History of elections in South Africa

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The South African general elections: 1953

Dr D F Malan’s National Party (NP) campaigned on the platform of Apartheid that emphasised White supremacy, racial segregation and the control of migrant Black workers during the 1953 election. During his six-and-a-half years in office the foundations of the Apartheid regime were entrenched.

The only political parties that contested the 1953 general election were the National Party (NP), the Labour Party (LP) and the United Party (UP). The election was held on 15 April 1953.  Candidates contested the elections for156 seats in Parliament.

In the 1953 general election, the National Party (NP) led by DF Malan won majority of the seats in the House of Parliament. The National Party (NP) won 94 seats, the United Party (UP) of Koos Strauss won 57 seats and the Labour Party (LP) of John Christie won 5 seats in the 156 seat House of Assembly. To entrench the apartheid system, two pieces of legislation were passed: the Bantu Education Act of 1953 which resulted in Black and White children being educated in separate schools, and the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act No 49 of 1953 which resulted in the separation for amenities for Black and White people. 

The number of registered voters was 1 385 591, the total number of votes (voter turnout) was 1 218 631, the number of invalid or blank votes was 8 709, and the total number of valid votes was 1 209 922. The UP obtained 576 474 votes, the NP obtained 598 718 votes and the LP obtained 38 730 votes.

Legislations such as the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act No 55 of 1949, the Population Registration Act No 30 of 1950, the Group Areas Act No 41 of 1950, Suppression of Communism Act No 44 1950, the Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act No 52 of 1951, the Bantu Authorities Act No 68 of 1951, Native Laws Amendment Act No 54 of 1952, the Abolition of Passes Act No 67 of 1952, and the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act No 49 of 1953, and the Bantu Education Act of 1953 were then passed.

These legislations were meant to remove the last traces of a ‘non-white’ franchise and imposed segregation on almost all aspects of South African life. The House of Assembly had a total number of 153 Members. Out of 153, 150 Members were directly elected, and only 3 were reserved for “Native representatives” (White Members elected by African voters in the Cape Province). 

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References:
• Johnson, S. (1988). South Africa: No turning back. Macmillan.
• Tirykian, E.A. (1960). Apartheid and politics in South Africa. The Journal of Politics, Vol. 22, No 4, pp.682-697.
• Stultz, N. M. (1974). Afrikaner politics in South Africa, 1934-1948. University of California press. Berkely/ Los Angeles/ London.
• Roger B. Beck. (2000). The history of South Africa. Greenwood press, Cape Town, South Africa. 
•  Butler, J and Stultz, N M.  (1963). The South African general election of 1961, in Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 78, No. 1, pp. 86-110.    
•  Heard, A. K. (1974). General elections in South Africa. London. New York. Toronto: Oxford University.  

Last updated : 24-Mar-2014

This article was produced for South African History Online on 24-Feb-2014