President of South Africa

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This article is about the position of South African head of state and head of government from 1994. For the position of South African head of state from 1961 to 1994, see State President of South Africa.
President of the
Republic of South Africa
Seal of the President of South Africa.png
Seal of the President of South Africa
Jacob Zuma 2010 (cropped).jpg
Jacob Zuma

since 9 May 2009
Residence Mahlamba Ndlopfu (Pretoria)
Genadendal (Cape Town)
Dr John L Dube House (Durban)
Appointer National Assembly of South Africa
Term length 5 years
renewable once
Inaugural holder Nelson Mandela
Formation 10 May 1994
Deputy Deputy President of South Africa
Salary R2,622,561[1]
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
South Africa
Foreign relations

The President of the Republic of South Africa is the head of state and head of government under the Constitution of South Africa. From 1961 to 1994, the head of state was called the State President.

The President is elected by the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, and is usually the leader of the largest party, which has been the African National Congress since the first non-racial elections were held on 27 April 1994. The role was originally founded to be distinct from the now defunct role of prime minister, but the two roles were merged in the 1983 constitution which specified a four-year term of office. The 1993 and later constitutions limits the president's time in office to two five-year terms.[2] The first President to be elected under the new constitution was Nelson Mandela, and the incumbent president is Jacob Zuma.

Under the interim Constitution (valid from 1994 to 1996), there was a Government of National Unity, in which an MP from the largest opposition party was entitled to a position as Deputy President. Along with Thabo Mbeki, the last State President, F.W. De Klerk also served as Deputy President, in his capacity as the leader of the National Party which was the second-largest party in the new Parliament. But De Klerk later resigned and went into opposition with his party. A voluntary coalition government continues to exist under the new constitution (adopted in 1996), although there have been no appointments of opposition politicians to the post of Deputy President.

The President is required to be a member of the National Assembly at the time of his election. Upon his election, he immediately resigns his seat for the duration of his term.


The office of the President, and the roles that come with it, were established by Chapter Five of the Constitution of South Africa which was formed by a Constituent Assembly upon the dissolution of apartheid as state policy.[3]

A number of manifestations of the office have existed. Aspects of these offices exist within the presidency today. The executive leadership of the British colonies of Natal and of the Cape of Good Hope were invested in their Governors, likewise was invested in the Presidents of the Boer republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. Alternating sovereignty as a result of wars culminated in the Vereeniging Treaty signed in which concluded the South African War.

The Union of South Africa, a British Dominion, was established on 31 May 1910 [4] and the head of state was invested in the apolitical and ceremonial Monarch of the United Kingdom (who was represented by a viceroy, the Governor-General).

Upon the declaration of South Africa as a republic in 31 May 1961, the State President was created.[5] and A realignment of power took place in subsequent years until the dissolution of the Office of the Prime Minister.

Electoral system[edit]

South Africa has a nearly unique system for the election of its president. Unlike other former British colonies and dominions who have adopted a parliamentary republican form of government and those that follow the Westminster system, South Africa's President is both head of state and head of government and Commander-in-Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). Contrary to presidential systems around the world, the President of South Africa is elected by the Parliament of South Africa[6] rather than by the people directly or an Electoral College, thus answerable to it in theory and able to influence legislation in practice as head of the majority party (presently the ANC). The Constitution has thus prescribed a system combining both parliamentary and presidential systems in a unique manner. Only Botswana uses a similar system.[7]

Although the presidency is the key institution, it is hedged about with numerous checks and balances that prevent its total dominance over the government, as was the case in many African countries. The presidential term is five years, and is limited to two consecutive terms. Thus the electoral system attempts (at least on paper) to prevent the accumulation of power in the president as was during Apartheid or in many other African countries.[8]

Presidential powers[edit]

The President is the head of state, head of government and commander in chief of the armed forces of the Republic of South Africa. The rights, responsibilities and remuneration of the President are enumerated in Chapter V of the Constitution of South Africa and subsequent amendments and laws passed by the Parliament of South Africa.

The executive power of the Republic is invested in the president. He appoints various officials to positions listed in the Constitution however the most significant are the ministers and justices of the Supreme Court. Through the Cabinet, the president implements and enforces the constitution and laws and enforces his or her political objectives.

The president plays a role in the formation of legislation. He or she signs bills into laws and can do the opposite, veto them (although subject to an override), refers bills back to Parliament or to the Constitutional Court or can call for a referendum. The president summons parliament, often delivering his or her objectives and agenda in a State of the Nation Address at the beginning of each session.

The president is the commander in chief of the armed forces thereby possessing influence or control over foreign and security policy. He or she is accorded the constitutional powers to declare war and make peace, negotiate and sign (although not ratify) treaties (and the alliances that may come with them), and receives and appoints diplomatic officials, confers honours and grants pardons.[9]

The President is addressed as "Your Excellency" or "Mr/Madam President" and referred to as "The Honourable (name)".

The official seat of the President are the Union Buildings in Pretoria and the Tuynhuys in Cape Town. His living residences are Mahlamba Ndlopfu in Pretoria, Genadendal in Cape Town and Dr John L Dube House in Durban.

List of Presidents of South Africa since 1994[edit]


      African National Congress

# Name
Picture Took office Left office Elected
Political Party
1 Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela.jpg 10 May 1994 14 June 1999 1994 (22nd) African National Congress
2 Thabo Mbeki
SthAfrica.ThaboMbeki.01.jpg 14 June 1999 24 September 2008
1999 (23rd)
2004 (24th)
African National Congress
3 Kgalema Motlanthe
Kgalema Motlanthe, 2009 World Economic Forum on Africa-1.jpg 25 September 2008 9 May 2009[10] 2008 (24th) African National Congress
4 Jacob Zuma
Jacob Zuma 2010 (cropped).jpg 9 May 2009[10] Incumbent 2009 (25th)
2014 (26th)
African National Congress

Latest election[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]