February 1990 President F. W. de Klerk lifts a decades-long ban on several dozen anti-apartheid organizations and releases many anti-apartheid activists from prison, including Nelson Mandela.
June 1991 The government repeals the last remaining apartheid laws.
October 1991 The Goldstone Commission is established to investigate instances of political violence. In some instances, police and security force members are deliberately provoking the violence.
April 1993 South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani is assassinated outside his home. Polish immigrant Januzs Walus and former Conservative Party MP Clive Derby-Lewis are later found guilty of the murder.
April 1994 The first democratic, non-racial elections in South Africa are held. African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela becomes president.
April 1994 The 10 ethnically determined "homelands" of the apartheid era are dissolved and incorporated into nine new provincial administrative regions.
February 1995 Allan Boesak is forced to withdraw from an ambassadorial posting while police investigate charges that he misappropriated aid money. Boesak is found guilty of theft and fraud in 1999.
February 1995 The Constitutional Court holds its first sessions. In June, the court declares the death penalty unconstitutional.
July 1995 President Mandela signs a law creating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human rights violations committed from March 1960 to May 1994. The commission is chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
February 1996 Minister of Welfare Abe Williams, accused of accepting bribes, resigns from the cabinet and is convicted of corruption and theft in 2000.
May 1996 Parliament adopts a new Constitution that guarantees a broad range of political, civil, economic, and cultural rights and establishes a number of independent bodies—so-called "Chapter 9 institutions"—that are charged with safeguarding these rights.
July 1996 President Mandela fires Bantu Holomisa, deputy minister for environment and tourism, after he accuses Mandela, Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, and other ANC officials of accepting money from Sol Kerzner, a businessman under investigation for bribery. Mandela admits the ANC accepted a campaign donation from Kerzner but denies any wrongdoing.
September 1996 Eugene de Kock, commander of the secret Vlakplaas unit of the security police during the previous government, is convicted of six murders and 83 other crimes. De Kock testifies that other senior members of the former government, including former presidents P.W. Botha and de Klerk and several army generals and police officials, were involved in dirty tricks against the anti-apartheid movement.
March 1997 President Mandela appoints Judge Willem Heath to head the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), one of South Africa's most powerful anti-corruption investigative bodies.
April 1997 Investigators uncover widespread corruption in Mpumalanga regional driving license testing centers, where licenses are being issued in exchange for bribes. Parliamentary deputy speaker Baleka Mbete-Kgositsile received an improperly issued driver's license but is not charged with any wrongdoing.
May 1997 A 198 million rand contract to build more than 10,000 houses is awarded to an unknown company run by a close friend of Housing Minister Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele. A commission of inquiry finds no proof of outright corruption, but criticizes the Mpumalanga government's irresponsible handling of housing funds.
May 1997 Five of the seven publicly appointed members of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, which regulates broadcasting in South Africa, resign after the auditor general issues a report detailing widespread financial mismanagement at the authority.
October 1997 An inter-departmental cabinet committee is appointed to consider proposals for a national anti-corruption campaign. The committee's proposals are approved by the cabinet in September 1998.
December 1997 President Mandela resigns as president of the ANC. Thabo Mbeki is nominated as his successor.
October 1998 The Truth and Reconciliation Commission releases its final report. The report brands the apartheid-era government the primary perpetrator of gross human rights violations, but also holds the ANC and other anti-apartheid activists, including Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and her Mandela United Football Club, accountable for violations.
November 1998 Parliament hosts the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference, attended by over 200 delegates representing national and regional governments and the public service. At the conference, deputy president Thabo Mbeki promises a "zero tolerance" approach to corruption.
March 1999 The Sunday Times reveals that Home Affairs Director General Albert Mokoena is using his office to run a professional basketball team without approval. Mokoena is later found guilty of misconduct.
April 1999 Parliament hosts the National Anti-Corruption Summit, bringing together more than 300 representatives of government, business, organized religion, NGOs, the media, organized labor and academia. Summit resolutions are later implemented by the Public Service Commission's Cross Sectoral Task Team on Corruption.
June 1999 The ANC wins a landslide victory in general elections. Thabo Mbeki becomes president and announces the establishment of a special criminal investigation unit that will tackle high-profile crime, including public corruption. This unit becomes known as the "Scorpions."
August 1999 To help combat white-collar crime, a specialized commercial crime court is established in Pretoria. A second court is set up in Johannesburg in January 2003.
September 1999 The South African government announces the strategic arms procurement package-the acquisition of aircraft, helicopters, submarines and ships at a cost of 29 billion rand. The deal will develop into one of South Africa's biggest corruption scandals, the so-called "arms deal."
November 1999 Correctional Services Commissioner Khulekani Sitole resigns after Parliament's public accounts committee finds prima facie evidence that he abused his position as chief of South Africa's prisons, citing several instances of misappropriation of government funds and conflicts of interest.
March 2000 A freedom of information law called the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) goes into effect. The law requires private as well as governmental bodies to disclose information.
March 2000 Former Mpumalanga Parks Board (MPB) Finance Director Nico Krugel is sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in a scheme involving the funneling of funds from MPB coffers to the ANC and various politicians. Also implicated in the scandal are MPB chief executive Alan Gray, former MPB accountant Maxi Green, ANC Youth League Secretary James Nkambule and ANC Youth League organizer Alfred Thumbathi.
November 2000 After the auditor general finds substantial irregularities in the arms deal, Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) calls for an investigation to be conducted by a Joint Investigating Team (JIT) consisting of the SIU, the auditor general, the national director of public prosecutions, and the public protector. After weeks of political squabbling, the SIU is excluded from the team.
November 2000 Mineral and Energy Affairs Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka uncovers a secret deal between the Strategic Fuel Fund (SFF), the state-owned oil company, and two private oil trading companies that effectively sold off the country's oil trading operations without the government's knowledge. Several officials involved admit they accepted bribes. The next month, Mlambo-Ngcuka fires the entire SFF board and repudiates the deal.
February 2001 The Protected Disclosures Act comes into effect, protecting public- and private-sector whistle blowers who report corruption or illegal activities at their places of employment.
March 2001 The South African government signs onto the U.N. Global Programme Against Corruption, which prescribes a country assessment of corruption and anti-corruption activities.
March 2001 The Sunday Times reports that Tony Yengeni, ANC chief whip and former chair of the defense committee, received a substantial discount on a Mercedes Benz from an arms deal bidder. In October, he is arrested and resigns from Parliament. In March 2003, he receives a four-year sentence for defrauding Parliament.
May 2001 The JIT begins holding public hearings into the arms deal. The resulting report, published in November, clears members of President Mbeki's cabinet of wrongdoing but criticizes the government's tendering procedures.
July 2001 The Star publishes a list of 33 cars supplied at a discount by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company to prominent officials including Tony Yengeni and Siphiwe Nyanda, the head of the defense force.
July 2001 The Mail & Guardian reveals that former minister of defense Joe Modise's luxury home was being built by Denel, a state-owned arms manufacturer. After he left Parliament in June 1999, Modise became chairman of Conlog holdings, which had an indirect stake in the arms deal.
August 2001 ANC MP and SCOPA member Andrew Feinstein resigns, expressing disappointment with the way the ANC has handled the arms deal investigation.
December 2001 Judge Thabani Jali leads a commission to investigate wrongdoing in the country's prison system. The commission is soon inundated with allegations of corruption and maladministration in prisons throughout the country.
January 2002 The cabinet adopts the Public Service Anti-Corruption Strategy, which includes a review and consolidation of the legislative framework to fight corruption.
February 2002 Dr. Gavin Woods resigns as chairperson of SCOPA in protest over the ANC's obstruction of SCOPA's investigation into the arms deal.
March 2002 President Mbeki announces the creation of a U.S.-style presidential press corps, which will have privileged access to the president, including exclusive briefings and the chance to accompany the president on official trips.
April 2002 The "Scorpions" begin investigating former transport minister Mac Maharaj for misconduct in the awarding of licensing and toll road contracts to a businessman under criminal investigation. An independent inquiry completed by the FirstRand bank in August 2003 finds no evidence to support media allegations of corruption, but Maharaj resigns from the bank's board due to the simmering controversy.
July 2002 Andile Nkuhlu, a chief director of the Department of Public Enterprises, is suspended and later resigns following allegations he received payments from a company that won a state forestry contract.
November 2002 Richard Young, director of a computer systems firm that lost out on a defense contract, wins a landmark legal battle when the Pretoria High Court grants his request under PAIA to compel the release of documents relating to the arms deal.
November 2002 The Mail and Guardian reveals that the mysterious "Mr. X" who is being investigated by the "Scorpions" for accepting a 500,000 rand bribe from a defense firm is Deputy President Jacob Zuma.
January 2003 President Mbeki sends a specially appointed Interim Management Team (IMT) to the Eastern Cape Province to tackle governmental inefficiency and corruption in the scandal-plagued region. The IMT will expose hundreds of cases of corruption, many of which result in criminal convictions.
February 2003 The "Scorpions" arrest former Western Cape Premier Peter Marais and former Deputy Minister David Malatsi on corruption charges. They are alleged to have accepted kickbacks from the developer of a golf resort. Their trial, which began in November 2003, is still in progress.
April 2003 A Pretoria court sentences Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to five years in jail for a string of theft and fraud offenses committed when she headed the ANC's women's league.
June 2003 The Guardian confirms that British arms manufacturer BAE Systems paid millions in secret commissions to win a contract to supply Hawk jets to South Africa.
July 2003 After a preliminary investigation uncovers widespread fraud in magistrate courts, President Mbeki signs a proclamation authorizing a high-level investigation of senior magistrates, prosecutors, court clerks and national and regional department of justice offices.
July 2003 Representatives of 11 South African civil society organizations establish the Civil Society Network against Corruption.
August 2003 Chief prosecutor Bulelani Ngcuka drops corruption charges against Deputy President Jacob Zuma, who had been accused of soliciting a bribe from a foreign company seeking a contract with the South African military. The case is revived in June 2005 after Zuma's former financial advisor, Shabir Shaik, is convicted of corruption and fraud.
April 2004 Mbeki wins a second presidential term following the ANC's landslide victory in the general election.
January 2005 Forty current and former members of Parliament are charged in the "Travelgate" affair, which involves the misuse of government travel vouchers. Over the following months, several MPs reach plea agreements that involve punishments of fines and imprisonment.
April 2005 The High Court dismisses a PAIA claim filed by the watchdog group Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) compelling the four biggest political parties—the ANC, the Democratic Alliance, the Inkatha Freedom Party, and the New National Party—to disclose their funding sources. The court rules that political parties are private bodies not obligated to disclose this information under the PAIA.
June 2005 As a direct result of the Shabir Shaik conviction, President Mbeki fires Deputy President Jacob Zuma. Zuma is subsequently charged with corruption arising from his dealings with Shabir Shaik and foreign companies involved in the 1999 arms deal.
July 2006 As part of a massive fraud investigation, the SIU announces it will look into the possibility that more than 400,000 private individuals earning salaries have illegally received social grants. The investigation has already resulted in the conviction of about 650 government employees and savings to the social development department of roughly 2 billion rand (US$270,716,587).
September 2006 A South African judge dismisses the corruption charges filed against Jacob Zuma, the country's controversial former deputy president.
November 2006 The London Independent reports, "The top appeals court of South Africa dented ex- Deputy President Jacob Zuma's chances of becoming president yesterday when it confirmed corruption convictions against Schabir Shaik, his former financial adviser. The ruling means Mr Zuma himself could face new graft charges."
One of South Africa's most brutal criminals, Ananias Mathe, escapes from the country's highest security prison after covering his body in petroleum jelly before slipping out of his cell. Mathe is the first prisoner to escape from the 36 year-old Pretoria's C-Max prison. The 29-year-old Mozambican former soldier was awaiting trial on 51 charges of murder, rape, armed robbery and car hijacking after heading a gang of about 40 men that terrorized parts of Johannesburg and small towns in the north of South Africa for three years.
South Africa becomes the first African country to legalize gay marriage.
February 2007 The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) releases a 20-page complaint arguing that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) had violated the terms and conditions of its license, the Broadcasting Act and the South African Constitution, in relation to its handling of the blacklisting of political commentators. The complaint alleges that by excluding certain commentators, the Broadcasting Act's requirement that its public services provide "unbiased coverage, impartiality, balance, and independence from government, commercial and other interests" had been violated.
June 2007 The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) sets in motion the Business Survey Against Corruption, which is a follow-up of the 2002 survey initiated under the Country Corruption Assessment program. Over 1500 companies have been earmarked to be part of the study, aimed at gaining a better understanding the business environment and obstacles in doing business, corruption and its impact on the private sector.
December 2007 Jacob Zuma, defeats Thabo Mbeki in a bitterly-contested election for the leadership of the ANC. A week later, the newly elected leader of South Africa's ruling party is ordered to stand trial on racketeering, money laundering, corruption and fraud charges.
January 2008 News VOA reports, President Mbeki places national chief of police Jackie Selebi on extended leave following an announcement by an independent investigating unit that he is to be charged with corruption. Selebi reportedly is accused of receiving some US$175,000 from a friend who has been convicted of drug smuggling.
February 2008 The BBC reports, "A South African court has given a Swiss engineer accused of being part of a global nuclear weapons smuggling ring a 13-year suspended jail sentence. Daniel Geiges, 69, who is ill with cancer, pleaded guilty to involvement in the import and export of equipment…The network was headed by a Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan who in 2004 confessed to leaking nuclear secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea."
The government announces that the country's anti-corruption unit, the Scorpions, will be dissolved and merged with the national police. According to Ahmed Jazzbhai of the Human Rights Advocacy Programme, the ruling party has targeted the Scorpions because the anti-corruption unit had gone after senior ANC leaders for fraud and corruption.
March 2008 The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is probing more than R2-billion (US$ 252,808,705) worth of tenders issued by the Department of Correctional Services suspected to have benefited top departmental officials. President Mbeki signed a proclamation authorizing a probe of the contracts, which date back to January 2000.
May 2008 The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) uncovers wide-scale corruption among government officials involved in the awarding of housing subsidies to government employees. There are suspicions that such homes have been given to foreign nationals.