April 26 (2017) Wednesday

On this day in 1994, South Africa’s first multiracial elections started.

The elections were the first in which citizens of all races were allowed to take part, and were therefore also the first held with universal adult suffrage. The election was conducted under the direction of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), and marked the end of the four-year process that ended apartheid. Millions queued in lines over a three-day voting period. Altogether 19 726 579 votes were counted and 193 081 were rejected as invalid. As widely expected, the ANC, whose slate incorporated the labour confederation COSATU and the South African Communist Party, won a sweeping victory, taking 62% of the vote, just short of the two-thirds majority required to unilaterally amend the Interim Constitution. As required by that document, the ANC formed a Government of National Unity with the National Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party, the two other parties that won more than 20 seats in the National Assembly. The new National Assembly's first act was to elect Nelson Mandela as President.


  • In 1859, Dan Sickles was acquitted of murder on grounds of temporary insanity. Sickles was an American politician, soldier, and diplomat. Born to a wealthy family in New York City, Sickles was involved in a number of public scandals, most notably the killing of his wife's lover, Philip Key II, son of Francis Key. He was acquitted after using temporary insanity as a legal defence for the first time in United States history. This became a defence associated with 'crimes of passion'. In 1859, in Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House, Sickles shot and killed Key, the district attorney of the District of Columbia. Sickles had discovered that Philip Key was having an affair with his young wife.
  • In 1928, Madame Tussaud's waxwork exhibition opened in London. It was founded by wax sculptor Marie Tussaud and became a major tourist attraction in London. The museum has now grown to become a major tourist attraction in London, incorporating (until 2010) the London Planetarium in its west wing. It has expanded and will expand with branches in Amsterdam, Bangkok, Beijing, Berlin, Blackpool, Hollywood, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, New York City, Niagara Falls (Canada), Orlando, Prague, San Francisco, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Vienna, Washington, D.C., Wuhan, Tokyo and a temporary museum in Busan (Korea). Today's wax figures at Tussauds include historical and royal figures, film stars, sports stars and famous murderers. Known as "Madame Tussauds" museums (no apostrophe), they are owned by a leisure company called Merlin Entertainments, following the acquisition of The Tussauds Group in May 2007.
  • In 1962, the Lockheed A-12 flew for the first time. The reconnaissance aircraft was built for the CIA by Lockheed's Skunk Works. It was designated A-12, the 12th in a series of internal design efforts with the A referring to "Archangel", the internal code name of the aircraft. It competed in the CIA's Oxcart program against the Convair Kingfish proposal in 1959, and won for a variety of reasons. The A-12's specifications were slightly better than those of the Kingfish, and its projected cost was significantly less. Convair's design had a smaller radar cross-section, however, and CIA's representatives initially favoured it for that reason. The A-12 was produced from 1962 to 1964, and was in operation from 1963 until 1968. The A-12's final mission was flown in May 1968, and the programme and aircraft retired in June of that year.
  • In 1964, the United Republic of Tanzania was formed. After the Union, the late Julius Nyerere became the first President of the United Republic of Tanzania and Sheikh Karume became the First Vice President of the United Republic of Tanzania and the President of Zanzibar and Chairman of the Revolutionary Council. The late Rashidi Kawawa became the second Vice President of Tanzania and leader of Government business in the National Assembly. In 1992, Tanzania adopted a Multiparty Democracy System which necessitated major Constitutional amendments. These amendments addressed the issue of Vice President and the system of running mate was introduced that paired a presidential and Vice Presidential candidate. This meant that, the President of Zanzibar ceased being an automatic Vice President of the Union but became a member of the Union Cabinet.
  • In 1967, Muhammad Ali refused his induction into army and was stripped of his boxing title. Ali, a Muslim, cited religious reasons for his decision to forgo military service. He famously said: “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” On June 20, 1967, Ali was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, and fined $10 000 and banned from boxing for three years. He stayed out of prison as his case was appealed and returned to the ring on October 26, 1970, knocking out Jerry Quarry in Atlanta in the third round. On March 8, 1971, Ali fought Joe Frazier in the “Fight of the Century” and lost after 15 rounds, the first loss of his professional boxing career. On June 28 of that same year, the US Supreme Court overturned his conviction for evading the draft.

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William Gqoba

In 1888, Xhosa author William Gqoba died.

During his relatively short life, he worked as a wagonmaker, clerk, teacher, translator of Xhosa and English, and a pastor. Gqoba was born in Gaba, near Alice, Eastern Cape. His father was Gqoba of the Cirha clan, and his grandfather, Peyi, had been a disciple and close associate of Ntsikana, who had played a key role in Xhosa literature, as well as in the Xhosa's conversion to Christianity. Gqoba attended the Mission School at Tyhume, followed by the Lovedale Institute. In May 1856 he was indentured as a wagonmaker, working in Lovedale, then in King William's Town for a year, and finally at Brownlee Station. In 1858 he was installed as an elder in Tiyo Soga's mission church at Mgwali. From 1884 until his death in 1888 he was the editor of The Xhosa Messenger, in which he also published his own articles on the history of the Xhosa people.