20 January holds a special place in South Africa’s diverse historical narrative, marked by significant events that span from political milestones to natural phenomena.
These historical events happened on 20 January
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This day has seen the unfolding of events that have shaped the nation’s course. Let’s look back at five such events that occurred on this date.
1. Samora Machel Death Investigation (1987)
The mysterious death of Mozambican President Samora Machel led to the first hearing of the Margo Commission on 20 January 1987. Machel’s plane crashed near the South African border under suspicious circumstances, prompting widespread speculation about the apartheid government’s involvement.
The commission’s findings, which ruled out sabotage and blamed the Soviet crew, were contested by subsequent Soviet and Mozambican investigations, as well as the later Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) investigations.
2. Captain William Kidd Sighted (1697)
On 20 January 1697, the notorious pirate Captain William Kidd was reportedly sighted off the coast of Cape Town.
Kidd, known for his transition from privateering to piracy, was on a mission aboard the Adventure Galley, which had proved unsuccessful in capturing French vessels or finding pirates in Madagascar.
3. Bishop Tutu Receives Martin Luther King Award (1986)
Bishop Desmond Tutu, a prominent anti-apartheid and human rights activist, was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Non-Violence on 20 January 1986.
This accolade recognised Tutu’s profound commitment to nonviolent protest and his influential role in the struggle against apartheid. His efforts, alongside those of his wife Leah, significantly contributed to the movement for equality and justice in South Africa.
4. Record-Breaking Temperature in the Cape (1939)
On this day in 1939, the highest temperature ever recorded in the shade in South Africa was noted at Goodhouse, in the Cape Province. The mercury soared to 47.8°C, a record that stood until at least the year 2000, illustrating the extreme climatic conditions that can occur in the region.
5. Warning Against Re-Registration of Post Newspapers (1981)
The Minister of the Interior issued a warning on 20 January 1981 against the re-registration of the Post newspapers, accusing them of fostering a revolutionary climate in South Africa.
This move, indicative of the apartheid government’s stance on press freedom, was widely condemned. Percy Qoboza, the editor of the Post newspapers, highlighted the challenges of creating credible media for blacks in South Africa under such repressive conditions.