House of Assembly of South Africa

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House of Assembly of South Africa
Volksraad van Suid-Afrika
Type
Type
Lower house (1910–1981)
Unicameral parliament (1981–1984)
White representative house (1984–1994)
History
Established 1910
Disbanded 1994
Succeeded by National Assembly of South Africa
Elections
First-past-the-post
Last election
6 September 1989
Meeting place
Houses of Parliament
Cape Town
Cape Province, South Africa
The House of Assembly

The House of Assembly (known in Afrikaans as the Volksraad, or "People's Council") was the lower house of the Parliament of South Africa from 1910 to 1981, the sole parliamentary chamber between 1981 and 1984, and latterly the white representative house of the Tricameral Parliament from 1984 to 1994, when it was replaced by the current National Assembly. Throughout its history, it was exclusively constituted of white members who were elected to office predominantly by white citizens, though until 1960 and 1970, respectively, some Black Africans and Coloureds in the Cape Province enjoyed a restricted form of suffrage.

Method of election[edit]

The members were elected by first-past-the-post voting in single-member electoral divisions. Following the abolition of the Senate in 1981, the membership of the House of Assembly was enlarged, with eight additional indirectly elected members, being elected by other members by means of proportional representation, and four being appointed by the State President.[1]

Franchise[edit]

The South Africa Act 1909 provided that the franchise in each province should be the same as that in the corresponding colony before the Union, until altered by the Union Parliament. The Act included entrenching clauses, providing that black and coloured voters could only be removed from the common voters roll in the Cape of Good Hope, by legislation passed by a two-thirds majority by both houses of Parliament in joint session.[2]

The franchise, in all parts of the Union, was initially limited to men over the age of 21. White women were enfranchised in 1929 and the remaining property and income qualifications affecting white men were abolished in 1930.[3] The voting age was reduced to 18 in the 1960s. There were some additional qualifications and disqualifications which varied between provinces.

The voters in the Orange Free State, Transvaal and South-West Africa had to be qualified white people, throughout the whole period when those areas were represented in the House of Assembly.

Cape Franchise[edit]

The Cape of Good Hope had a franchise based on property and wage qualifications, open to people of all races. At the time of the National Convention in 1908, which drafted the terms of what became the South Africa Act, "22,784 Native and Coloured persons out of a total of 152,221 electors" were entitled to vote in Cape elections.

From 1930, the traditional Cape franchise only affected non-white electors. The 1929 and 1930 extensions of white voting rights were not granted to the non-white majority of the population.

Until 1937, a small number of blacks in the Cape Province were included on the common voters' roll. Under the Representation of Natives Act (1936), three white members were elected to represent black voters in the province, with the voters' roll being limited to only 11 000.[4] In 1960, these seats were abolished.[5]

Similarly the coloured voters in Cape Province were removed from the common (or general roll), under the Separate Representation of Voters Act 1951, although as the Act was challenged during the Coloured vote constitutional crisis and not completely enforced until the later 1950s, the last year to see non-whites participate in a general election was in 1953. Coloured electors complying with qualifications were subsequently given four white MPs between 1958 and 1970. These seats were abolished in 1968 through the Separate Representation of Voters Amendment Act, 1968, enacted on behalf of Prime Minister B. J. Vorster. This removed all political representation for non-whites in South Africa; Indians had never had any parliamentary representation.

Natal Franchise[edit]

Natal had a theoretically non-racial franchise, which was similar to (but different in detail) from the property and income based franchise of the Cape. In practice, few non-white electors ever qualified to vote under it. It was estimated, in 1908, that "200 non-Europeans out of a total of 22,786 electors had secured franchise rights".[6]

In 1935, there was one black elector in Natal. He retained the general roll franchise when the Cape black voters lost it.[7]

South-West Africa[edit]

From by-elections in 1950 to 1977, six additional seats were given to members elected from South West Africa's white minority.

Tricameral Parliament[edit]

In the Tricameral Parliament, the House of Assembly (by this time numbering 178 members) was retained as the whites-only chamber while the House of Representatives and House of Delegates were designated to Coloureds and Asians respectively.

Composition by election, province and type[edit]

Election No. Cape Nat OFS SWA Tvl Total gen. CCRM CNRM Total MPs
1910, 15 September 1 51 17 17 36 121 121[8]
1915, 20 October 2 51 17 17 45 130 130
1920, 20 March 3 51 17 17 49 134 134
1921, 8 February 4 51 17 17 49 134 134
1924, 19 June 5 51 17 17 50 135 135
1929, 14 June 6 58 17 18 55 148 148
1933, 17 May 7 61 16 16 57 150 150
1938, 18 May 8 59 16 15 60 150 3 153[9]
1943, 17 July 9 56 16 14 64 150 3 153
1948, 26 May 10 55 16 13 66 150 3 153[10]
1953, 15 April 11 54 15 13 6 68 156 3 159[11]
1958, 16 April 12 52 16 14 6 68 156 4 3 163[12]
1961, 8 October 13 52 16 14 6 68 156 4 160[13]
1966, 30 March 14 54 18 15 6 73 166 4 170[14]
1970, 22 April 15 54 18 15 6 73 166 166[15]
1974, 24 April 16 55 20 14 6 76 171 171[16]
1977, 30 November 17 55 20 14 76 165 IE Nom 165[17]
1981, 29 April 18 55 20 14 76 165 8 4 177[18]
1987, 6 May 19 56 20 14 76 166 8 4 178[19]
1989, 6 September 20 56 20 14 76 166 8 4 178[20]

Abbreviations and notes:

  • General roll electoral divisions (contested at general elections)
  • Cape: Cape of Good Hope
  • Nat: Natal
  • OFS: Orange Free State
  • SWA: South-West Africa (represented in the House 1950–1977)
  • Tvl: Transvaal
  • Non-general roll seats (not filled at general elections)
  • CCRM: Cape Coloured representative members (represented in the House 1958–1970)
  • CNRM: Cape Native representative members (represented in the House 1937–1960)
  • IE: Indirectly elected, by the directly elected MPs (represented in the House January 1981 – 1994)
  • Nom: Nominated by the State President, one per province (represented in the House January 1981 – 1994)

Election results[edit]

The following table reflects only those members elected from general roll electoral divisions.

Term Election Total seats Parties
South African Unionist Labour Others Independent
1st 15 September 1910 121 67 39 4 11
National South African Unionist Labour Others Independent
2nd 20 October 1915 130 27 54 39 4 6
3rd 20 March 1920 134 44 41 25 21 3
National South African Labour Others Independent
4th 8 February 1921 134 45 79 9 1
5th 19 June 1924 135 63 53 18 1
6th 14 June 1929 148 78 61 8 1
7th 17 May 1933 150 75 61 2 2 Roos 10
Purified National United Dominion Labour Others Independent
8th 18 May 1938 150 27 111 8 3 1 Socialist
Reunited National United Dominion Labour Others Independent
9th 17 July 1943 150 43 89 7 9 2
Afrikaner Reunited National United Labour Others Independent
10th 26 May 1948 150 9 70 65 6
National United Labour Others Independent
11th 15 April 1953 156 94 57 5
12th 16 April 1958 156 103 53
National United Progressive Others Independent
13th 8 October 1961 156 105 59 1 1 National Union
14th 30 March 1966 166 126 39 1
15th 22 April 1970 166 118 47 1
16th 24 April 1974 171 123 41 7
National New Republic Progressive Federal Others Independent
17th 30 November 1977 165 134 10 17 3 South African 1
18th/19th 29 April 1981 165 131 8 26
Conservative National New Republic Progressive Federal Others Independent
20th 6 May 1987 166 22 123 1 19 1
Conservative National Democratic Others Independent
21st 6 September 1989 166 39 94 33

References[edit]

  • Keesing's Contemporary Archives (various volumes)
  • South Africa 1982: Official Yearbook of the Republic of South Africa, published by Chris van Rensburg Publications
  • The South African Constitution, by H.J. May (3rd edition 1955, Juta & Co)
  1. ^ The Republic of South Africa Electoral System
  2. ^ Section 35 of the South Africa Act 1909
  3. ^ ‘’The South African Constitution’’, by H.J. May (3rd edition 1955, Juta & Co) pp 92–93
  4. ^ Natives in South Africa, The Glasgow Herald, 16 June 1937
  5. ^ The South African Constitution, pp 101–109 (for the details of the native representative seats)
  6. ^ Discussion of the franchise and the quotations about numbers of voters are from The South African Constitution, page 10
  7. ^ The South African Constitution, page 95: H.J. May, writing in 1955, discussed the qualification for non-europeans in Natal to be voters on the common (or general) roll. "There was only one Native in Natal (and only one therefore in the whole of the Union) on the general voters’ list in 1945, and now there are none".
  8. ^ (Distribution of seats 1910–1933) The South African Constitution, pp. 79–82; South Africa 1982, page 129.
  9. ^ (Distribution of seats 1938–1943) The South African Constitution, pp. 79–82 and 104–109, South Africa 1982, page 129 and Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1943–1946, pp. 6005–6008.
  10. ^ (Distribution of seats 1948) The South African Constitution, pp. 79–82 and 104–109, South Africa 1982, page 129 and Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1946–1948, page 9297.
  11. ^ (Distribution of seats 1953) The South African Constitution, pp. 79–82, 104–109 and 406–408, South Africa 1982, page 129 and Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1952–1954, page 13005.
  12. ^ (Distribution of seats 1958) South Africa 1982, page 129 and Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1957–1958, page 16169.
  13. ^ (Distribution of seats 1961) South Africa 1982, page 129 and Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1961–1962, page 18449.
  14. ^ (Distribution of seats 1966) South Africa 1982, page 129 and Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1965–1966, pp. 21375-21376.
  15. ^ (Distribution of seats 1970) South Africa 1982, page 129 and Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1969–1970, page 23971.
  16. ^ (Distribution of seats 1974) South Africa 1982, page 129 and Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1974, pp. 25641-25643.
  17. ^ (Distribution of seats 1977) South Africa 1982, page 129 and Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1978, page 28813.
  18. ^ (Distribution of seats 1981) South Africa 1982, page 129 and Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1981, page 30973.
  19. ^ (Distribution of seats 1987) Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1987, page 35298.
  20. ^ (Distribution of seats 1989) Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1989, page 36880.

See also[edit]