May 2006


Adoption of the Constitution, 8 May 1996

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa was adopted on May 8, 1996. On December 10, 1996, it was signed into law. Before it was fully approved to become law, the words were revised and changed to be in line with the Constitutional guidelines negotiated at Codesa (Convention for a Democratic South Africa) in 1991. Many people were involved in the process of writing the Constitution. It was the largest public participation programme ever carried out in South Africa. After nearly two years of consulting with various groups, the final text was written. It includes the ideas of ordinary citizens, as well as organisations and political parties, thus representing the combined wisdom of the country’s people. The Constitution calls on all South Africans to embrace a non-racist, non-sexist, open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom.

100th anniversary of Bambata Rebellion, 4 April 1906

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Bambata Rebellion. In 1906 Chief Bambata led his people in protest against poll tax. The tax was introduced by the colonial government of the province that was then called Natal. Chief Bambata  believed that the £1 (one pound) tax was unfair because his people could not afford to pay it. The tax was introduced to force people into working for wages to get cash to pay the tax rather than living off the land.  The colonial government reacted against the protest with force and Chief Bambata was killed. 

Soweto Uprising, 16 June 1976

On June 16, 1976, schoolchildren in Soweto protested against the apartheid government’s unjust education laws. Their main problem was that it was compulsory for black learners to be taught in Afrikaans, but there were also other racial problems and frustrations with Bantu Education.  The uprising started peacefully, but became violent when the police fired shots at the young protestors. Some 575 people died and over 3 000 were injured. Through this uprising, resistance spread to more communities. 

50th anniversary of the Treason Trial, 3 August 1956

The Freedom Charter was adopted in 1955. The apartheid government arrested 156 people and charged them with treason.  Most of them were leaders of the African National Congress (ANC), the Congress of Democrats, the South African Indian Congress, the Coloured People’s Congress, and the South African Congress of Trade Unions. As a group they were known as the Congress Alliance.  Four years later they were all acquitted. 

19 October 1986, 20th Anniversary of the death of Samora Machel

In 1986, the former President of Mozambique, Samora Machel, died in a plane crash in Mbuzini, Mpumalanga. Twenty four passengers died with him. Because the real cause of the crash is still not known or whether it was really an accident, President Thabo Mbeki asked that it should be looked into again. The Minister of Safety and Security said that the investigation into what happened 20 years ago on that day will be re-opened in co-operation with Mozambique. 

Miner’s Strike, 12 August 1946

Thirty years ago, on 12 August 1946, some 60 000 black mine workers in Johannesburg started a strike for higher wages.  The strike was led by the African Mine Workers Union, whose president, JB Marks, was also a leader in the South African Communist Party. In the week that followed, the police and army used violence to crush the strike.   

11 September 1906, Satyagraha centenary

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha – passive resistance campaign.  On 11 September 1906 Mahatma Gandhi started the movement known as Satyagraha in Johannesburg. It promoted non-violence as a way to protest against injustice.  On this day, Indians in the then Transvaal province, started a programme of peaceful resistance against the unfair registration and pass laws of the apartheid government. 



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