History of elections in South Africa



The South Africa Act passed by the British Parliament in 1909 combined the self-governing British colonies of the Natal, Cape, Transvaal and the Orange Free State into the Union of South Africa. The Act, which served as the Union's constitution until 1961, created a parliamentary government along the lines of the Westminster model, consisted of a directly elected House of Assembly and an indirectly elected Senate. However, the permission was largely restricted to White men. The Orange Free State (formerly the Orange River Colony) and the Transvaal denied all Blacks the right to vote. In Natal, nearly all Blacks were not allowed to vote.

In the Cape Province, an important number of Black and Coloured men were allowed to vote under a "color-blind" permission based on property requirements. However, only white men could be elected to Parliament.  However, during the 1970s, the Apartheid government of South Africa granted Homelands/Bantustans independence, and allowed elections in the Bantustans. Black South Africans were offered collaborator candidates who were chosen by the white South African government. The elections in the Bantustans/homelands stopped in the late 1980s.

In 1994, Homelands stopped to exist and they were re-incorporated into new South Africa, and they were absorbed into the new provinces. Since 1994, elections in South Africa are held for National and Provincial legislatures. The multiracial elections followed a five year cycle, with National and Provincial elections held concurrently. All the elections are conducted by the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa, an independent body established by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. 

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Last updated : 01-Aug-2016

This article was produced by South African History Online on 04-May-2011

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