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S. Africa's Historic Transition

| 1989 | 1990 | 1991 | 1992 | 1993 | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 |

14: An embittered President Pieter W. Botha abruptly resigns. He is eventually replaced by party leader and education minister Frederik W. de Klerk.

15: South African nationalist leader Walter Sisulu and five other black anti-apartheid activists are freed after each spent more than 25 years in prison for plotting to overthrow white-minority rule.

02: President Frederik W. de Klerk lifts a 30-year-old ban on the country's main black opposition group, the African National Congress.

Nelson Mandela in 1998. (Reuters)
11: Black nationalist leader Nelson Mandela walks out of prison, a free man after more than 27 years in confinement.

07: The African National Congress announces that it will immediately suspend its 29-year armed struggle against white-minority rule in South Africa.

01: President Frederik W. de Klerk, proclaiming the final dismantling of "the cornerstones of apartheid," announces plans to repeal laws that have guaranteed white ownership of 87 percent of the land and entrenched rigid segregation of the races.

20: President Frederik W. de Klerk proposes that South Africa's black majority join the white minority in forming an elected interim government and parliament to run the country.

19: President Frederik W. de Klerk acknowledges for the first time that senior members of South Africa's security forces had engaged in illegal activities – probably including assassination – against political targets.

10: Chris Hani, leader of South Africa's Communist Party, is assassinated outside his home.

15: Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk are jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to dismantle the country's apartheid system of racial separation.

18: South Africa's white minority government and black political leaders approve a new, interim constitution designed to eliminate institutionalized racism.

26: Black and white South Africans vote together for the first time in a historic national election. The ANC would eventually win 62.7 percent of the vote, making Nelson Mandela the new president of South Africa.

06: New South African President Nelson Mandela brings cheering members of Congress to their feet during an address in Washington.

14: President Mandela presides over the inauguration of South Africa's first Constitutional Court.

27: President Mandela fires his estranged wife, Winnie, from his cabinet but makes clear that her dismissal does not neccessarily mean the end of her political career.

19:President Mandela signs into law a bill creating a "truth commission" to uncover human rights abuses committed during South Africa's racially separatist past.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. (File photo)
29: A Supreme Court judge declares the 38-year marriage of South African President Nelson Mandela and his estranged wife, Winnie, officially dissolved.

09: Deputy President Frederik W. de Klerk announces that he and his white-led National Party will quit South Africa's post-apartheid unity government to become a true opposition in Parliament.

22: South Africa's last apartheid president, F. W. de Klerk, apologizes to the nation's Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the "pain and suffering" caused by the disgraced system of racial separation.

23: The ruling African National Congress admits to South Africa's truth commission that it tortured and executed renegade militants in its war on apartheid.

11: Nelson Mandela signs the nation's first post-apartheid constitution into law.

05: Accused of involvement in murder and torture committed by her former bodyguards, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela publicly defends herself, telling South Africa's truth commission that all allegations against her are "fabrications."

Thabo Mbeki. (Reuters)
17: According to his previously announced timetable, South African President Mandela steps down from his post as head of the ruling African National Congress. In his farewell speech to the ANC, he accuses the white opposition and the white media of trying to thwart post-apartheid reforms. Within days, Thabo Mbeki takes over as party leader.

18: Winnie Madikizela-Mandela withdraws from the race for deputy president of South Africa's ruling party.

18: President Mandela marries his longtime companion, former Mozambican first lady Graca Machel, on his 80th birthday.
23: A controversial opposition politician is assassinated in the troubled KwaZulu-Natal province. Hours later, 11 people are killed and eight wounded in a revenge attack on members of the ruling African National Congress.

03: President Nelson Mandela announces June 2 as the date for South Africa's second democratic election, a vote that will mark his retirement from office.

02: Millions of voters turn out for the all-races election. ANC presidential candidate Mbeki appears to be the heavy favorite.

16: Mbeki is sworn in as South Africa's second post-apartheid president.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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