Timeline: An Activist’s Life

Beige color = Lee's Life = Benjamin Pule “Lee” Leinaeng     Gray color = The ANC and Apartheid in South Africa = The ANC and Apartheid in South Africa



1910Map of South Africa and neighboring countiresThe Union of South Africa is formed, made up of the former British colonies of the Cape and Natal, and the Boer republics of Transvaal, and Orange Free State.


1912The South African Native National Congress is founded in Bloemfontein to promote the rights of the South African black population. Renamed the African National Congress (ANC) in 1923.


1913Five representatives of the South African Native National Congress traveling to England in in 1914 to protest the 1913 Land Act
The Land Act prevents blacks, except those living in Cape Province, from buying land outside reserves.


1914The National Party of South Africa, comprised mostly of Afrikaners and English-speaking whites, is founded.


1923The Native Urban Areas Act “pass laws”, designated to segregate blacks and whites in South Africa, are established. The laws force all black African men to carry permits called “passes” at all times. Anyone without a pass would be arrested.


1936Lee with his father and older brother in Bloemfontein
Benjamin Pule “Lee” Leinaeng born in Manguang Township in Bloemfontein.


1948Sign from Apartheid-era South Africa
Policy of apartheid (“apartness”) adopted when the National Party wins the general election.


1950The Population Registration Act classifies all South Africans intro three racial categories: Bantu (black African), white or mixed. Mixed marriages are made illegal. The Group Areas Act is passed to segregate blacks and whites. The Communist Party is banned. The ANC responds with civil disobedience campaigns.


1950sForced removals, in which hundreds of thousands of black Africans were moved out of urban areas, take place in Johannesburg, Sophiatown and elsewhere around South Africa.


1952Lee participates in African National Congress Defiance Campaign but his older brother Ezekiel sends him back to the Manguang Township before Lee can enter the white section of Bloemfontein.


1960Black South Africans congregated in Sharpeville to protest against blacks having to carry pass cards. On March 21, 67 black demonstrators are killed in the “Sharpeville Massacre” and the South African Government bans the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).


1960Lee and the other ANC Youth Cell members burn their pass cards and flee
the country into Botswana (Bechuanaland), six months after the
Sharpeville massacre.


1961The Twelve 'disciples' arrive in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
The 12 “disciples” arrive in Dar Es Salaam.


1961In addition to peaceful protests and boycotts, the ANC launches its sabotage campaign, using terrorist tactics such as intimidation and bombing. Mandela becomes the leader of the ANC’s armed wing.


1962Cover of the June 26, 1965 issue of South Africa Freedom News
Lee leaves for a scholarship to Liberia and then
returns to Dar Es Salaam after he is not given the scholarship but
forced to do manual labor. He discovers the others have left on scholarships
to Cuba, Germany, Yugoslavia, the U.K. and the U.S. He becomes the
editor of South African Freedom News, a worldwide magazine about the South
African freedom struggle.


1962The United Nations passes a resolution condemning apartheid policies in South Africa.


1963Lee in Germany
Lee gets a scholarship to study journalism in East Germany.


1964Lee returns to Dar Es Salaam to work in the Department of Publicity for the ANC and sets up Spotlight, a weekly bulletin produced by the ANC in the 1960s.


1964ANC leader Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life imprisonment on charges including sabotage and conspiracy.


1967Lee receives a scholarship to the U.S. to study
journalism at Lincoln University, a historically black university
located in Pennsylvania. He also helps to set up ANC office in the U.S.


1972Lee and Rudean at a party.
Lee receives a bachelors degree of science from Temple
University in Philadelphia, where he majored in journalism focusing on television and radio. He sets up an ANC office in New York City and represents the ANC at colleges and churches throughout the country, boldly speaking out about the brutal reality of apartheid. Lee meets Rudean at a party at the Lesotho ambassador’s house in New Rochelle, New York.


1973Lee moves to New York, moves in with Rudean and
enrolls in New York University’s masters program in communications
and education.


1974Rudean giving a speech at an at a university rally
Lee becomes deputy representative of ANC and stays in
the Bronx to study while Rudean and sons move to Dar Es Salaam, where
Rudean takes a job teaching chemistry and physics in the Department
of Education.


1974The South African government passes a decree that forces schools for blacks to use the Afrikaans language (spoken by white South Africans) for instruction.


1975Lee visits Rudean and sons in Tanzania for one month,
during which time he shoots super-8mm films of the family.


1976RudeanLee receives his masters degree in communications and education from NYU. Rudean returns from Dar Es Salaam and the two marry.


1976More than 15,000 students in Soweto protest receiving instructions in Afrikaans rather than English. Police open fire killing 566 people, including many children.


1977Lee mentors the many South African youths who left
their country and eventually came to America as students. He
encourages them in their studies and stresses the value of education.
He also loves to entertain friends, bringing together the South
African, Southern African and African-American communities.


1980sDivestment movements — pressuring corporations to pull their investments and funds out of South Africa — flourish in the United States, Canada, Britain and other countries.


1981A script produced by Lee with his production notes
Lee becomes a staff member at the U.N. in the Anti-
Apartheid Unit, where he translates and narrates radio programs in
Setswana, his native language. These programs, which advocated
freedom for the oppressed people of South Africa, were broadcast into
South Africa and the neighboring frontline states.


Late 1980sLee at the United NationsLee serves as acting chairperson of the ANC
Regional Political Committee.


1989Lee with family and friends at a celebration in Bloemfontein
Lee returns to Bloemfontein to visit his family for
the first time. He will return each year with Rudean until he is
able to move back.


1989FW de Klerk
F.W. de Klerk replaces P.W. Botha as president of South Africa. He meets with Nelson Mandela. Public facilities are desegregated and many ANC activists are freed.


1990De Klerk lifts the ban on the ANC. Nelson Mandela is released after 27 years in prison.

1991De Klerk repeals remaining apartheid laws and international sanctions are lifted.


April, 1994Nelson Mandela with President Bill Clinton, July 4 1993
ANC wins first non-racial elections. Mandela become president, the Government of National Unity is formed, Commonwealth membership restored and remaining sanctions are lifted. South Africa takes a seat in the U.N. General Assembly after a 20-year absence.


1995Lee retires from the United Nations and returns to
Bloemfontein, where he builds a house for himself and Rudean.


1996The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, begins hearings on human rights crimes committed by former government and liberation movements during the apartheid era.


1997Rudean retires and joins Lee in South Africa full time.


1999ANC wins general elections. Thabo Mbeki takes over as president.


2000Cover of memorial service program for Lee
Lee dies in Bloemfontein.


2005The National Party disbands.


This features was originally published on POV’s old website on September 19, 2006.