Retro Events

Retro Events in South Africa

The 60’s and 70’s were interesting years in this country, with the National Party firmly on the road to entrenching apartheid and everybody else living with the consequences. The 1970’s were the beginning of the end, but also a period of technology and looking towards the future. Turbulent, yet interesting times….


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. 1. IT’S NOW OR NEVER – Elvis Presley 2. APACHE – The Shadows 3. RUNNING BEAR – Johnny Preston
  • Movies of the year: The Alamo, The Angry Red Planet, The Apartment, La Dolce Vita, Elmer Gantry, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Killing, Little Shop of Horrors, The Magnificent Seven, Psycho, Spartacus, The Time Machine .
  • An unsuccessful attempt is made on the life of Hendrik Verwoerd.
  • The Springboks make their last appearance at the Olympic Games.
  • Over 400 lives are lost in a mining disaster at the Clydesdale Colliery near Sasolburg.
  • CR Swart is made the last Governor General of the Union of South Africa. In 1961 he will become the first State President of the Republic of South Africa.
  • 21 March: At Sharpeville the police opened fire on an unarmed and peaceful crowd, killing 69 and wounding 186
  • 8 April: The government bans the ANC and PAC.
  • 15 July: The first Boeing 707 jet aircraft arrives in South Africa, heralding a new era in aviation in South Africa.
  • October: a Referendum amongst whites is held to establish the Republic of South Africa.


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. WOODEN HEART – Elvis Presley 2. SAILOR – Petula Clark 3. WONDERLAND BY NIGHT – Bert Kaempfert
  • At the movies: 101 Dalmations, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Day the Earth Caught Fire, The Hustler,  Judgment at Nuremberg, Lolita, The Pit and the Pendulum , Through a Glass Darkly, West Side Story.
  • Albert Luthuli is awarded the Nobel Prize.
  • 9 April: Hendrik Verwoerd escapes death after an assassination attempt at the Rand Show.
  • 12 April: The Soviets launch Yuri Gagarin on the world’s first piloted space mission. The Vostok spacecraft makes a single orbit of the Earth, returning 108 minutes after liftoff.
  • 31 May: Following a whites only referendum, the NP government under Prime Minister HF Verwoerd declared South Africa a republic. A new currency, flag, anthem and coat of arms is introduced and South Africa withdrew from the British Commonwealth.
  • The infamous Berlin Wall is built to stop East Germans fleeing to the West, dividing East and West Berlin and ending the flow of refugees out of East Germany.
  • The first American in space is Alan B. Shepherd Jr. who rode the first U.S. suborbital spacecraft.
  • Decimal coinage is introduced into South Africa.
  • FM radio transmissions begin from Johannesburg


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. TELSTAR – Tornadoes 2. I REMEMBER YOU – Frank Ifield 3. THE LOCOMOTION – Little Eva
  • Popular movies released: Birdman of Alcatraz , Lawrence of Arabia, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Manchurian Candidate, Divorce-Italian Style. Billy Budd, Cape Fear, Dr. No, How the West Was Won, The Longest Day,
    The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Tales of Terror.
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis brings the world to the brink of war.
  • Uganda gains its independence under Milton Obote while Tanganyika becomes a republic under Julius Nyerere.
  • Nelson Mandela is arrested
  • Lt. Col. John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. FROM ME TO YOU – Beatles 2. SHE LOVES YOU – Beatles 3. BACHELOR BOY – Cliff Richard &The Shadows
  • At the movies: The Birds, Cleopatra, Dr. Strangelove, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,
    The Great Escape, Irma la Douce, Jason and the Argonauts, Lord of the Flies, The Silence, This Sporting Life.
  • The infamous Rivonia Trial commences.
  • President John F Kennedy is shot and killed in Dallas, Texas.
  • The federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland is dissolved.
  • Valentina Tereskhkova became the first woman in space, logging almost three days in Vostok 6.
  • The Organization of African Unity (OAU) is founded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The organization stood for the eradication of colonialism, mutual defense and the promotion of the economic and social welfare of member states.


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. HEART – Gene Rockwell 2. YOU’RE MY WORLD – Cilla Black 3. CHAPEL OF LOVE – June Muscat
  • Movies of the year: Beckett, Cheyenne Autumn, Diary of a Chambermaid, A Fistful of Dollars, Goldfinger, The Killers, Marnie, My Fair Lady, Night of the Iguana, Two Thousand Maniacs, Zorba the Greek.
  • Ian Smith becomes the Prime Minister of Rhodesia, while in Britain Harold Wilson becomes Prime Minister.
  • Radio Highveld, Good Hope and Port Natal come into being.
  • 12 December: The conclusion of the Rivonia trial. The principal defendants sentenced to life imprisonment in the Pretoria Supreme Court for Sabotage, Conspiracy to sabotage and furtherance of the aims of a prohibited organisation (The Communist Party of South Africa and the ANC)


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. THE CARNIVAL IS OVER – Seekers 2. TORTURE – Gene Rockwell 3. TICKET TO RIDE – Beatles
  • Top movies: Alfie, Battle of Algiers, Dr. Zhivago, Lord Jim, Ship of Fools, Six in Paris, The Sound of Music,
    Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Zulu.
  • Rhodesia’s government, led by Ian Smith, declared Independence (UDI) from Great Britain, in defiance of the British government. The act was declared treasonable, and immediately applied economic sanctions that were expanded by the United Nations.
  • Swimmer Karen Muir (12) sets a world swimming record for the womens 100 metre backstroke.


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING – Nancy Sinatra 2. DISTANT DRUMS – Jim Reeves 3. STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT – Frank Sinatra
  • Popular Movies: A Man for All Seasons, Chimes at Midnight , Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Fearless Vampire Killers, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, A Man and a Woman, To Sir, With Love. Torn Curtain.
  • Prime Minister Hendrick Verwoerd is murdered in parliament and is succeeded by Prime Minister BJ Vorster
  • Bechuanaland (Botswana) becomes independent, as does Basutoland (Lesotho)


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. SILENCE IS GOLDEN – The Tremeloes 2. I’M A BELIEVER – The Monkees 3. THE LAST WALTZ – Engelbert Humperdinck
  • Popular Movies: The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, In the Heat of the Night, Cool Hand Luke, Camelot, The Dirty Dozen, Far From the Madding Crowd, The Graduate, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, The Jungle Book, One Million Years B.C., Valley of the Dolls.
  • 27 January: The crew of the first piloted Apollo mission; Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee, die when a flash fire sweeps through the sealed cabin of their Apollo 1 command module.
  • December: The first test version of Concorde is unveiled by Aerospatiale.
  • Doctor Chris Barnard performs the first heart transplant. The patient, Louis Washkansky, lived for 18 days.
  • The liner Queen Elizabeth 2 is launched at Clydebank.


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. SUNGLASSES – Hilary 2. PICKING UP PEBBLES – Cornelia 3. MASTER JACK – Four Jacks & A Jill
  • Popular Movies 2001: A Space Odyssey, Romeo and Juliet, Funny Girl, The Lion in Winter, Oliver, Barbarella, The Birthday Party, The Bride Wore Black, Bullitt, Green Berets, Madigan, Night of the Living Dead, Planet of the Apes, The Producers, Romeo and Juliet, Rosemary’s Baby, Yellow Submarine.
  • June: Work on the JG Strijdom Tower (Hillbrow Tower) commences and continues until April 1971. The tower was built at a cost of around R2-million. It is 270-metres (or 90 storeys) high, making it the tallest man-made structure with a lift in Africa.
  • Martin Luther King is assassinated.
  • Swaziland gains its independence.
  • Jim Fouche becomes the new South African State President.


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. SUSPICIOUS MINDS – Elvis Presley 2. DON’T FORGET TO REMEMBER – The Bee Gees 3. YOU CAN CRY IF YOU WANT TO – The Troggs
  • At the movies: Alice’s Restaurant, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Bod & Carol & Ted & Alice, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Colossus: The Forbin Project, Easy Rider, Man Called Horse, M*A*S*H, Midnight Cowboy, Satyricon, They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, True Grit.
  • The South African Students Organisation is founded by Steve Biko
  • 9 February: the first test flight of a Boeing 747 was flown.
  • 2 March: First test flight from Toulouse to Le Bourget in France by Concorde.
  • 16 July, the Apollo 11 launch.
  • 20 July: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, become the first men to land on the moon with Apollo 11.
  • The Woodstock Music and Art Festival was held at Bethel, New York, near Woodstock. Over 400,000 people attended. The weekend was rainy, the facilities were overcrowded, and attendees shared food, alcohol, and drugs, although no violence was reported.


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. PRETTY BELINDA – Chris Andrews 2. IN THE SUMMERTIME – Mungo Jerry 3. LOVE IS A BEAUTIFUL SONG – Dave Mills
  • Movies of the year: Catch 22, Husbands, Little Big Man, Passion of Anna, Soldier Blue, Tora! Tora! Tora!
  • The Aswan Dam is completed in Egypt. 364 feet high and 121,565 feet long, it dammed the Nile River.
  • 11 April: Apollo 13, the third lunar landing mission, is launched. After an oxygen tank exploded on the evening of April 13, the new mission objective was to get the crew home alive.


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. MAMMY BLUE – Charisma 2. CO CO – The Sweet 3. KNOCK THREE TIMES – Dawn
  • Movies of the year: Andromeda Strain, Chato’s Land, Clockwork Orange, Dirty Harry, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Fiddler on the Roof, The French Connection, Harold and Maude, Klute, Macbeth, The Omega Man, Shaft, Silent Running, Straw Dogs.
  • January: the first sailing of the Cape to Rio Yacht race, Ocean Spirit took line honours, while Albatross II was awarded the South Atlantic Trophy for winning on handicap.
  • January: Idi Amin seizes power in Uganda while the Ugandan President Milton Obote was out of the country.
  • The “Lady in White“, Perla Siedle Gibson, passes away at the age 82.


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW – Johnny Nash 2. BEAUTIFUL SUNDAY – Daniel Boone 3. SYLVIA’S MOTHER – Dr Hook & The Medicine Show
  • At the Movies: The Godfather, Deliverance, Cabaret, The Candidate, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex…, Frenzy, Heat, Play It Again Sam, Slaughterhouse-Five.
  • National Service for white males is extended to one year from the previous 9 months.
  • Terrorists kidnap Israeli competitors at the Munich Olympic games.


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. I DON’T WANNA PLAY HOUSE – Barbara Ray 2. HEAVEN IS MY WOMAN’S LOVE – Tommy Overstreet 3. SORROW – David Bowie
  • Top movies: American Graffiti, Badlands, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, Cleopatra Jones, Enter the Dragon, High Plains Drifter, Jesus Christ Superstar, Last Tango in Paris, Oliver Twist, Paper Chase, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Soylent Green, The Sting, Westworld.
  • 6 October: The Egyptians and Syrians launch a surprise attack on Israel, catching Israel almost totally by surprise.
  • The Sears Tower in Chicago is completed, becoming the tallest building in the world at 1,445 feet.
  • The Cape to Rio race saw Kees Bruynzeel taking both line and overall handicap honours in Stormy
  • Skylab, the first American space station, is launched.
  • Concorde G-BSST arrived in Johannesburg for “hot and high” airfield performance trials. She remains in South Africa for a month before returning home.


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. WHY ME – Kris Kristofferson 2. KUNG FU FIGHTING – Carl Douglas 3. THE PEACEMAKER – Albert Hammond
  • At the Movies Chinatown, The Godfather Part II, Day for Night, Blazing Saddles, The Towering Inferno, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Arabian Nights, Blazing Saddles, Caged Heat, The Great Gatsby, Jakob the Liar, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Sugarland Express, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
  • The United Nations orders South Africa to turn over Prtectorate of South West Africa to the Namibians. This was rejected by South African Premier BJ Vorster.
  • Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia is deposed by the army. The new government suspended the constitution and the legislature, and executed 60 former government officials.
  • The Oriental Plaza is established in Fordsburg to house the former traders of Fietas (Vrededorp).
  • The Rosenkowitz sextuplets are born in Cape Town.


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET – Bachman Turner Overdrive 2. FOX ON THE RUN – The Sweet 3. LOVE HURTS – Nazareth
  • Movies of the year: Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon, Jaws, The Magic Flute, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Stepford Wives, Tommy.
  • 17 April: Pol Pot Takes Over Cambodia. He implemented the forced relocation of millions of people, resulting in the deaths of at least hundreds of thousands of individuals.
  • 25 June: Mozambican attains its independence from the Portuguese
  • Angola gains its independence from Portugal. A civil war ensued, during which the MPLA accepted Cuban troops to support its cause. UNITA received aid from South Africa, which hurt its cause in the West.
  • The Suez Canal is reopened.
  • The end of the Vietnam war
  • David Protter sets off the Fox Street Siege by taking hostages at the Israeli Embassy.
  • Nico Diederichs is sworn in as the new State President.
  • The Simonstown agreement between Britain and South Africa is terminated. The Royal Navy is no longer represented in South Africa.
  • 03 October: The final voyage from Cape Town of the mailship SA Oranje.


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. LADY IN BLUE – Joe Dolan 2. I WON’T GIVE UP – Bruce Millar 3. DON’T GO BREAKING MY HEART – Elton John & Kiki Dee
  • At the movies: All the President’s Men, Bound for Glory, Carrie, Harlan County, U.S.A. , Kings of the Road, Obsession, Robin and Marian, Rocky, Taxi Driver.
  • 21 January: The first Concorde passenger flights: a British Airways Concorde travels from London to Bahrain, while Air France goes from Paris to Rio.
  • 5 January: The official first day of television broadcasts in South Africa.
  • 01 June: Final sailing of the mailship Pendennis Castle.
  • 16 June: the Soweto Riots commence.
  • 17 June: The raid on Entebbe “Operation Thunderbolt” The hostages on board a hijacked Air France jetliner are released by Israeli commandos in a daring resuce mission.
  • Line honours in the Cape To Rio taken by the American Huey Long in his maxi yacht Ondine.
  • Transkei becomes independent.


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. MISSISSIPPI – Pussycat 2. DON’T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA – Julie Covington 3. BARRACUDA – Heart
  • At the Movies: Saturday Night Fever, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Julia, 1900, Annie Hall, Black and White in Color, Cross of Iron, I Claudius, The Last Tycoon, The Last Wave, Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald.
  • Egyptian President Anwar Sadat arrived in Israel, becoming the first Arab leader to visit Israel.
  • Sept: Steve Biko dies in after being in detention for 26 days
  • Elvis Presley dies at the age of 42.
  • 6 September: Final voyage from Cape Town of the mailship Windsor Castle.
  • 27 September: Final voyage from Cape Town of the mailship SA Vaal.
  • Bophuthatswana becomes independent.


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. RIVERS OF BABYLON – Boney M 2. SUBSTITUTE – Clout 3. KISS YOU ALL OVER – Exile
  • At the Movies: The Deer Hunter, Midnight Express, Heaven Can Wait, Coming Home, Eraserhead, Grease, Halloween, Les Miserables, Pretty Baby.
  • P.W. Botha replaces John Vorster as Prime Minister
  • The smallpox disease is considered eradicated from the Earth, thanks to a worldwide prevention program, combined with wide distribution of a vaccine.


  • The top 3 hit singles in SA: 1. MICHAEL ROW THE BOAT ASHORE – Richard Jon Smith 2. TOO MUCH HEAVEN – Bee Gees 3. SOME GIRLS – Racey
  • Movies: Alien, All Quiet on the Western Front, Apocalypse Now, Breaker Morant, La Cage Aux Folles, Caligula, Escape from Alcatraz, Hair, Mad Max, Norma Rae, Nosferatu: The Vampyre, Tin Drum.
  • The Soviets invade Afghanistan with 40,000 troops. Afghanistan soon became the “Soviet Vietnam,” tying up ever greater numbers of Soviet troops and resulting in countless body bags being sent back to Russia.
  • 11 April: Ugandan dictator Idi Amin flees the Ugandan capital of Kampala as Tanzanian troops and forces of the Uganda National Liberation Front close in.
  • Jodi Sheckter becomes wins the Formula 1 world championship.

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