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History of South Africa (1961-1994)

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Republic of South Africa (1961-1994)

Republiek van Suid-Afrika (Afrikaans)
Official languagesEnglish, Afrikaans
Demonym(s)South African
• Total
[convert: invalid number]
Today part ofSouth Africa Namibia
Flag of South Africa (1928-1994)

Script error: No such module "AfC submission catcheck".Between 1961 and 1994, the Republic of South Africa was governed by the afrikaner-dominated National Party which implemented Apartheid (which literally means "apartness" in Afrikaans) which was a racial segregation policy which disenfranchised the nation's non-white population in favor of its white minority.[1]


Until 1961, the Union of South Africa was a dominion of the British Empire following the union of the Cape Colony, the Orange River Colony, the Transvaal Colony, and Natal. However, unlike Canada and Australia, South Africa became a unitary state with each of the provinces parliaments being abolished and replaced with provincial councils.[2]

In the 1948 general election, the National Party won a surprise victory winning 70 out of the 153 seats in the House of Assembly. The National Party then began to implement racial policies which systematically discriminated against the country's non-white population, with the aim to favor the white minority which didn't even make 20% of the population. Over the next 46-years, the National Party would dominate South African politics to which the country basically became a one-party state with little-to-no challenge by opposition parties in Parliament. The government at the time operated under parliamentary sovereignty inherited by the United Kingdom to where Parliament can pass any legislation it wishes with very little challenges to it.[3] Not even the courts of South Africa could intervene in parliamentary legislation.

In 1960, the country had a referendum on whether or not to become a republic or stay as a dominion. Only white voters were allowed to participate. It ended with the majority voting yes and on 31 May 1961 (the same day the Union was formed), South Africa became a republic. Besides the Queen and Governor-General being replaced with a President who performed the same ceremonial duties, there was no real difference in how the government functioned. The Republic of South Africa Constitution Act, which was the country's constitution until 1983, did not include a bill of rights.


  1. "Apartheid".
  2. "South Africa Act, 1909, Part V, sections 68 to 94" (PDF).
  3. "Why do we have a Constitution?".

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