South African Constitution of 1961

Last updated

Republic of South Africa Constitution Act, 1961
Coat of Arms of South Africa (1932-2000).svg
Act to constitute the Republic of South Africa and to provide for matters incidental thereto.
CitationAct No. 32 of 1961
Enacted by Parliament of South Africa
Date of royal assent 24 April 1961
Date commenced31 May 1961
Date repealed3 September 1984
1 July 1986
Repeals
South Africa Act 1909
Official Languages of the Union Act, 1925
Status of the Union Act, 1934
His Majesty King Edward the Eighth's Abdication Act, 1937
Repealed by
Republic of South Africa Constitution Act, 1983
Provincial Government Act, 1986
Status: Repealed

The Constitution of 1961 (formally the Republic of South Africa Constitution Act, 1961) was the fundamental law of South Africa for two decades. Under the terms of the constitution South Africa left the Commonwealth and became a republic. Legally, the Union of South Africa, which had existed since 1910, came to an end and was re-established as the "Republic of South Africa".

Constitution Set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed

A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation or other type of entity, and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed.

South Africa Republic in the southernmost part of Africa

South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline of Southern Africa stretching along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; to the north by the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe; and to the east and northeast by Mozambique and Eswatini (Swaziland); and it surrounds the enclaved country of Lesotho. South Africa is the largest country in Southern Africa and the 25th-largest country in the world by land area and, with over 57 million people, is the world's 24th-most populous nation. It is the southernmost country on the mainland of the Old World or the Eastern Hemisphere. About 80 percent of South Africans are of Bantu ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different African languages, nine of which have official status. The remaining population consists of Africa's largest communities of European, Asian (Indian), and multiracial (Coloured) ancestry.

Commonwealth of Nations Intergovernmental organisation

The Commonwealth of Nations, normally known as the Commonwealth, is a political association of 53 member states, nearly all of them former territories of the British Empire. The chief institutions of the organisation are the Commonwealth Secretariat, which focuses on intergovernmental aspects, and the Commonwealth Foundation, which focuses on non-governmental relations between member states.

Contents

Background

Republicanism was always a major tenet of Afrikaner nationalism. Even when nationalists controlled the government, however, political realities prevented this goal from being attained prior to the 1960s.

Republicanism is a representative form of government organization. It is a political ideology centered on citizenship in a state organized as a republic. Historically, it ranges from the rule of a representative minority or oligarchy to popular sovereignty. It has had different definitions and interpretations which vary significantly based on historical context and methodological approach.

On 3 August 1960, the National Party government announced a referendum would be held in October of that year so that voters might weigh in on the question of whether the Union of South Africa should become a republic. The vote was restricted to white South Africans. More than 90% of eligible voters participated in the referendum, and 52.3% of those who did vote in favour of "a Republic for the Union." [1]

The Republic of South Africa Constitution Bill was introduced in January 1961. It came into force on 31 May 1961; 31 May was a significant day in South African history, being both the day in 1902 on which the Treaty of Vereeniging was signed, ending the Second Anglo-Boer War, and the day in 1910 on which the Union of South Africa came into being.

Treaty of Vereeniging peace treaty that ended the Second Anglo-Boer War

The Treaty of Vereeniging was a peace treaty, signed on 31 May 1902, that ended the Second Boer War between the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, on the one side, and the United Kingdom on the other.

Contents

The structure of the government of the Republic under the 1961 constitution was a Westminster system very similar to that of the Union under the South Africa Act 1909, except that the Queen and the appointed Governor-General were replaced by a State President elected by Parliament.

Westminster system democratic parliamentary system of government

The Westminster system is a parliamentary system of government developed in England, now a constituent country within the United Kingdom. This term comes from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the British Parliament. The system is a series of procedures for operating a legislature. It is used, or was once used, in the national and subnational legislatures of most former British Empire colonies upon gaining responsible government, beginning with the first of the Canadian provinces in 1848 and the six Australian colonies between 1855 and 1890. However, some former colonies have since adopted either the presidential system or a hybrid system as their form of government.

South Africa Act 1909 United Kingdom legislation

The South Africa Act 1909 was an Act of the British Parliament which created the Union of South Africa from the British colonies of the Cape of Good Hope, Natal, Orange River Colony, and Transvaal. The Act also made provisions for admitting Rhodesia as a fifth province of the Union in the future, but Rhodesian colonists rejected this option in a referendum held in 1922. The South Africa Act was the third major piece of legislation passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom with the intent of uniting various British colonies and granting them some degree of autonomy. Earlier, the British North America Act, 1867 had united three colonies and the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, 1900 had united the Australian colonies.

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.

Executive

The executive power was formally vested in the State President, who as head of state had all powers previously belonging to the monarch or the Governor-General. The role of the State President was largely ceremonial, as he was required to act on the advice of the Cabinet. Actual executive power rested with the Prime Minister, who was head of government.

A head of state is the public persona who officially represents the national unity and legitimacy of a sovereign state. Depending on the country's form of government and separation of powers, the head of state may be a ceremonial figurehead or concurrently the head of government. In a parliamentary system, the head of state usually has mostly ceremonial powers, with a separate head of government, although in some parliamentary systems, such as Botswana, the head of state is also the head of government. Likewise, in some parliamentary systems the head of state is not the head of government, but still has significant powers, for example Morocco. In contrast, a semi-presidential system, such as France, has both heads of state and government as the leaders de facto of the nation. Meanwhile, in presidential systems such as the United States, the head of state is also the head of government.

Cabinet of South Africa cabinet of the national government of the Republic of South Africa

The Cabinet of South Africa is the most senior level of the executive branch of the Government of South Africa. It is made up of the President, the Deputy President, and the Ministers.

Prime Minister of South Africa position

The Prime Minister of South Africa was the head of government in South Africa between 1910 and 1984.

The State President was elected, for a non-renewable seven-year term, by a joint sitting of Parliament in which each Senator or member of the House of Assembly had one vote. He could be removed for misconduct or incapacity by resolutions passed by both houses of Parliament after an investigation by joint committee. When the office of State President was vacant the President of the Senate would serve as Acting State President.

The State President would appoint a cabinet (formally the Executive Council) consisting of members of the Senate and the House of Assembly. The Westminster constitutional conventions that had applied under the Union were preserved by the 1961 constitution, so in effect the State President was required to appoint a Prime Minister and Cabinet that commanded the support of the House of Assembly; commonly the Prime Minister would be the leader of the majority party.

Parliament

The legislative power was vested in Parliament, which consisted of the House of Assembly (the lower house) and the Senate (the upper house). Parliament sat in Cape Town and was required to meet at least once a year. The parliament of the Union elected in 1958 would continue as the parliament of the new Republic. The House of Assembly consisted of 150 members elected by white voters from single-member electoral divisions using first-past-the-post voting, six members elected by white voters in South-West Africa, and four members elected by coloured voters in the Cape Province. (The number of ordinary members was increased to 160 in 1966 and to 165 in 1974; the coloured representative members were removed in 1970, and the members representing South-West Africa in 1977.) The House of Assembly was elected for a five-year term, but could be dissolved early by the State President (acting on the advice of the cabinet). The Senate consisted of:

Elected senators held office for a term of five years, while nominated senators held office until a change of government in which a new Prime Minister was appointed. The whole Senate could also be dissolved within 120 days after the dissolution of the House of Assembly. The Senate was permanently abolished in 1981. Bills passed by both Houses of Parliament would become law when assented to by the State President (on the advice of the cabinet), and if he refused assent he could return the bill to Parliament with proposed amendments. Once assented to, no court had the power to review the validity of an Act of Parliament unless it affected one of the entrenched clauses of the constitution.

Judiciary

The provisions detailing the structure of the Supreme Court of South Africa had been removed from the South Africa Act in 1959 and re-enacted in the Supreme Court Act, 1959. The structure and powers of the judiciary were not affected by the new constitution.

Provinces

The provincial governments were continued essentially unchanged. The Administrator of each province was appointed for a five-year term by the State President. The provincial council was elected by white voters from single-member electoral divisions using first-past-the-post voting. In the Cape and Transvaal, the provincial councils consisted of the same number of members as the number of members of the House of Assembly elected from the province, elected from the same electoral divisions. In Natal and the Orange Free State, which each elected less than twenty-five members of the House of Assembly, the provincial councils consisted of twenty-five members. The provincial council elected four members who, with the Administrator, formed an Executive Council for the province.

Other provisions

While the South Africa Act had made English and Dutch the official languages of South Africa, with Dutch defined to include Afrikaans under the Official Languages of the Union Act in 1925, the 1961 Constitution made English and Afrikaans the official languages and defined Afrikaans to include Dutch. [2] This clause was entrenched by the requirement that it could only be amended by an absolute majority of two-thirds of Senators and members of the House of Assembly sitting together in joint session.

See also

Related Research Articles

A constitutional amendment is a modification of the constitution of a polity, organization or other type of entity. Amendments are often interwoven into the relevant sections of an existing constitution, directly altering the text. Conversely, they can be appended to the constitution as supplemental additions (codicils), thus changing the frame of government without altering the existing text of the document.

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.

Parliament of South Africa legislature in South Africa

The Parliament of South Africa is South Africa's legislature and under the country's current Constitution is composed of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. The newly-elected 27th South African Parliament convened on 22 May 2019.

Constitution of South Africa supreme and fundamental law of South Africa

The Constitution of South Africa is the supreme law of the Republic of South Africa. It provides the legal foundation for the existence of the republic, it sets out the rights and duties of its citizens, and defines the structure of the government. The current constitution, the country's fifth, was drawn up by the Parliament elected in 1994 in the South African general election, 1994. It was promulgated by President Nelson Mandela on 18 December 1996 and came into effect on 4 February 1997, replacing the Interim Constitution of 1993.

Senate of Pakistan Legislative Assembly in Pakistan

Senate of Pakistan or Aiwān-e-Bālā Pākistān is the upper legislative chamber of the bicameral legislature of Pakistan, and together with the Qaumi Assembly makes up the Majlis-e-Shoora.

Elections in South Africa elections in South Africa

Elections in South Africa are held for the National Assembly, provincial legislatures and municipal councils. Elections follow a five-year cycle, with national and provincial elections held simultaneously and municipal elections held two years later. The electoral system is based on party-list proportional representation, which means that parties are represented in proportion to their electoral support. For municipal councils there is a mixed-member system in which wards elect individual councillors alongside those named from party lists.

Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico Territorial legislature of Puerto Rico

The Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico is the territorial legislature of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, responsible for the legislative branch of the government of Puerto Rico. The Assembly is a bicameral legislature consisting of an upper house, the Senate normally composed by 27 senators, and the lower house, the House of Representatives normally composed by 51 representatives. Eleven members of each house are elected at-large rather than from a specific legislative district with all members being elected for a four-year term without term limits.

Age of candidacy is the minimum age at which a person can legally qualify to hold certain elected government offices. In many cases, it also determines the age at which a person may be eligible to stand for an election or be granted ballot access.

Elections in the Philippines

Philippine elections are of several types. The president, vice-president, and the senators are elected for a six-year term, while the members of the House of Representatives, governors, vice-governors, members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, mayors, vice-mayors, members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod/members of the Sangguniang Bayan, barangay officials, and the members of the Sangguniang Kabataan are elected to serve for a three-year term.

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.

1960 South African republic referendum October 1960 referendum in South Africa that abolished the monarchy

A referendum on becoming a republic was held in South Africa on 5 October 1960. The Afrikaner-dominated right-wing National Party, which had come to power in 1948, was avowedly republican, and regarded the position of Queen Elizabeth II as head of state as a relic of British imperialism. The National Party government subsequently organised the referendum on whether the then Union of South Africa should become a republic. The vote, which was restricted to whites, was narrowly approved by 52.29% of the voters. The Republic of South Africa was constituted on 31 May 1961.

Senate of Zimbabwe

The Senate of Zimbabwe is the upper of the two chambers in Zimbabwe's Parliament. It existed from independence in 1980 until 1989, and was re-introduced in November 2005. The other chamber of Parliament is the House of Assembly

The Tricameral Parliament was the name given to the South African parliament and its structure from 1984 to 1994, established by the South African Constitution of 1983. While still entrenching the political power of the White section of the South African population, it did give a limited political voice to the country's Coloured and Indian population groups. The majority Black population group was still however excluded.

1983 South African constitutional reform referendum

A referendum on a new constitution was held in South Africa on 2 November 1983 in which the white population was given the opportunity to approve or reject the Constitution of 1983. This constitution introduced the Tricameral Parliament, in which coloured and Indian South Africans would be represented in separate parliamentary chambers, while black South Africans would remain unrepresented. The referendum passed with 66.3% of voters voting "Yes"; consequently the new constitution came into force on 3 September 1984.

Greek Senate former upper chamber of the parliament in Greece, existing until 1935

The Greek Senate was the upper chamber of the parliament in Greece, extant several times in the country's history.

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.

In South Africa, a provincial legislature is the legislative branch of the government of a province. The provincial legislatures are unicameral and vary in size from 30 to 80 members, depending on the population of the province. Each legislature is chaired by a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker.

The provincial councils were the legislatures of the four original provinces of South Africa. They were created at the foundation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, and abolished in 1986 when they were replaced by a strengthened executive appointed by the State President. The four provincial councils were the Cape Provincial Council, the Natal Provincial Council, the Transvaal Provincial Council and the Orange Free State Provincial Council.

The Coloured vote constitutional crisis, also known as the Coloured vote case, was a constitutional crisis that occurred in the Union of South Africa during the 1950s as the result of an attempt by the Nationalist government to remove Coloured voters in the Union's Cape Province from the common voters' rolls. It developed into a dispute between Parliament and the judiciary, on the one hand, and the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, on the other hand, over the power of Parliament to amend an entrenched clause in the South Africa Act and the power of the Appellate Division to overturn the amendment as unconstitutional. The crisis ended when the government enlarged the Senate and altered its method of election, allowing the amendment to be successfully enacted.

References

  1. "Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd". South African History Online. Retrieved 20 March 2013. On 5 October 1960 a referendum was held in which White voters were asked "Do you support a republic for the Union?" — 52 percent voted 'Yes'.
  2. Mixed Jurisdictions Worldwide: The Third Legal Family, Vernon V. Palmer, Cambridge University Press, 2001, page 141