Prime Minister of South Africa

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Prime Minister of South Africa
Eerste Minister van Suid-Afrika
Coat of Arms of South Africa (1932-2000).svg
Coat of Arms of South Africa
PW Botha 1962.jpg
Pieter Willem Botha
Style The Right Honourable (until 1961)
Appointer Governor-General of South Africa (1910–1961)
State President of South Africa (1961–1984)
Term length Whilst commanding the confidence of the House of Assembly
Formation31 May 1910
First holder Louis Botha
Final holder Pieter Willem Botha
Abolished14 September 1984
Succession Executive State President of South Africa

The Prime Minister of South Africa (Afrikaans : Eerste Minister van Suid-Afrika) was the head of government in South Africa between 1910 and 1984.

The head of government is either the highest or second highest official in the executive branch of a sovereign state, a federated state, or a self-governing colony, who often presides over a cabinet, a group of ministers or secretaries who lead executive departments. "Head of government" is often differentiated from "head of state", as they may be separate positions, individuals, or roles depending on the country.


History of the office

The first Prime Minister of South Africa, Louis Botha (sitting at the center of the desk), with his First Cabinet, 1910. Botha gouvernment 1910.jpg
The first Prime Minister of South Africa, Louis Botha (sitting at the center of the desk), with his First Cabinet, 1910.

The position of Prime Minister was established in 1910, when the Union of South Africa was formed. He was appointed by the head of state—the Governor-General until 1961 and the State President after South Africa became a republic in 1961. In practice, he was the leader of the majority party or coalition in the House of Assembly. The first Prime Minister was Louis Botha, a former Boer general and war hero during the Second Boer War. He was the country's leading political figure and de facto chief executive, with powers similar to those of his British counterpart.

Union of South Africa state in southern Africa from 1910 to 1961, predecessor to the Republic of South Africa

The Union of South Africa is the historical predecessor to the present-day Republic of South Africa. It came into being on 31 May 1910 with the unification of the Cape Colony, the Natal Colony, the Transvaal, and the Orange River Colony. It included the territories that were formerly a part of the South African Republic and the Orange Free State.

State President of South Africa title of the head of state of South Africa from 1961 to 1994

The State President of the Republic of South Africa was the head of state of South Africa from 1961 to 1994. The office was established when the country became a republic in 1961, and Queen Elizabeth II ceased to be monarch of South Africa. The position of Governor-General of South Africa was accordingly abolished. From 1961 to 1984, the post was largely ceremonial. After constitutional reforms enacted in 1983 and taking effect in 1984, the State President became an executive post, and its holder was both head of state and head of government.

House of Assembly of South Africa lower house of the Parliament of South Africa from 1910 to 1994

The House of Assembly 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 voted under a restricted form of suffrage.

The position of Prime Minister was abolished in 1984, when the State President was given executive powers after a new constitution was adopted—effectively merging the powers of the Prime Minister with those of the State President. The last Prime Minister, P. W. Botha, became the first executive State President after the constitutional reform.

South African Constitution of 1983

The Constitution of 1983 was South Africa's third constitution. It replaced the republican constitution that had been adopted when South Africa became a republic in 1961 and was in force for ten years before it was superseded by the Interim Constitution on 27 April 1994, which in turn led to the current Constitution of South Africa, which has been in force since 1997.

P. W. Botha South African prime minister

Pieter Willem Botha,, commonly known as "P. W." and Die Groot Krokodil, was the leader of South Africa from 1978 to 1989, serving as the last Prime Minister from 1978 to 1984 and the first executive State President from 1984 to 1989.

In post-Apartheid South Africa, the Inkatha Freedom Party has called for a return to a Westminster-style split executive with a Prime Minister as the actual head of government, as part of its overarching goal of avoiding a single party South African state. [1]

Inkatha Freedom Party political party in South Africa

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) is a political party in South Africa. Since its founding, it has been led by Mangosuthu Buthelezi. It is currently the fourth largest party in the National Assembly of South Africa, having lost almost half its seats and votes in the 2014 general election and yielding third place to the newly formed Economic Freedom Fighters.

List of Prime Ministers of South Africa (1910–1984)


   South African Party
   United Party
   National Party

PortraitTook officeLeft officeElected
Political party
1 Louis Botha
MP for Standerton, Transvaal Province until 1915
MP for Losberg, Transvaal Province from 1915
General Louis Botha - from correspondence of PA Molteno.png 31 May 191027 August 1919 1910 (1st)
1915 (2nd)
South African Party
First South African Prime Minister. Formation of the Union of South Africa. World War I. Conquest of the German South West Africa. Crushed the Maritz rebellion. Ratified the Treaty of Versailles. Died in office.
2 Jan Christiaan Smuts
MP for Wonderboom, Transvaal Province
Jan Smuts 1947.jpg 3 September 191930 June 1924— (2nd)
1920 (3rd)
1921 (4th)
South African Party
Attended 1921 Imperial Conference. Attempted to broker an armistice and peace deal between the British and Irish nationalists in the Irish War of Independence. Crushed the Rand Rebellion, which caused a political backlash and he lost 1924 general election to National Party. Created coalition with National Party and returned as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice after the 1933 general election.
James Barry Munnik Hertzog
MP for Smithfield, Orange Free State Province
JBM Hertzog - SA.jpg 30 June 19245 September 1939 1924 (5th)
1929 (6th)
1933 (7th)
1938 (8th)
National Party
(until 1934)
United Party
(from 1934)
Replaced Dutch as second official language by Afrikaans in 1925. Instated a new national flag in 1928. Approved women's suffrage for white women with the Women's Enfranchisement Act, 1930. Adoption of the Statute of Westminster 1931. Removed Black voters from the common voters roll. Created coalition with South African Party to form the United Party. Resigned after the United Party caucus refused to accept his stance of neutrality in World War II.
(2) Jan Christiaan Smuts
MP for Standerton, Transvaal Province
Jan Smuts 1947.jpg 5 September 19394 June 1948— (8th)
1943 (9th)
United Party
World War II. Ratified the UN Charter. Issued the Fagan Report, which stated that complete racial segregation in South Africa was not practical and that restrictions on African migration into urban areas should be abolished. Lost 1948 general elections to National Party.
4 Daniel François Malan
MP for Piketberg, Cape Province
DFMalanPortret.jpg 4 June 194830 November 1954 1948 (10th)
1953 (11th)
National Party
Came to power on the program of apartheid and began the comprehensive implementation of the segregationist policy.
5 Johannes Gerhardus Strijdom
MP for Waterberg, Transvaal Province
JG Strijdom.jpg 30 November 195424 August 1958— (11th)
1958 (12th)
National Party
Tried to cut ties with United Kingdom. Removal of Coloured voters from the common voters roll. Extended 'treason trial' of 156 activists (including Nelson Mandela) involved in the Freedom Charter. Severed diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. Died in office.
6 Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd
MP for Heidelberg, Transvaal Province
HF Verwoerd Transvaler.jpg 2 September 19586 September 1966— (12th)
1961 (13th)
1966 (14th)
National Party
Start of the South African Border War. The Wind of Change speech by British PM Harold Macmillan. Proclaimed South Africa a Republic after 1960 referendum. Abolished the separate Black voters roll. Launched the bantustan programme. Assassinated.
7 Balthazar Johannes Vorster
MP for Nigel, Transvaal Province
John Vorster.jpg 13 September 19662 October 1978— (14th)
1970 (15th)
1974 (16th)
1977 (17th)
National Party
Abolished the Coloured voters roll. South African Border War escalated into a full-scale conflict. He managed policy of détente with African countries, and accepted to let black African diplomats living in white areas. He alienated an extremist faction of his National Party when it accepted the presence of Māori players and spectators during the 1970 tour of New Zealand national rugby union team in South Africa. He unofficially supported, but refused to recognize officially, the neighbouring state of Rhodesia, which was ruled by a white minority government that had unilaterally declared independence from United Kingdom. In 1974, under pressure from US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger he pressured Ian Smith, the Prime Minister of Rhodesia, to accept in principle that white minority rule could not continue indefinitely. Resigned.
8 Pieter Willem Botha
MP for George, Cape Province
PW Botha 1962.jpg 9 October 197814 September 1984— (17th)
1981 (18th)
1984 (19th)
National Party
Remained Minister of Defence until 1980. Improved relations with the West. Authorized radical constitutional reform in 1983, including the creation of the Tricameral Parliament, which give a limited political voice to the country's Coloured and Indian population groups. The majority Black population group was still excluded. Began a secret nuclear weapons program in collaboration with Israel, which culminated in the production of six nuclear bombs. Creation of police counter-insurgency unit, Koevoet. Resignation of Vorster as State-President in the wake of the Muldergate Scandal. Abolished the position of Prime Minister in 1984 and became Executive State President.

See also

President of South Africa South Africas head of state and head of government

The President of the Republic of South Africa is the head of state, head of government and the commander-in-chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) under the Constitution of South Africa. From 1961 to 1994, the head of state was called the State President.

Governor-General of South Africa

The Governor-General of the Union of South Africa was the highest state official in the Union of South Africa between 31 May 1910 and 31 May 1961. The Union of South Africa was founded as a self-governing Dominion of the British Empire in 1910 and the office of governor-general was established as the representative of the monarch. Fifty-one years later the country declared itself a republic and the historic link with the British monarchy was broken. The office of governor-general was abolished.

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  1. IFP: Statement by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Inkatha Freedom Party Leader, welcomes Constitutional Court judgment on regulation of introduction of bills, 12 October 2012