1948 - National Party elected pledging separate development.
1950 - Government adopts key laws underpinning apartheid.
1960 - Police kill 69 people during anti-apartheid protests at Sharpeville. African National Congress (ANC) and Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) banned.
1961 - South Africa declared republic, leaves Commonwealth. Underground ANC launches guerrilla campaign.
1964 - Nelson Mandela and senior ANC associates sentenced to life in prison for resisting white rule.
1976 - More than 600 blacks die in year-long black uprising triggered by Soweto pupil protests on 16 June.
1983 - South Africa adopts new constitution giving limited parliamentary powers to Indian and mixed-race voters.
1984 - Power struggle erupts in Natal province between ANC and Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party. Country-wide political violence claims more than 15,000 lives by June 1993.
1985 - Government imposes partial emergency rule to quell black uprising. Foreign investors start disinvestment drive.
1986 - Full emergency rule declared. US Congress passes comprehensive sanctions against Pretoria and many other Western governments follow suit.
1990: 2 Feb - F W de Klerk, who replaced P W Botha as President in 1989, repudiates apartheid, legalises about 30 prohibited political groups, including ANC.
11 Feb - Mandela released from prison.
May - ANC and government meet for first time, agree to remove obstacles to negotiation: release of political prisoners, indemnity of political exiles, joint commitment to end violence in townships.
August - ANC agrees to suspend 30-year-old armed struggle.
1991: 5 June - Parliament repeals residential segregation and laws that reserve 87 per cent of land for 14 per cent white minority.
17 June - Parliament drops mandatory race classification.
Sept - Anti-apartheid movements and government sign peace accord.
20 Dec - Power-sharing talks between government and 16 anti-apartheid groups, named Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa), open.
1992: 18 March - De Klerk wins 70 per cent in referendum to test support among 3.3 million white voters for reforms.
23 June - ANC and 10 allies break off bilateral talks and Codesa negotiations in protest against 17 June massacre of at least 39 blacks at Boipatong township. ANC blames Inkatha.
26 Sept - De Klerk and Mandela meet to break deadlock over negotiations after Ciskei troops kill 28 ANC supporters, sign 'record of understanding'.
27 Sept - Inkatha quits democracy talks, accusing government and ANC of seeking to marginalise Zulu nation.
1993: 5 March - Multi-party talks resume with 26 political groups, including pro-apartheid Conservative Party and radical PAC.
25 March - Government moves to desegregate education, last remaining social cornerstone of apartheid.
29 April - De Klerk apologises for apartheid.
7 May - Main political groups agree to hold all-race elections by end of April 1994. Right-wing whites form united front to campaign for Afrikaner autonomy.
2 July - Democracy negotiators agree on 27 April 1994, as date for first all-race elections.