A Glimpse of South African History

Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama reaches South Africa's coast.


British forces seize Cape Colony.


Natives Land Act created to prevent blacks from buying land outside reserves.


Population officially classified by race.


Apartheid is ended. Nelson Mandela released after 27 years in prison.


Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, begins hearings on human rights crimes committed during apartheid era.

April 2001

39 multi-national pharmaceutical companies halt a legal battle to stop South Africa importing generic AIDS drugs. The decision is hailed as a victory for the world's poorest countries in their efforts to import cheaper drugs to combat the virus.

November 2003

Government begins major anti-HIV/AIDS initiative.


The Dutch East India Company founds the Cape Colony as a small refreshment station for trade ships from Holland.

1867 - mid 1880s

Diamonds and later gold are discovered in South Africa, making it a political and economic hotbed and leading to the Boer Wars.


Policy of apartheid officially adopted when National Party (NP) takes power.


More than 3 million people forcibly resettled in black "homelands."

April 1994

First non-racial elections held. Mandela becomes president.


Thabo Mbeki is elected president.

December 2001

High Court rules that pregnant women must be given AIDS drugs to help prevent transmission of the virus to their babies.

July 2002

Constitutional court orders government to provide key anti-AIDS drugs at all public hospitals.

April 2004

Thabo Mbeki begins a second term as president.