By Fiona Wakelin & Koketso Mamabolo

The year 2024 will mark thirty years since South Africa became a democracy. To put this into perspective, we take a look at some of the highlights, globally and locally, over the last 30 years.


  • South Africa holds its first fully democratic elections and Nelson Mandela is sworn in as first democratic president.
  • Apple Computer, Inc. releases the first Macintosh computers to use the new PowerPC Microprocessors.
  • Rwandan genocide begins in Kigali, Rwanda.
  • Three-time Formula One world champion Ayrton Senna is killed during the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, Italy.
  • Cold War: the last Russian troops leave Germany.
  • Jeff Bezos founds Amazon.
  • First passengers travel through the channel tunnel (chunnel) from England to France.
  • Iraq disarmament crisis continues.


  • Microsoft releases Windows 95.
  • America Online and Prodigy release browsers that make the internet accessible to the general public for the first time.
  • Sarin gas attack takes place on the Tokyo subway.
  • Jacques Chirac is elected President of France.
  • Constitutional Court of South Africa abolishes capital punishment in South Africa in the case of S v Makwanyane and Another.
  • Iraq disarmament crisis continues.
  • Operation Desert Storm officially ends.
  • Indian government officially renames the city of Bombay, restoring it to Mumbai.


  • Nationalist Party in South Africa pulls out of the coalition government formed two years earlier, and the African National Congress assumes full political control.
  • France undertakes its last nuclear weapons test.
  • Two suicide bombs in Israel kill 25 and injure 80; Hamas claims responsibility; International peace summit is held in Egypt in response to escalating terrorist attacks in the Middle East.
  • Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be successfully cloned from an adult cell, is “born” at the Roslin Institute in Midlothian, Scotland, UK.
  • Osama bin Laden writes “The Declaration of Jihad on the Americans Occupying the Country of the Two Sacred Places”, a call for the removal of American military forces from Saudi Arabia.


  • Bill Clinton’s second term as US President begins.
  • Constitution of South Africa comes into effect.
  • Labour Party in the UK returns to power for the first time in 18 years – Tony Blair becomes Prime Minister.
  • UK hands sovereignty of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China.
  • Bank of Thailand floats the baht, triggering the Asian financial crisis.
  • Scientists report DNA analysis findings from a Neanderthal skeleton, which support the out of Africa theory of human evolution, placing an “African Eve” at 100 000 to 200 000 years ago.
  • The funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, takes place at Westminster Abbey, watched by over two billion people worldwide.
  • Iraq disarmament crisis continues.


  • Google, Inc. is founded in Menlo Park, California, by Stanford University PhD candidates Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
  • Belfast Agreement signed between the Irish and British governments.
  • Second Congo War begins; 5.4 million people die before it ends in 2003, making it the bloodiest war, to date, since World War II.
  • Bill Clinton is impeached.
  • Khmer Rouge leaders apologise for the post-Vietnam War genocide in Cambodia that killed more than one million people in the 1970s.
  • Iraq disarmament crisis continues.
  • President Nelson Mandela calls for a summit over the Congo conflict.
  • Yangtze River floods in China killing 12 000 people. 


  • Thabo Mbeki becomes President of South Africa.
  • The euro is established as a currency.
  • Bill Clinton is acquitted.
  • Nigeria ends military rule.
  • The Columbine High School massacre takes place in the US.
  • The second Chechen War begins.
  • Bill Gates becomes the richest person in the world.
  • Iraq disarmament crisis continues.
  • Boris Yeltsin resigns as President of Russia, leaving Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as the acting President.


  • Torrential rains lead to the worst flooding in Mozambique in 50 years, killing 800 people.
  • India’s population reaches one billion.
  • Russian submarine Kursk sinks in the Barents Sea, resulting in the deaths of all 118 men on board.
  • Mass demonstrations in Belgrade lead to resignation of Yugoslavia’s President Slobodan Miloševic.
  • The third and final reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is closed and the station is shut down completely.
  • Hansie Cronje, Herschelle Gibbs, Pieter Strydom and Henry Williams are accused by the New Delhi police of alleged match-fixing.


  • 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York.
  • George W Bush becomes President of US.
  • Tiananmen Square self-immolation.
  • Iraq disarmament crisis continues.
  • Foot and mouth disease breaks out in UK.
  • China and Russia sign the Sino-Russian Treaty of Friendship.
  • South Africa and India sign a declaration of intent on cooperation in health and medicine.


  • Mark Shuttleworth becomes the first African space tourist.
  • End of the Angolan Civil War.
  • The Organisation of African Unity is disbanded and replaced by the African Union.
  • The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 1441, forcing Iraq to either disarm or face “serious consequences”.
  • The Euro is officially introduced in the Eurozone countries.


  • The Iraq War begins with the invasion of Iraq by the US and allied forces.
  • The Human Genome Project is completed, with 99% of the human genome sequenced to 99.99% accuracy.
  • Second Congo War ends, leaving millions dead.
  • The Concorde makes its last commercial flight.
  • Death of Idi Amin, third President of Uganda.
  • The Truth and Reconciliation Commission releases its final report. 


  • Mark Zuckerberg creates the social networking site Facebook.
  • ANC wins third democratic elections.
  • The US-led coalition occupying Iraq, transfers sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government.
  • War crimes trial of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein begins.
  • George W. Bush is re-elected President of the United States.
  • Tsunami affecting coastal areas of Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Indonesia, results in death toll of more than 200 000.


  • Hurricane Katrina makes landfall along the US Gulf Coast, causing severe damage and killing over a thousand people.
  • UN Kyoto Protocol committing member states to reduction of greenhouse emissions comes into effect.
  • North Korea agrees to stop building nuclear weapons in exchange for aid and cooperation.
  • Angela Merkel becomes the first female Chancellor of Germany.
  • Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wins the Liberian general election – the first democratically elected female Head of State in Africa.
  • Ex-Deputy President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, is charged with corruption by the National Prosecuting Authority.


  • Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, arrives in Cape Town and meets with Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa.
  • South Korean Ban Ki-moon succeeds Kofi Annan as Secretary General of the United Nations.
  • Saddam Hussein is sentenced to death and hung.
  • Egyptian passenger ferry sinks in the Red Sea, killing more than 1 000 people.
  • The corruption trial of Jacob Zuma is struck off the roll at the Pietermaritzburg High Court.
  • Nelson Mandela is awarded the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award.


  • Steve Jobs introduces the original iPhone.
  • Mwai Kibaki is declared the winner of the general election in Kenya – the subsequent riots result in the deaths of over 1 000 people.
  • US Congress elects Nancy Pelosi as the first female Speaker of the House.
  • Global climate change is “very likely” to have been predominantly caused by humans – IPCC 4th Assessment Report.
  • Jacob Zuma is elected chairman of the African National Congress.
  • South Africa is selected as the host of the sub-region Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre.


  • Barack Obama is elected the 44th President of the United States.
  • Global financial crisis.
  • US President George W. Bush signs the revised Emergency Economic Stabilization Act into law, creating a $700-billion dollar treasury fund to purchase failing bank assets.
  • An earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale kills an estimated 87 000 people in China.
  • Spotify music streaming service is launched in Sweden.
  • The Large Hadron Collider is officially inaugurated in Geneva.
  • Jackie Selebi is suspended as South Africa’s National Police Commissioner.
  • The African National Congress elects Kgalema Motlanthe to replace Thabo Mbeki as President until the elections in 2009.


  • US Airways Flight 1549 ditches in the Hudson River in an accident that becomes known as the “Miracle on the Hudson” as all 155 people on board are rescued.
  • The first block of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin is established.
  • The outbreak of the H1N1 influenza strain, “swine flu”, becomes a global pandemic.
  • The 14th Dalai Lama’s visa application to enter South Africa is refused.
  • The first Mandela Day is organised on Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday.
  • Jacob Zuma becomes President in South Africa.


  • The 2010 FIFA World Cup is held in South Africa.
  • The tallest man-made structure to date, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, is officially opened.
  • An 8.8-magnitude earthquake occurs in Chile, triggering a tsunami over the Pacific and killing more than 500 people.
  • Volcanic ash from one of several eruptions beneath Mount Eyjafjallajökull, an ice cap in Iceland, begins to disrupt air traffic across northern and western Europe.
  • The Deepwater Horizon oil-drilling platform explodes in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers, the resulting oil spill, one of the largest in history, spreads for several months, damaging the waters and the United States coastline.
  • The 2010 flash crash, a trillion-dollar stock market crash, occurs over 36 minutes.
  • More than 90 000 internal classified reports about the United States-led involvement in the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010 are leaked to the public via WikiLeaks.


  • Osama bin Laden, the founder and leader of Al-Qaeda is killed during an American operation in Pakistan.
  • Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigns after widespread protests.
  • A 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami ravage the east of Japan, killing 15 840 and leaving another 3 926 missing.
  • Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is killed in Sirte.
  • The United States formally declares an end to the Iraq War.
  • The 14th Dalai Lama is refused permission by SA authorities to attend the 80th birthday celebration of fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu.


  • Barack Obama is re-elected President of the United States.
  • Vladimir Putin is re-elected President of Russia.
  • In Qatar, the UN Climate Change Conference agrees to extend the KyotoProtocol until 2020.
  • After 246 years since its first publication, the Encyclopædia Britannica discontinues its print edition.
  • Marikana miners shot by police in North West province, South Africa.


  • President Nelson Mandela dies.
  • North Korea conducts its third underground nuclear test.
  • Former CIA employee Edward Snowden leaks US government mass surveillance information to news publications. He flees and now lives in Russia.
  • 242 people die in a nightclub fire in the Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
  • Paralympian Oscar Pistorius shoots and kills Reeva Steenkamp. 


  • A Sunni militant group called ISIS begins an offensive through northern Iraq.
  • The Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa begins, infecting more than 28 000 people and killing over 11 000.
  • Belgium becomes the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia.
  • Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a Boeing 777 airliner en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, disappears over the Gulf of Thailand with 239 people on board.
  • Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a Boeing 777, crashes in eastern Ukraine after being shot down by a missile.
  • An estimated 276 girls and women are abducted and held hostage from a school in Nigeria.
  • South Africa – Public Protector Thuli Madonsela releases the Nkandla Report on R246 000 000 of public expenditure on President Jacob Zuma’s private Nkandla residence.


  • FIFA President Sepp Blatter announces his intention to resign during an FBI-led corruption investigation.
  • Boko Haram kills more than 2 000 people in Nigeria.
  • ISIS joins forces with Boko Haram.
  • A stampede during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca kills more than 2 000 people.
  • Scientists announce the discovery of Homo Naledi, a previously unknown species of early human, in South Africa.


  • Donald Trump is elected the 45th President of the United States.
  • BREXIT begins.
  • The US and China, together responsible for 40% of the world’s carbon emissions, both formally join the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • The World Health Organisation announces an outbreak of the Zika virus.
  • South Africa holds municipal elections.


  • Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is placed under house arrest, as the military take control of the country. He resigns six days later.
  • The U.S. government announces its intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • Syrian civil war rages on.
  • The Iraqi military announces that it has “fully liberated” all of Iraq’s territory from “ISIS terrorist gangs” and retaken full control of the Iraqi-Syrian border.
  • BREXIT continues. 


  • Cyril Ramaphosa is inaugurated as the President of the Republic of South Africa.
  • Jacob Zuma resigns as President of South Africa after nine years in power.
  • Donald Trump accepts an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for a meeting to discuss the denuclearisation of North Korea.
  • Vladimir Putin is elected for a fourth term as Russian president.
  • The world’s last male northern white rhinoceros dies in Kenya.
  • BREXIT continues.
  • The United States announces it will withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council.
  • Twelve boys and their football coach are successfully rescued from the flooded Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand.
  • Saudi Arabia allows women to drive.


  • South African President Cyril Ramaphosa attends the G20 Osaka Summit.
  • All Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are grounded worldwide.
  • Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; BREXIT triggers general elections.
  • Turkey invades Syria after Trump abandons Kurdish partners.
  • Amazon rainforest ablaze with more than 36 000 wildfires; catastrophic bushfires rage in California, US and new South Wales, Australia.
  • South Africa wins the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
  • COVID-19 is identified in Wuhan, China, changing the world forever.


  • The World Health Organisation declares COVID-19 a pandemic.
  • The United Kingdom formally withdraws from the European Union.
  • Joe Biden wins US presidential election.
  • Wildfires burn more than 5 million acres of land in the US.
  • Anti-apartheid activists Denis Goldberg and George Bizos pass away.
  • The killing of George Floyd by a police officer ignites global protests against racial discrimination.


  • Unrest spreads across South Africa the country in July leaving billions of rands in damage.
  • Desmond Tutu, Former Deputy President FW de Klerk and Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini pass away.
  • The United States withdraws from Afghanistan with the Taliban returning to power.
  • Joe Biden inaugurated as US President.
  • The African Continental Free Trade Agreement is implemented.
  • Supporters of outgoing American President Donal Trump storm the US Capitol.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi is removed from power in Myanmar in a military coup.


  • Britain’s longest reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, passes away.
  • Russia invades Ukraine.
  • The world’s population reaches 8 billion people.
  • ChatGPT launches.
  • Xi Jingping wins a record third term.
  • A fire breaks out in the Parliamentary precinct.
  • Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo is appointed as the 6th Chief Justice in democratic South Africa.
  • Major floods leave devastation in KZN and other provinces.


  • South Africa clinches it’s record-setting 4th Rugby World Cup victory.
  • Veteran politician Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Aziz Pahad, Essop Pahad and Moos Moolla pass away.
  • India becomes the most populous country in the world, overtaking China.
  • Prince Charles coronation as King is held in Westminster Abbey.
  • Israel-Hamas conflict begins.
  • Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria kill over 50 000 people.


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