Senate of South Africa

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The Senate was the upper house of the Parliament of South Africa between 1910 and its abolition from 1 January 1981, and between 1994 and 1997.

1910–1981[edit]

Senate of South Africa
Senaat van Suid-Afrika
Coat of arms or logo
Type
Type
History
Established 1910
Disbanded 1981
Succeeded by President's Council
Leadership
Elections
Indirectly elected by members of the House of Assembly and Provincial Councils and appointed by the State President on the advice of the Prime Minister
Meeting place
Houses of Parliament
Cape Town, Cape Province
South Africa

Under white minority rule in the Union of South Africa, most of the Senators were chosen by an electoral college consisting of Members of each of the four Provincial Councils and Members of the House of Assembly (the lower house of Parliament, directly elected). The remaining Senators were appointed by the Governor General of the Union on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Senate's presiding officer was called the President, whereas his counterpart in the House of Assembly was the Speaker.

First Senate (1910–1920)[edit]

The South Africa Act 1909, which created the Senate, included special provisions for the selection of the first elected Senators. The Union Parliament was prohibited from changing the arrangements for the Senate during its first ten years.

The First Senate included eight Senators from each province. They were elected for a ten-year term, by the members serving during the final session of the legislatures of each of the four colonies which joined the Union of South Africa. The election was by a form of the single transferable vote. The remaining eight seats were filled, by appointment (also for ten-year terms) by the Governor General in Council (in effect by General Louis Botha's first Union government). Section 24 of the South Africa Act 1909 provided that, of the nominated Senators,

One-half of their number shall be selected on the ground mainly of their thorough acquaintance, by reason of their official experience or otherwise, with the reasonable wants and wishes of the coloured races in South Africa.

Casual vacancies in the representation of the provinces, in the First Senate only, were filled by an electoral college composed of the members of the relevant Provincial Council. New Senators, elected in this way, held the seat for the residue of the ten-year term. Nominated Senators, appointed to fill vacancies, received a ten-year term and did not have to vacate their seats at the end of the term for the provincial representatives.

The successful Senators are fairly described in the bulk as respectable rather than distinguished. Moreover the only candidates who stood a chance of election were drawn from the electors themselves, that is from the members of one or other House of the existing State Parliament. ... The effect of these limitations has been to fill the Senate with an elderly and rather unambitious type of politician, whose common qualification is that he once succeeded in entering Parliament and has proved himself "a good party man".

The composition, by party, of the provincial representatives in the First Senate included 18 representatives of the three colonial governing parties (six each from the South African Party of the Cape, Orangia Unie of the Orange River Colony and Het Volk of the Transvaal), eight Independent Senators from Natal (which did not have a party system before the Union), and six Senators from the opposition parties (two each from the Unionist Party of the Cape, the Constitutional Party of Orange River Colony and the Progressive Party of Transvaal).[1]

Second Senate (1920–1929)[edit]

The eight Senators, elected for each province under the ordinary provisions for senate elections in the South Africa Act 1909, were returned by an electoral college composed of the members from the province in the House of Assembly and the Provincial Council. In 1920 the Senate term was for ten years and there was no provision for an earlier dissolution of the Senate.

The provisions for nominated Senators were unchanged from those in the First Senate.

The Second Senate had a small majority for the South African Party (SAP). When the National Party (NP)-led Pact government took office in 1924, its supporters were therefore in a minority in the Senate.

The Senate Act 1926 modified the original constitutional provisions for the Senate. A new power was conferred so that the Governor General in Council could dissolve the whole Senate (vacating both elected and nominated seats), either at the time of a general election for the House of Assembly or within 120 days of the election. Another provision required the nominated Senators to vacate their seats whenever there was a change of government.

After the South African general election, 1929 the Senate dissolution power was used for the first time, on 16 August 1929.[2]

Third Senate (1929–1939)[edit]

The Third Senate had a small NP majority, in 1929. After the NP and the SAP formed a coalition in 1933 and fused to form the United Party (UP) in 1934, the government had a large Senate majority.

The UP government passed the Representation of Natives Act 1936. This legislation affected the Senate by adding an additional four Senators to represent the black population of South Africa. The Native Representative Senators were white people, who held office for a fixed term and were not affected by a dissolution of the Senate. The new seats were filled by indirect election, the black electors being officeholders such as tribal chiefs and the members of local government bodies.

Just before the expiry of the ten-year Senate term, the UP split over the issue of South Africa's participation in the Second World War. The followers of the former Prime Minister J. B. M. Hertzog entered the 1939 Senate election as a separate party, having left the United Party but not yet arranged a merger with the opposition Purified National Party.[3]

Fourth Senate (1939–1948)[edit]

The provincial Electoral Colleges met on 17 November 1939. After the election and the filling of the nominated seats, the Senate was left with a pro-war majority. There were 24 pro-government Senators (20 UP including 7 nominated members, 2 Dominion Party and 2 Labour Party) and 16 opposition Senators (10 supporters of General Hertzog including one nominated member, and 6 Purified National Party). The four Native Representative Senators were also pro-war.[4]

After the South African general election, 1948 a Reunited National Party-Afrikaner Party coalition came to power, with minority support in the Senate. The new government used the dissolution power, to trigger a new Senate election. The Senate was dissolved, on 9 July 1948.[5]

Fifth Senate (1948–1955)[edit]

The eight nominated Senators were appointed on 28 July 1948. The Electoral Colleges met, in the provincial capitals, on 29 July 1948. At the end of this process the government had 22 supporters (Reunited National Party 11, Afrikaner Party 2, Independent 1 and the 8 nominated Senators) and the opposition 21 (United Party 15, Labour Party 3, and Native Representatives 3). The fourth Native Representative seat was vacant.[6]

The South-West Africa Amendment Act 1949, added four additional members to the Senate. Two were to be elected by an Electoral College, composed of the members of the South-West Africa Legislative Assembly and the six members of the House of Assembly from the territory. Two further Senators were to be nominated by the Governor General in Council. All four Senators chosen on 29 September 1950 were NP supporters.[7]

Senate Act 1955 (Senate 1955–1960)[edit]

In 1955, Nationalist Prime Minister Johannes Strijdom wanted to amend one of the entrenched clauses in the Constitution, to separate Coloured voters from whites, but his party did not have the constitutionally required two-thirds majority in a joint session of both houses of Parliament. It was decided to alter the composition and electoral system for the Senate, to enable the Separate Representation of Voters Act 1951 to be validated. Consequently, Strijdom had the Senate Act 1955 passed to amend the constitution.

Instead of each province electing eight Senators, by proportional representation, the new system required provincial representatives to be selected by a first past the post election in the Electoral College. The effect of this was to enable the majority group from each province (NP in all the provinces, except for Natal) to secure all the seats available. In addition Cape Province and Transvaal had their representation increased to 22 and 27 seats respectively. The number of nominated Senators from the Union of South Africa was doubled from eight to sixteen, The representation of South-West Africa and black voters was unchanged.

Another change made in 1955 was to reduce Senatorial terms from ten years to five. The size of the Senate rose from 44 to 89 (increased to 90 in 1956 when a nominated Senator was added to represent the coloured population for a fixed term until 1962).[8]

Senate Act 1960 (Senate 1960–1980)[edit]

At the end of the last term of the Native Representative Senators, in 1960, those seats were abolished. The Senate Act 1960 reduced the size of the Senate and reinstated proportional representation elections. However instead of going back to eight Senators per province, the Cape would have 11, Transvaal 14 (15 from 1970) and the two smaller provinces would retain 8 Senators. Again, the representation from South-West Africa was unchanged. The number of nominated Senators from the Union, went back to eight and the requirement for half of them to be acquainted with the 'reasonable wants and wishes' of non-white South Africans was abolished.

The Senate was reduced in size to 54 in 1960 and 53 in 1962 (as the representative of the coloured community retained his seat until 1962).[9]

The Senate composition remained unchanged by the declaration of the Republic of South Africa in 1961, except that the State President took over the role of the Governor-General in appointing Senators. Under the republican Constitution, the President of the Senate was to act as State President whenever that office was vacant, or if a state president was unable to perform his duties.

Section 28 (1) (a) of the Republic of South Africa Constitution Act 1961, provided that there should be "eight senators nominated by the State President of whom two shall be nominated from each province ...". The South Africa Act 1909 had not limited the number of nominated senators to be from any particular province.

Abolition of the Senate[edit]

In 1980, Prime Minister P.W Botha began a process of constitutional reform, and the Senate was abolished with effect from 1 January 1981. Some former Senators became members of an enlarged House of Assembly, chosen by the elected members. The President's Council, an advisory body consisting of white, coloured and Asian members only, occupied the former Senate chamber. In 1984, the chamber was converted for use as the House of Representatives, reserved for coloureds under the tricameral system. Black South Africans remained excluded from the political process.

1994–1997[edit]

Senate of South Africa
Coat of arms or logo
Type
Type
History
Established 1994
Disbanded 1997
Succeeded by National Council of Provinces
Leadership
Elections
Indirectly elected by the provincial legislatures
Meeting place
Houses of Parliament
Cape Town, Western Cape
South Africa

Under the country's first non-racial Constitution in 1994, the Senate was once again the upper house of a bicameral parliament, the lower house being the National Assembly. It was indirectly elected by members of each of the nine Provincial Legislatures, with each province having ten Senators. In 1997, the Senate was replaced by a National Council of Provinces (NCoP), which retained the former Senate's membership, although changed its legislative and constitutional role.

Presidents of the Senate of South Africa (1910–1980 and 1994–1997)[edit]

No. Term Name
1 1910–1921 Francis William Reitz
2 1921–1929 H.C. van Heerden
3 1929–1930 R.A. Kerr
4 1930–1940 Christiaan Andries van Niekerk (1st time)
5 1940–1941 François Stephanus Malan
6 1942–1945 Philippus Arnoldus Myburgh
7 1946–1948 P.J. Wessels
8 1948–1961 Christiaan Andries van Niekerk (2nd time)
9 1961–1969 Jozua François Naudé
10 1969–1976 Johannes de Klerk
11 1976–1979 Marais Viljoen
12 1979–1980 Jimmy Kruger
1981–1994 office not in existence
13 1994–1997 Kobie Coetsee

Composition (1910–1980)[edit]

Composition by province and type of Senator (1910–1980)[edit]

Period Cape Nat OFS SWA Tvl Total ord. Nom NRS Total Sen.
1910–1937 8 8 8 8 32 8 40[10]
1937–1950 8 8 8 8 32 8 4 44[11]
1950–1955 8 8 8 2 8 34 10 4 48[12]
1955–1956 22 8 8 2 27 67 18 4 89[13]
1956–1960 22 8 8 2 27 67 19 4 90[14]
1960–1962 11 8 8 2 14 43 11 54[15]
1962–1970 11 8 8 2 14 43 10 53[16]
1970–1980 11 8 8 2 15 44 10 54[17]

Abbreviations and notes:-

  • Ordinary Senators (returned at general Senate elections)
  • Cape: Cape of Good Hope
  • Nat: Natal
  • OFS: Orange Free State
  • SWA: South-West Africa (represented in the Senate from 1950)
  • Tvl: Transvaal
  • Nominated and representative Senators (not selected at general Senate elections)
  • Nom: Nominated Senators: South Africa 8 (1910–1955), 16 (1955–1960), 8 (from 1960); South-West Africa 2 (from 1950); Coloured representative 1 (1956–1962). After 1961, the eight South African nominees were required to be split into two per province.
  • NRS: Native representative Senators (represented in the Senate 1937–1960)

Composition by party (1948–1980)[edit]

Fifth Senate (1948–1955) Previous Senate dissolved 9 July 1948. Election of ordinary Senators on 29 July 1948 and appointment of nominated Senators on 28 July 1948 (Native representatives unaffected).[18]

Party Cape Nat OFS Tvl Total Nom NRS Total
United 4 6 1 4 15 15
Reunited National 3 5 3 11 11
Nominated - 8 8
Labour 1 1* 1* 3 3
NRS - 3 3
Afrikaner 2 2 2
Independent 1 1 1
vacant - 1 1
Total 8 8 8 8 32 8 4 44

Notes:-

  • (1) The nominated Senators were supporters of the Reunited National-Afrikaner coalition, but their party allegiances are not reported in the source used.
  • (2)* The source used gives returns for 7 Natal and 9 Transvaal Senators, which is clearly wrong. The second Labour Senator attributed to Transvaal has been re-allocated to Natal, as this seems the most likely distribution, having regard to the composition of the electoral colleges and the overall results.

Sixth Senate (1955–1960) Previous Senate dissolved 4 November 1955. Election of ordinary Senators on 25 November 1955 and appointment of nominated Senators on 6 December 1955 (Native representatives unaffected).[19]

Party Cape Nat OFS SWA Tvl Total Nom NRS Total
National 22 8 2 27 59 18 77
United 8 8 8
NRS - 4 4
Total 22 8 8 2 27 67 18 4 89

Seventh Senate (1960–1965) Election of ordinary Senators on 26 October 1960 and appointment of nominated Senators on 16 November 1960 (Coloured representative unaffected).[20]

Party Cape Nat OFS SWA Tvl Total Nom Total
National 7 1 8 2 10 28 10 38
United 4 7 4 15 15
Coloured rep. - 1 1
Total 11 8 8 2 14 43 11 54

Eighth Senate (1965–1970) Election of ordinary Senators on 26 November 1965 and appointment of nominated Senators 1965.[21]

Party Cape Nat OFS SWA Tvl Total Nom Total
National 7 2 8 2 11 30 10 40
United 4 6 3 13 13
Total 11 8 8 2 14 43 10 53

Ninth Senate (1970–1974) Election of ordinary Senators on 16 November 1970 and appointment of nominated Senators 1970.[22]

Party Cape Nat OFS SWA Tvl Total Nom Total
National 8 1 8 2 12 31 10 41
United 3 7 3 13 13
Total 11 8 8 2 15 44 10 54

Tenth Senate (1974–1980) Election of ordinary Senators on 30 May 1974 and appointment of nominated Senators 1974.[23]

Party Cape Nat OFS SWA Tvl Total Nom Total
National 8 2 8 2 12 32 10 42
United 3 6 3 12 12
Total 11 8 8 2 15 44 10 54

References[edit]

  • Keesing's Contemporary Archives (various volumes)
  • The South African Constitution, by H.J. May (3rd edition 1955, Juta & Co)
  1. ^ The Times, edition of 31 May 1910
  2. ^ The Times, edition of 17 August 1929
  3. ^ The Times, edition of 20 November 1939
  4. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1937–1940, page 3863
  5. ^ The Times, edition of 10 July 1948
  6. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1948–1950, page 9440.
  7. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1950–1952, page 11076
  8. ^ The Times, edition of 5 November 1955 (old Senate dissolved 4 November 1955, new Senate to be elected 25 November 1955)
  9. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1959–1960, page 17830
  10. ^ South Africa Act 1909, sections 24 and 25; The South African Constitution. pages 85 and 585–586.
  11. ^ Representation of Natives Act 1936, ss. 8–11; The South African Constitution, pages 88 and 586.
  12. ^ South-West Africa Affairs Amendment Act 1949; The South African Constitution, page 85)
  13. ^ Senate Act 1955, section 2 (1); The South African Constitution, pages 86 and 643
  14. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1959–1960, page 17830, confirms that a Coloured representative Senator had been nominated for a term between 1956 and 1962
  15. ^ Senate Act 1960; Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1959–1960, page 17830
  16. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1959–1960, page 17830; 1965–1966, page 21375-21376
  17. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1969–1970, page 24341; 1974, page 26595
  18. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1948–1950, page 9440
  19. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1955–1956, page 14612
  20. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1959–1960, page 17830
  21. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1965–1966, pages 21375–21376.
  22. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1969–1970, page 24341.
  23. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1974, page 26595.