The South African general elections: 1966

The United Party (UP) focused its 1966 election campaign on the issue of White domination. The United Party maintained its call for the protection of White domination in South Africa. The party’s policy was based on the need to maintain White leadership and political control over the whole of South Africa. The party announced that South Africa should be build up on progressive White leadership and the party had no intention of abolishing the white leadership over the whole South Africa with one central Parliament in which White supremacy was protected. During its campaign, the party did include other issues such as building of a sound economy and the improvement of agriculture, the introduction of television (TV) and the institution of a State lottery.

The United Party saw the government’s Bantustan policy as one which involved surrendering large part of South Africa’s territories to independent Black states, and as well as bringing the threat of militant Black nationalism and communism into South Africa. The party called the Bantustan policy “Kaffirboetie politics”. The Bantustan policy envisaged a future in which each national group in South Africa exercised its independent right of self-determination in its own historically determined territory in a spirit of support and good neighbourliness with one another.

The National Party’s (NP) election campaign focused on the issue of Whites domination, both Afrikaners and English speakers. The party advocated that Whites Afrikaners and English speakers should unite in order to maintain their political power. The NP aimed at attracting many White English-speaking voters. It emphasised that it was of the greatest importance for the survival of all Whites in South Africa that a bond was tied between the Afrikaans and English-speaking voters to vote for the NP in order to show their patriotism. During the election campaign, HF Verwoerd said that both Afrikaners and English speakers should fight together as people (volk) for their survival, and it was important that Afrikaans and English speaking people stand side by side in the struggle for their survival. HF Verwoerd reiterated that Whites should show unity to the outside world in the 1966 election.

The Progressive Party (PP) advocated for a firm constitution with checks and balances to prevent the growth of arbitrary executive power and the domination of one or more racial groups by another, increased opportunities for education and jobs for all, and the abolition of racial discrimination. Helen Suzman, the party’s Member of Parliament (MP), announced that her party had no race policy as such, but it only had a policy for all the people of South Africa and not for any particular group. She went on to say that the division between the poor and rich and between the educated and illiterate largely coincided with race divisions. Therefore, the PP could be said to have a policy that aimed to ensure equal opportunity for all South Africans.

The Front or the National South African Republican Front was the new minor political party that made an appearance to contest the 1966 election. It was described as the small party comprised of White minority, and apparently it did not have the real organisational structure, but it did have a secretary by the name of John Wilkinson from Durban, Natal (now kwaZulu-Natal). Throughout its election campaign, it held no public meetings. In its policy statements, the party claimed to advocate for continued White guardianship all over South Africa and separate development. It supported the idea of granting urban Africans the right to own freehold property, and it would abolish, in general, petty apartheid. It supported the UP’s idea of the introduction of television and the institution of state lottery. 

The general election was held on 30 March 1966. The National Party (NP), Progressive Party (PP) and United Party (UP), and Independents contested the election. The number of registered voters was 1 901 479, the total number of votes (voter turnout) was 1 302 151, the number of invalid or blank votes was 7 494, and the total number of valid votes was 1 302 151. The NP obtained 759 331 votes, the UP obtained 486 629 votes, the PP obtained 39 717 votes, and the Independents obtained 5 800 votes.    

In the 1966 general election, the NP of Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd won 126 seats, the UP of Sir de Villiers Graaf won 39 seats, and the Progressive Party (PP) of Jan Steytler won one seat in the 166-seat House of Assembly. On 6 September 1966, Verwoerd was stabbed to death by a messenger, Dimitri Tsafendas, in Parliament and succeeded by B J Vorster, as Prime Minister.    

<< Previous Next >>

• 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 : 14-Apr-2014

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

Support South African History Online

Donate and Make African History Matter

South African History Online is a non profit organisation. We depend on public support to build our website into the most comprehensive educational resource and encyclopaedia on African history.

Your support will help us to build and maintain partnerships with educational institutions in order to strengthen teaching, research and free access to our content.