On this day, April 26

The dawn of democracy in South Africa as people of all races go to the polls to elect a new government. Picture: EPA/KIM LUDBROOK

The dawn of democracy in South Africa as people of all races go to the polls to elect a new government. Picture: EPA/KIM LUDBROOK

Published Apr 26, 2023


Cape Castle finally finished, first plea of temporary insanity, South African aviatrix sets record, Ukraine’s deadly Chernobyl nuclear accident, and our first democratic elections.

1679 The Castle of Good Hope, the oldest building in SA, is finished after 13 years’ work.

1803 Thousands of meteor fragments fall over L’Aigle, France; finally convincing scientists that meteors do exist.

1859 Prominent American general, Dan Sickles is acquitted of the murder of his wife’s lover, whom Sickles gunned down in broad daylight opposite the White House. It was the first time a plea of temporary insanity was successful in the US, and it is now a standard defence for ‘crimes of passion’.

1865 Cavalry troops kill John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of US President Abraham Lincoln.

1865 Confederate General J E Johnston surrenders remaining forces to Union General William Sherman at Bennett Place in Durham, North Carolina, ending the US Civil War.

1888 William Wellington Gqoba, author, interpreter and wagon-maker, dies in Lovedale, Eastern Cape. He was one of the earliest authors in Xhosa literature.

1928 Mary Bailey, wife of the magnate Sir Abe Bailey, lands at Swartkops airfield, Pretoria, and leaves again for London, England, to become the first pilot to fly solo in both directions.

1956 First modern container ship, the Ideal X, leaves Port Newark, New Jersey, for Houston, Texas.

1961 A revolt by French paratroopers is suppressed in Algeria.

1981 The world’s first human open foetal surgery is performed in San Francisco.

1982 Rock star Rod Stewart is mugged, gunman steals his $50 000 Porsche on Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California.

1986 A reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine explodes, killing 31 people. Much of Western Europe is affected.

1989 Mike Tyson is ticketed for drag racing his Lamborghini in Albany, New York.

1989 The deadliest tornado in history hits Bangladesh, killing at least 1 300 people.

1994 Voting begins in South Africa’s first multi-racial elections, ending Apartheid.

1994 A China Airlines plane crashes in Japan, killing 264 of its 271 occupants.

2005 Syria withdraws the last of its troops from Lebanon, ending 29 years of occupation.

2018 US comedian Bill Cosby, once the epitome of good, wholesome family values, is found guilty of sexual assault in Pennsylvania, US.

2022 Won’t pay in roubles? Russia says it will no longer supply gas to Poland and Bulgaria because the countries refuse to pay using the Russian currency, escalating the energy supply standoff between Russia and Europe. This is a consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.