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Prime Minister of South Africa

Prime Minister of South Africa
Eerste Minister van Suid-Afrika
Arms of South Africa
Office Abolished
Position succeeded by the
Executive State President of South Africa
Style The Right Honourable (1910–1961)
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
Inaugural holder Louis Botha
Formation 31 May 1910
Final holder Pieter Willem Botha
Abolished 14 September 1984

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


  • History of the office 1
  • List of Prime Ministers of South Africa (1910–1984) 2
  • References 3
  • See also 4
  • External links 5

History of the office

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

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, Pieter Willem Botha, became the first executive State President after the constitutional reform.

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]

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


      South African Party
      United Party
      National Party

# Name
Picture Took office Left office Elected
Political Party
1 Louis Botha
31 May 1910 27 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
3 September 1919 30 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
30 June 1924 5 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 in 1930. Adoption of 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
5 September 1939 4 June 1948 — (8th)
1943 (9th)
United Party
World War II. Ratified the United Nations 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
4 June 1948 30 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
30 November 1954 24 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
2 September 1958 6 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
13 September 1966 2 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 tour of New Zealand rugby union team in South Africa in 1970. He unofficially supported, but refused to recognise officially, the neighbouring state of Rhodesia, which was ruled by a white minority government that had 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
9 October 1978 14 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.


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

See also

External links

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