South Africa's freedom struggle

A country's long walk to freedom

The story of how South Africans struggled for 350 years to gain equality and justice for all people.

The South African freedom struggle, spanning three and a half centuries, details the defeats and victories of a people in the quest for justice.

The South African freedom struggle always raised the issue of justice for every citizen of the country. From the mid 17th century to the late 20th century, when apartheid reigned in South Africa, the cause was for peace, love and humanity.

A fascinating aspect of our history is the South African freedom struggle. There are struggle heritage sites all over the country, including the Sol Plaatje Museum in Kimberley, the Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto, Constitution Hill in Johannesburg and the Steve Biko Garden of Remembrance in Ginsberg outside King William's Town.

The South African freedom struggle began when the Khoi-khoi resisted the establishment of a refreshment station at Table Bay by the Dutch East India Company in 1652.

But until January 1912, when the forerunner to the African National Congress (ANC) was established, the battle against growing oppression was localised. And even then it would remain fairly passive until apartheid in South Africa was entrenched in law in 1948, which ushered in a period of repression infinitely worse than anything experienced before.

At the behest of young activists like Nelson Mandela, the ANC began to change its direction to a mass-based movement intent on liberation from apartheid in South Africa.

Growing resistance culminated in the Sharpeville Massacre in March 1960, during which the police killed 69 protestors. In panic the government declared a state of emergency and banned the ANC and other liberation movements.

The ANC responded by going underground and establishing an armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), which was at the forefront of the South African apartheid struggle. The government, in turn, tightened its repressive measures, attempting to crush the movement and forcing those leaders who were not incarcerated on Robben Island, to flee overseas.

After regrouping, the ANC in exile, as well as internal underground structures, were able to bring such pressure to bear on the apartheid government that it unbanned all liberation movements in 1990, freed imprisoned leaders and entered negotiations, which culminated in the first democratic elections being held on 27 April 1994.

Apartheid Museum 

Interior of the Apartheid Museum

Robben Island was once a leper colony and a quarantine station. 

The South African freedom struggle - a story of hope

The South African freedom struggle is a story of the hundreds of years this country was divided by colour, giving way to human rights for all in 1994.