The South African general elections: 1943

The dominant issue of the 1943 election was the issue of war or peace. South Africa entered the Second World War on 6 September 1939. South Africa’s entry into the war was determined by a small majority in the House of Assembly of 13 votes out of a total of 147 votes cast.

As a result, JBM Hertzog’s neutrality motion was rejected. Hertzog requested the Governor-General, Patrick Duncan, to dissolve Parliament in order that the electorate might itself pronounce upon the issue. The Governor-General rejected the request stating that such an election would lead to great bitterness and possibly violence. The Reunited National Party or Herstigte Nasionale Party HNP was determined to establish itself as the orthodox party of Afrikaner nationalism and to crush all rivals within that movement. The United Party wanted to extend its political grip on the country as widely and as firmly as possible so that it might demonstrate a nation-wide support for the war effort and so that it might advance its prospects of continued electoral victories when the war was over.

The election was held on 17 July 1943.  Candidates vied for 150 seats in the House of Assembly. The 1943 general election was contested by the Reunited National Party or Herstigte Nasionale Party (HNP) led by D F Malan, the United Party (UP) led by Jan Smuts, the Labour Party (LP), the Dominion Party (DP), the Socialist Party (SP), the Independents, and the Afrikaner Party (AP). The AP came into being when Hertzog and his supporters disagree with the South Africa’s move of declaring war on Germany. Firstly, Hertzog and his supporters left the United Party and form Volks Party. Later, the Volks Party separated. One group joined Gesuiwerde Nasionale Party (Purified National Party) to form the Reunited National Party, and the other group became the Afrikaner Party in 1941 led by NC Havenga.

The number of registered voters was 1 114 110, the total number of votes (voter turnout) was 885 623, the number of invalid or blank votes was 9 360, and the total number of valid votes was 876 263. The U.P. obtained 435 297 number of votes, the HNP obtained 321 601votes, the DP obtained 29 023 votes, the LP obtained 38 206 votes, the SP obtained 6 350 votes and the Independents obtained 30 185 votes. 

In the 1943 general election, the United Party (UP) of Jan Smuts continued to win more seats. The United Party won 107 seats; the Purified National Party won 43 seats, and Independents won two seats in the 152-seat House of Assembly.

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• 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 by South African History Online on 24-Feb-2014

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