List of heads of state of South Africa

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This is a list of the heads of state of South Africa, from the foundation of the Union of South Africa in 1910 to the present day.

From 1910 to 1961 the head of state under the South Africa Act 1909 was the Monarch, who was the same person as the Monarch of the United Kingdom and of the other Dominions/Commonwealth realms. The monarch was represented in South Africa by a Governor-General. South Africa became a republic under the Constitution of 1961 and the monarch and Governor-General were replaced by a ceremonial State President. In 1984, under the Tricameral Constitution, the State President gained executive powers, becoming head of both state and government. Since 1994, under the Interim Constitution and the current Constitution, the head of state and government has been called the President.

Monarchs (1910–1961)[edit]

The succession to the throne of South Africa was the same as the succession to the throne of the United Kingdom, governed by the Act of Settlement 1701. During the Abdication Crisis the South African parliament passed its own act, "His Majesty King Edward the Eighth's Abdication Act, 1937", to ratify the abdication of Edward VIII.

Monarch Reign Royal House Prime Minister(s)
# Portrait Name Reign start Reign end Duration
1 George V of the united Kingdom.jpg King George V
(1865–1936)
31 May 1910 20 January 1936 25 years, 234 days House of Windsor Botha
Smuts
Hertzog
2 A022344.jpg King Edward VIII
(1894–1972)
20 January 1936 11 December 1936
(Abdicated)
326 days House of Windsor Hertzog
3 King George VI.jpg King George VI
(1895–1952)
11 December 1936 6 February 1952 15 years, 57 days House of Windsor Hertzog
Smuts
Malan
4 Queen Elizabeth II - 1953-Dress.JPG Queen Elizabeth II
(1926–)
6 February 1952 31 May 1961 9 years, 114 days House of Windsor Malan
Strijdom
Verwoerd

Governors-General[edit]

The Governor-General was the representative of the monarch in South Africa and exercised most of the powers of the monarch. The Governor-General was appointed for an indefinite term, serving at the pleasure of the monarch. After the passage of the Statute of Westminster 1931 and the Status of the Union Act, 1934, the Governor-General was appointed solely on the advice of the Cabinet of South Africa without the involvement of the British government. In the event of a vacancy the Chief Justice served as Officer Administering the Government.

Status
  Denotes Chief Justice acting as Officer Administering the Government
Governor-General Term of office Monarch(s) Prime Minister(s)
# Portrait Name Took office Left office Duration
1 Herbert John Gladstone.jpg The Viscount Gladstone
(1854–1930)
31 May 1910 8 September 1914 4 years, 100 days George V Botha
2 Sydney Charles Buxton.png The Earl of Buxton
(1853–1934)
8 September 1914 17 November 1920 6 years, 70 days George V Botha
Smuts
3 Prince Arthur of Connaught colour.jpg Prince Arthur of Connaught
(1883–1938)
17 November 1920 21 January 1924 3 years. 65 days George V Smuts
4 Earlofathlone.jpg The Earl of Athlone
(1874–1957)
21 January 1924 26 January 1931 7 years, 5 days George V Smuts
Hertzog
5 George Herbert Hyde Villiers.jpg The Earl of Clarendon
(1877–1955)
26 January 1931 5 April 1937 6 years, 69 days George V
Edward VIII
George VI
Hertzog
6 Patrick Duncan.jpg Sir Patrick Duncan
(1870–1943)
5 April 1937 17 July 1943
(Died in office)
6 years, 103 days George VI Hertzog
Smuts
Nicolaas de Wet.jpg Nicolaas Jacobus de Wet
(1873–1960)
17 July 1943 1 January 1946 2 years, 168 days George VI Smuts
7 Gideon Brand van Zyl.jpg Gideon Brand van Zyl
(1873–1956)
1 January 1946 1 January 1951 5 years George VI Smuts
Malan
8 EG Jansen 1949.jpg Ernest George Jansen
(1881–1959)
1 January 1951 25 November 1959
(Died in office)
8 years, 328 days George VI
Elizabeth II
Malan
Strijdom
Verwoerd
No image.png Lucas Cornelius Steyn
(1903–1976)
25 November 1959 11 December 1959 16 days Elizabeth II Verwoerd
9 CR Swart 1960.jpg Charles Robberts Swart
(1894–1982)
11 December 1959 30 April 1961
(Resigned)
1 year, 140 days Elizabeth II Verwoerd
No image.png Lucas Cornelius Steyn
(1903–1976)
30 April 1961 31 May 1961 31 days Elizabeth II Verwoerd

Ceremonial State President of South Africa (1961–1984)[edit]

Under the 1961 Constitution, the first constitution of the Republic of South Africa, the State President replaced the monarch as ceremonial head of state. The State President was elected by Parliament for a seven-year term. In the event of a vacancy the President of the Senate served as Acting State President.

Status
  Denotes President of the Senate acting as State President
State President Term of office Political party Prime Minister(s)
# Portrait Name Took office Left office Duration
1 CR Swart 1960.jpg Charles Robberts Swart
(1894–1982)
31 May 1961 1 June 1967
(Resigned)
6 years, 1 day National Party Verwoerd
Vorster
Dönges cropped.jpg Theophilus Ebenhaezer Dönges
(1898–1968)
Elected but did not take office because of illness National Party
Tom Naudé 1962.jpg Jozua François Naudé
(1889–1969)
1 June 1967 10 April 1968 314 days National Party Vorster
2 JJ Fouche.jpg Jacobus Johannes Fouché
(1898–1980)
10 April 1968 9 April 1975 6 years, 364 days National Party Vorster
Jan de Klerk.jpg Johannes de Klerk
(1903–1979)
9 April 1975 19 April 1975 10 days National Party Vorster
3 Nicolaas Diederichs.jpg Nicolaas Johannes Diederichs
(1903–1978)
19 April 1975 21 August 1978
(Died in office)
3 years, 124 days National Party Vorster
Marais Viljoen.jpg Marais Viljoen
(1915–2007)
21 August 1978 10 October 1978 50 days National Party Vorster
Botha
4 John Vorster.jpg B. J. Vorster
(1915–1983)
10 October 1978 4 June 1979
(Resigned)
237 days National Party Botha
5 Marais Viljoen.jpg Marais Viljoen
(1915–2007)
4 June 1979 19 June 1979 5 years, 91 days National Party Botha
19 June 1979 3 September 1984

Executive State President of South Africa (1984–1994)[edit]

Under the 1983 Constitution the State President was head of both state and government. The State President was elected by an electoral college chosen by Parliament and served until the next general election, but was eligible for re-election. In the event of a vacancy the Cabinet would nominate a member to serve as Acting State President.

Status
  Denotes Acting State President
State President Term of office Political party
# Portrait Name Took office Left office Duration
6[1] PW Botha 1962.jpg P. W. Botha
(1916–2006)
3 September 1984 14 September 1984 4 years, 346 days National Party
14 September 1984 15 August 1989
(Resigned)
7 Frederik Willem de Klerk.jpg F. W. de Klerk
(1936–)
15 August 1989 20 September 1989 4 years, 268 days National Party
20 September 1989 10 May 1994

President of South Africa (1994–)[edit]

Under the Interim Constitution and the current Constitution the President is head of both state and government. The President is elected by the National Assembly and serves a term that expires at the next general election; a President may serve a maximum of two terms. In the event of a vacancy the Deputy President serves as Acting President.

President Term of office Political party
# Portrait Name Took office Left office Duration
8 Nelson Mandela.jpg Nelson Mandela
(1918–2013)
10 May 1994 16 June 1999 5 years, 37 days African National Congress
9 SthAfrica.ThaboMbeki.01.jpg Thabo Mbeki
(1942–)
16 June 1999 24 September 2008
(Resigned)
9 years, 100 days African National Congress
10 GeorgeBushKgalemaMotlanthe crop.jpg Kgalema Motlanthe
(1949–)
25 September 2008 9 May 2009 226 days African National Congress
11 Jacob G. Zuma - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2010.jpg Jacob Zuma
(1942–)
9 May 2009 Incumbent 5 years, 174 days
(as of 30 October 2014)
African National Congress

Living former heads of state[edit]

Name Term/Reign Office Date of birth
Elizabeth II 1952–1961 Queen of South Africa 21 April 1926
F. W. de Klerk 1989–1994 State President of South Africa 18 March 1936
Thabo Mbeki 1999–2008 President of South Africa 18 June 1942
Kgalema Motlanthe 2008–2009 President of South Africa 19 July 1949

External links[edit]

  1. ^ Chris Heunis was Acting State President from 19 January 1989 – 15 March 1989