Albert Kimmerling operates the first controlled powered flight in South Africa, in the vicinity of what was at the time the Nahoon Racecourse (and today the spot is marked by a nondescript concrete block across from Stirling High School, with a bronze plaque on the corner of John Bailie and Gleneagles roads). Some ten days earlier Kimmerling’s Voisin biplane had arrived in the harbour onboard the Kenilworth Castle (packed in 3 crates).

16 Aug 1908

Mohandas 'Mohatma' Ghandi (a Hindu) leads 3000 Muslims, Hindus and Christians to burn their passes in the courtyard of the Hamidia Mosque in Newtown, Johannesburg.

4 Mar 1907

Louis Botha is appointed Prime Minister of the Transvaal.

11 Sep 1906

Mohatma Ghandi coins the term "Satyagraha" to describe South Africa's non-violent movement.

25 Jan 1905

At the Premier Mine in Pretoria, South Africa, a 3,106-carat diamond is discovered during a routine inspection by the mine's superintendent. Weighing 1.33 pounds, and christened the "Cullinan," it was the largest diamond ever found.


Paul Kruger dies


The Chinese Exclusion Act is passed.

4 Aug 1902

Cape Town's time guns having been moved to Signal Hill, are fired there for the first time. The Lion Battery remains the property of the South African Navy.

The guns had previously been moved from the Imhoff Battery to the Castle in 1896 (when the Imhoff battery was demolished to make way for rail and road improvements).


The Treaty of Vereeniging ends the South African War. The Transvaal and Orange Free State republics are made self-governing colonies of the British Empire

14 Jan 1902

Canadian Mounted Rifles set sail out of Halifax on their way to South Africa to take part in the South African War (Anglo-Boer War).

27 Aug 1900

The British defeat the Boer army (commanded by Louis Botha) at Bergendal.

23 Feb 1900

The Battle of Hart's Hill. The Boers and the British battle.

23-24 Jan 1900

The British are defeated in the Battle of Spion Kop, which included Gandhi who was a stretcher-bearer in the Indian Ambulance Corps.

6 Jan 1900

A German steamer, the Herzog, is seized by the British. The British released the Herzog on the 22nd January 1900.


The Second Boer War (also known as the South African War or the Anglo-Boer War). Unlike the First Boer War, the British did not wear bright red uniforms this time round, and they came in greater numbers. Although there was fierce resistance from the Boers, the British eventually overwhelmed them. The Treaty of Vereeniging stipulated full British sovereignty over the South African republics. A significant provision of the treaty ending the war was that blacks would not be allowed to vote, except in the Cape Colony.

15 Dec 1899

The Boers defeat the British in a Battle at Colenso.

10 Oct 1899

The British, gathered on the Transvaal border, are given 24 hours to withdraw from the border (in an order written and signed by Francis Reitz), failing which there would be war. The British ignore the ultimatum and on the 11th October 1899 war is officially declared.

25 Apr 1899

Danie Theron, a Krugersdorp attorney, was found guilty of assaulting Mr W. F. Monneypenny (the editor of The Star newspaper) and fined £20. Monneypenny, who had been in South Africa for 2 months, had written a highly derogatory editorial against the "ignorant Dutch". Theron pleaded extreme provocation and his fine was paid by his supporters in the courtroom.


Jan Smuts is appointed State Attorney by President Kruger.


Enoch Sontonga, a Methodist mission school teacher, composes a Xhosa hymn called "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika".


the introduction of the electric tram


The first motor car in Cape Town

Jameson Raid.


The Natal Indian Congress is founded by Mahatma Ghandi, becoming its first secretary.

15 July 1893

The Matabele, Bantu-speaking people of southwestern Zimbabwe, stage an uprising against rule of British South Africa Company. The Matabele are defeated and administered by the British South Africa Company in separate districts.


Mahatma Ghandi arrives in Durban.


Cecil John Rhodes becomes Cape premier.


Gold is discovered on the Witwatersrand.


De Beers Consolidated Mines is formed with the purpose of becoming the owner of all diamond mining operations in South Africa.


Electric lighting is installed for the first time in Cape Town.


The First Boer War (also known as the "First War of Independence"). The Boers succesfully based their tactics on local conditions, wearing khaki clothing (the same colour as the earth), whereas the British wore bright red uniforms, making them easier targets. The conflict ends in a negotiated peace, with the Transvaal restored as a republic.


The British defeat the Zulus in Natal.

22 Jan 1879

Zulus attack and massacre a British Army camp in Isandhlwana.

25 Dec 1879

A cable links Europe and South Africa.


The British assist the Boers in defeating the Zulus. Britain annexes the Transvaal.


9th Cape Frontier War (also known as Kaffir War or Kafir War).


Sir Henry Barkley lays the first foundation stone of the present Houses of Parliament.

28 Nov 1872

A complete self-government for the Cape Colony was promulgated by a proclamation of Sir Henry Barkley. The Cape had a full government, with the vote being based on income and property rather than race.

July 1871

The servant of a prospector who had been nosing around for diamonds at nearby Du Toit’s Pan sparks the greatest diamond rush in history when he arrives at his master’s tent in the evening with three diamonds he had picked up on Colesberg Koppie.

24 May 1870

Jan Christiaan Smuts is born near Riebeck West in the Cape Colony, Smuts died in 1950.


Diamonds discovered in Kimberley.


Horse-drawn trams were introduced, operating between the city and Sea Point.


The first synagogue in South Africa is built in Cape Town in the Gardens area.


Work began on the Cape's first railway line (to Wellington).


As a result of the prophecy of Nongqawuse, a Xhosa phrophetess, the Xhosa nation killed all their cattle.


Natal seperates from the Cape Colony.

30 Jun 1854

The first elected Parliament of the Cape Colony met.


A liberal constitution was granted to the Cape Colony.


The British granted limited self-government to the Transvaal.


8th Cape Frontier War (also known as Kaffir War or Kafir War).


7th Cape Frontier War (also known as Kaffir War or Kafir War).


Lovedale College, a mission school, is established near Alice; and becomes a nursery for the African elite.


David Livingstone lands at Algoa Bay.

16 Dec 1838

470 Trekkers and indigenous people, led by Andries Pretorius, defeat 10,000 Zulus at the Battle of Blood River ("Mpi yaseNcome" in Zulu ).

15 Dec 1838

The Trekkers cross the Buffalo River and, given that one of their advance scouting parties had spotted a large Zulu force approaching, formed a laager with their ox wagons next to the Ncome River.

26 Nov 1838

Andries Pretorius is elected leader of a commando to attack the Zulus (in retribution for the Zulus having killed 500 Trekkers in raids on their camps, and killing Piet Retief, after he had negotiated a treaty with their leader).


The Great Trek begins, as Louis Johannes Tregard uproots his family and starts heading north, with 925 head of cattle, 50 horses and more than 6000 sheep & goats. Eventually, about 10 000 Dutch families left for the north in search of new land.


6th Cape Frontier War (also known as Kaffir War or Kafir War).


An Act of Parliament abolished slavery. There were estimated to be 39 000 slaves in Cape Town. A Muslim community, after being freed, established the BoKaap area on the eastern side of the city centre.


The University of Cape Town (then the South African College) was founded.

24 Sep 1828

Shaka kaSenzangakhona (Shaka Zulu), the Zulu king and founder of the Zulu empire, is murdered by Dingane and Mhlangana (his 2 half-brothers) at kwaDukuza. Dingane assumes the throne.

There is some debate around what Shaka's last words were - the version which rings the truest comes from Mkebeni kaDabulamanzi, King Cetshwayo's nephew and grandson of King Mpande (another half-brother to Shaka) - "Are you stabbing me, kings of the earth? You will come to an end through killing one another."

10 Oct 1825

Paul Kruger is born in Colesburg, South Africa.

1818 - 1819

5th Cape Frontier War (also known as Kaffir War or Kafir War).


The Cape became a Crown Colony


4th Cape Frontier War (also known as Kaffir War or Kafir War).


The Governor of the Cape, Earl of Caledon, declared that the Khoikhoi had to have a fixed residence and could not migrate between regions without written authority.


The British reclaimed the Cape.


Blue asbestos (crocidolite) was discovered in South Africa (the mining of which led to many cases of mesothelioma in South Africa).


The Dutch retake control of the Cape.


3rd Cape Frontier War (also known as Kaffir War or Kafir War).


The Zeekoe river is offially recognised as the boundary of the Cape by Governor Van Plettenberg.


With the threat of Napoleon seizing the settlement, the British take control of the Cape for the first time.


2nd Cape Frontier War (also known as Kaffir War or Kafir War).

10 Aug 1783

Louis Johannes Tregard is born in Oudtshoorn.

4 August 1782

The 700 ton East India merchant ship "the Grosvenor" runs aground on the wild coast. When the look-out shouted that he saw breakers ahead, the captain tried to turn the ship but it ran full-tilt onto the rocky shores of a deep bay known as Lwambazi.

Some Fourteen people drowned and 136 got off the ship (there is some dispute regarding the exact numbers) . Those who got ashore had little more than they were wearing; there were arguments and they split into different groups when trying to get to Cape Town, nearly 2 000km away.

Of the 136, 6 managed to reach a frontier farm near Port Elizabeth and a relief party found another 12. The remainder died or were absorbed into local communities, with reports persisting of white people being seen along the coast (A 1790 expedition is said to have found in Transkei, along a tributary of the Mngazi, a group of 400 people who were composed of the survivors and descendants of various shipwrecks).

The Grosvenor's bill of lading when taking goods from Madras, India to Britain included gold bullion, jewels, coins, plate and other valuables (it was reputed to be carrying the fabled gold and ruby-studded Peacock Throne of Shah Jehan, the Moghul emperor who built the Taj Mahal - but this could be conjecture).


1st Cape Frontier War (also known as Kaffir War or Kafir War). During the Frontier Wars against the AmaXhosa, the British continued the frontier wars , pushing the eastern frontier eastward through a line of forts established along the Fish River and consolidating it by encouraging British settlement.


Third smallpox epidemic.


Second smallpox epidemic.


A small group of white hunters are killed by the Xhosa, after having ridden as far as the Keiskama River.


The first smallpox epidemic devestates the Khoikhoi community.


Johanna Maria van Riebeeck (Johan's granddaughter) wrote a letter home, "Outside are the Hottentots, who are a very ugly and stinking people, and the Dutch people keep very untidy households. You see many people with strange faces and the way of life is strange here, everything is hottentottish. I must admit that based on appearances, I have never seen a worse place".


Sheik Yusuf is exiled to the Cape. Sheik Yusuf is recognised as being the founder of the Cape's muslim community. His kramat is one of the six shrines which form a holy circle (one on Robben Island, five on or near the Peninsula).


The French Hugenots arrived.


Slaves were granted the right to buy their freedom.


The VOC started advocating a substantial emigration drive from Europe by offering free passage to the Cape.


The Cape could report a surplus in most foods.


Stellenbosch was founded.

The Castle of Good Hope, a 5-sided castle, was completed. Today it is South Africa's oldest occupied building.


Eva (Krotoa) died and was given a Christian burial.


Second war between the Dutch colonists and the Khoikhoi


Krotoa, called Eva by the Dutch, was the first Khoikhoi woman to appear in European records of the Cape as an individual personality. She was closely related to
Oedasoa, chief of the Cochoqua Khoikhoi. Eva joined Van Riebeeck’s household at the Dutch fort at around age 12, but it is unclear whether her family sent her to
the Dutch to work and learn the language or whether she made this decision on her own. She learned to speak fluent Dutch and Portuguese, and acted as an interpreter for the Dutch for most of her life. She converted to Christianity and in 1664 Eva married a Danish surgeon (who was rising in the VOC), Pieter van Meerhoff. Together they had 3 children. After his death on an expedition to Madagascar, Eva became an alcoholic and was eventually sent to the prison colony on Robben Island for disorderly conduct.

12 Sept 1659

"...the clothing, skull and bones of the soldier given up for lost on the 30th of last month were found at the extremity of Lion Mountain, about 30 roods from the beach. The cranium was half bitten off, so it is presumed he was devoured by a lion".


First wine produced, and the first battle between the Dutch colonists and the Khoikhoi.


The first slaves are imported from Batavia and Madagascar as the first white farmers get the land ready for agriculture.

February 1657

The VOC issued the first permits to free 9 company servants to farm along the Liesbeek River.


The Dutch began appropriating the prime farm land lying along the Liesbeeck River, and the Khoikhoi retaliated with cattle raids.


Van Riebeeck planted the first vines in the Cape.

17 Dec 1652

Van Riebeeck reported the first comet discovered from South Africa, C/1652 Y1.

April 1652

Van Riebeeck's party had built the first walls of a fort. The fort lasted some 20 years before a 5-sided castle was built. The Dutch also established a vegetable farm (later expanded to include rare plants, fruit trees, oak trees) called the Company Gardens. Today the Company Gardens is a bit smaller but still there to be enjoyed.

8 April 1652

Work started on erecting the wooden house and store shed near the mouth of the Fresh River. 100 men from the vessels were housed on shore in tents and worked on constructing the fort, near where the fruit stalls are today in the Grand Parade. The men were mostly bonded servants from the lower ranks of the VOC (Prior to embarkation these folks were made to take an oath of allegiance, which entrenched their inferior position within the Company hierarchy virtually forever).

6 April 1652

Johan Anthoniszoon van Riebeeck sailed into Table Bay with his fleet of 2 ships (the Drommedaris & the Reijger) and the yacht Goede Hoop.

Just before dawn the Drommedaris's Captain Coninck went ashore with 6 armed soldiers and some sailors. The group caught some fish and collected 3 letters which were left in a box on the 26th February.

During the afternoon, Van Riebeeck led a party ashore to select a site for the fort.

Until the end of apartheid, the 6th April was celebrated first as "Van Riebeeck's Day" and then later as "Founder's Day".

5 April 1652

On about the fifth glass of the Afternoon watch, the chief mate of the Dromedaris saw Table Mountain rise above the horizon.

24 Dec 1651

The 33 year old Johan Anthoniszoon (Jan) van Riebeeck, a commander in the Dutch East India Company (out of favour following allegations of fraud), was dispatched from Amsterdam with two ships (Drommedaris & Reijger), a yacht (Goede Hoop), 70 men, and a daunting task to establish a station at the Cape capable of supplying passing ships with fresh food and wine. The command had first been offered to Nicolaas Proot, but he had declined.

Van Riebeeck had previously been to the East as an under-surgeon and then as an assistant clerk. On Van Riebeeck's first return journey from the East, in 1648, he had lived on the shore of the Cape for 3 weeks while the wrecked Haarlem's cargo was being loaded on board the homeward bound ships. He had been recalled to the Netherlands in 1648, as a result of trouble with private trading at Tonkin. He subsequently left the Dutch East India Company, married Maria Quevellerius (who was also known as Maria de la Queillerie) and then rejoined the Dutch East India Company with the rank of merchant. Van Riebeeck share Proot and Janssen's view that the Cape was suitable as a refreshment station.

Van Riebeeck's instruction

On arrival erect a wooden building (the materials for which were loaded on the ships) at the vital watering place at the mouth of the Fresh River.

Select a site for a fort which could house about 80 people and build the fort as soon as possible. The fort should accommodate 4 small cannons (known as culverins).

Take possession of land suitable for vegetable and fruit cultivation.

Van Riebeeck was instructed not to harm local inahabitants or their cattle, but to try to win their friendship.

Welcome all nations (except Portugal) to trade and occupy land, beyond the Dutch East India Company's boundaries, for themselves.

20 Mar 1651

The Dutch East India Company decided to set up a refreshment station at the Cape (as a result of the report by Janssen and Proot).

25 Mar 1647

The Haarlem, a Dutch ship, was wrecked in Table Bay on the 25 March 1647 on its way back to Europe. Two Dutch ships harboured in Table Bay took on board most of the crew and passengers, and 40 others were taken to Europe aboard two English ships. The remaining 60 men stayed to salvage the valuable cargo which was on board the Haarlem. The 60 men were led by Leendert Janssen (a junior merchant). The men first encountered some beachcombers, and after 5 months some pastoralists came into the area and traded cattle and sheep for items from the shipwreck. In 1648 12 Europe-bound Dutch ships took 60 healthy men, the cargo they had salvaged and stocks of food on board to the Netherlands. Leendert Janssen and Nicolaas Proot (one of the 60 shipwrecked men) wrote a report speaking of the peaceful inhabitants at the Cape, and the possibilities of profiting from supplying food to passing ships, seals, whales and fishing. The good survival of the crew convinced the Dutch East India Company that it was safe enough, and the land sufficiently fertile, to justify building a permanent supply station at the Cape.

March 1632

23 of a crew of Dutch sailors were killed when (it is said) they attempted to steal cattle without paying the owners.


On its way to the East An English ship took aboard a beachcomber who they called Harry. Harry was taught some english, well treated and taken back to Table Bay on the ship's return journey in 1632. Unfortuanately, beachcombers were regarded as inferior by the pastoralists and they didn't want him around. For safety, the English moved Harry and a number of beachcombers to Robben Island (they wanted him to continue as interpreter and negotiator).

3 July 1620

For a short period, the Cape was occupied by Humphrey Fitzherbert and Andrew Shillinge on behalf of the English East India Company. On 3 July 1620 they erected a cairn of stones on Signal Hill (they called it "King James his Mount"), hoisted the flag of St George and annexed the Cape to King James.

Augustin de Beaulieu, a Frenchman, accompanied them. De Beaulieu wrote the following of the slopes of Table Mountain, "forests of tall trees, as thick as apple trees with no fruit on them and of a very hard wood. All along the mountain there is an infinity of game such as roebucks, deer as large as harts, partridges and all sorts of game, and on the mountain are great numbers of monkeys, marmots, lions, lynxes, foxes, porcupines, ostritches, elephants and other beasts unknown to me."

5 Jun 1615

Nine felons (of a group of 20 felons), who had obtained a reprieve from King James I in return for settling and starting a plantation at the Cape, landed on the shores of Table Bay. They were led by Captain James Crosse, a highwayman and former yeoman of the Royal Guard. They were meant to make a base on Robben Island, stock it with livestock bartered from the pastoralists, and to provide passing ships with fresh meat. However, Captain Crosse had his throat slit on the mainland, over a quarrel about women. Unfortuanately, the whaleboat which they had been provided with was wrecked on the island's rocks and they were stuck on the island. On sighting a ship, the men made a raft from the wrecked whaleboat and 4 of them paddled out, didn't make it to the ship, and drowned. On the following day, the ship came into the bay and picked up the remaining men who were begging to be taken back to England. Three of the men were arrested, within a few hours of getting to London, for stealing a purse; the Lord Chief Justice revived their original condemnation and they were hanged.


The English kidnap the chief of the indigineous Cape pastoralists (his name sounded like Cory), planning to teach him English and have him assist in trade. In London he lived in the home of Sir Thomas Smythe (founder of the English East India Company). Cory would lie on the floor in the home of Smythe crying and begging "Cory home go, Saldanha go, home go", over and over. Smythe eventually sent him home and on reaching the shore he ripped off his English clothing and got into traditional dress.


The Dutch East India Company (VOC, Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) is formed, becoming the world's first multinational. By 1669 it would be the richest company in the world, but by 1800 it would be bankrupt.


Joris van Spilbergen (a Dutchman) named (what is today known as) Robben Island "Cornelia" after his mother.


George Raymond (an English admiral) sailed to what is today known as Robben Island. He said "there can be no other island in all the world as full of fowl and seal as this. It is astounding".


Admiral Drake rounds the Cape and calls it "the fairest Cape in all the circumference of the earth".


The Sao Bento runs aground at the mouth of the Msikaba River, on the wild coast.


D'Almeida (a Portuguese navigator) is killed in a conflict with the Khoikhoi, and the Portuguese subsequently lose interest in the Cape.


Antônio de Saldanha (a Portuguese admiral) becomes the first European to climb Table Mountain. De Saldanha, on his way to the East with a fleet of 3 ships, inadvertently sailed into Table Bay. De Saldanha followed the freshwater stream to the foot of Table Mountain and then climbed up Plattekloof Gorge. The Portuguese attempted to bargain with the indigineous people, but because of the language barrier this turned into an argument, which ended in bloodshed (De Saldanha was slightly wounded). From this point onwards the Portuguese called the area "Aguada de Antônio de Saldanha", meaning 'Watering place of Antônio de Saldanha'.

22 Nov 1497

Vasco de Gama's expedition rounds the Cape on the way to opening up the route to India.


Bartholomeu Dias (a Portuguese navigator) rounded the Cape.

11th century

The Bantu slowly migrated further south displacing hunter-gatherer communities as they migrated. The earliest ironworks found in Kwazulu-Natal have been dated to around 1050.


The Cape was home to groups of the Khoikhoi people (semi-nomadic cattle owners of the same genetic group as the Khoi-San, but who had learnd how to heard cattle and work metal - probably from the Bantu). The Khoikhoi had, over the years, competed with and largely displaced the San hunter-gatherers. The more advanced Khoikhoi looked upon them the Khoi-San as a lower race.

The Khoikhoi probably numbered some 6000 when van Riebeeck arrived in the Cape. The Khoikhoi named the land around Cape Town, "Hoerikwaggo", Mountain of the Sea.

4th or 5th century

Bantu herdsmen and agriculturalists migrated to south of the Limpopo River. The Bantu started somewhere in the equatorial regions, and spread rapidly southwards; eliminating, assimilating or pushing the physically weaker Khoi-San out of the lands they occupied.

Not only were the Bantu physically superior, but they also knew the working of metal, and their weapons were superior. The Bantu knew how to till the soil and plant a crop that delivered a regular food supply year after year. And they had learned how to herd cattle and flocks of sheep and goats. These skills made it possible to form large permanent settlements, which made it possible to form the men of the tribe into an army - the small, peaceful Khoi-San stood no chance.

However, the Bantu did not want the land in the south-western corner of Africa (the winter rainfall did not suit their summer crops, and there was little grass for the cattle), the area today known as the Garden Route (as the forests did not suit their economy of cattle and crops), or the Northern Cape (lack of rain). In these areas - the Western Cape, the Northern Cape, and most of what is today Namibia, the Khoi-San could survive, as their descendants do to this day.

c. 40 000 years and probably more ago

Khoi-San (aka Hottentots, Khoi, Bushmen, San) are the first homo sapiens to roam South Africa. The Khoi-San were originally stone age hunter-gatherers. They roamed in small bands, living a precarious but peaceful existence, dependent entirely on the bounty of nature for the animals they could hunt and the plants and roots that they could gather. They made use of small bows shooting poisoned arrows. They did not till of the soil, and kept no livestock, nor did they build any noteworthy structures. They sheltered in caves, or simply pulled a few branches together to protect themselves from the elements.

Before the Khoikhoi

Homo Erectus saw a Table Mountain similar to today's 750,000 years ago and left many stone tools for our museums.

3 million years ago

Fossil remains suggest that various australopithecines lived in South Africa from about three million years ago. These were to be followed by different species of Homo (including Homo habilis, Homo erectusand finally Homo sapiens).

Before australopithecines

Long before the Rockies or the Himalayas formed, Table Mountain began to rise out of the sea (by a process of isostacy). The emerging relief was checked and scarred by the erosion of sea, wind, rain, fire and ice.


Timeline: South Africa: A chronology of Key Events

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