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South Africa: Legislation: 1910-2024

Part 1: Official Languages (1910-1994)

1.1 South Africa Act, 1909 = Zuid-Afrika Wet, 1909

Creates the Union of South Africa :: Unie van Zuid-Afrka (Royal Assent was received on 20 Sep 1909; proclamation of 2 Dec 1909 sets effective date - 31 May 1910):

Art. 137. Both the English and the Dutch languages shall be official languages of the Union … :: De engelse alsmede de hollandse talen zijn officiële talen van de Unie …

1.2 Official languages of the Union Act, 1925 :: Wet op de Officiële Talen van de Unie, 1925 :: (Afrikaans) Wet op Amptelike Tale van die Unie, 1925

Makes official use of Afrikaans available (Royal Assent was received on 26 May 1925; effective date 27 May 1925, but note retroactivity):

1. Het woord hollandse in Artikel hondert seven en dertig van de Zuid-Afrika Wet, 1909, en elders in die Wet waar die woord voorkomt, werd hierbij verklart het Afrikaans in te sluiten :: The word Dutch in Article 137 … is hereby declared to include Afrikaans.

The Act provides for reatroactive enactment of the provision concerning Afrikaans: "… and shall be taken to have been in force from the thirty-first day of May 1910 :: … en werd geacht kracht geweest te zijn vanaf de een en dertigste dag van Mei 1910"

1.3 Republic of South Africa Constitution Act, 1961 :: Grondwet van die Republiek van Suid-Afrika, 1961

Establishes Republiek van Suid-Afrika :: Republic of South Africa (effective date 31 May 1961):

Art. 108 (1). English and Afrikaans shall be the official languages of the Republic = Afrikaans en Engels is de amptelike tale van die Republiek.

(a) The Act of 1925 which makes Afrikaans available for official use is enacted under the provisions for amending entrenched provisions of the South Africa Act, and could therefore have prescribed Afrikaans instead of Dutch as an official language. It does not do so, perhaps in consideration of the impact on existing legislation.

(b) There does not seem to be an enactment or order determining a date from which Afrikaans is to be actually used for, e.g., the polity style of the Union. Documents such as coins begin the exclusive use of Afrikaans instead of Dutch in 1925; the present account regards the effective date of the 1925 Act, 27 May 1925, as the notional date for this transition.

Part 2: Official Languages (1994-2024)

2.1 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1993 :: Grodwet van die Republiek van Suid-Afrika, 1993

Usually referred to as the Interim Constitution; signed by State President on 25 Jan 1994, effective date 27 Apr 1994; prescribes eleven official languages (see below).

2.2 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 :: Grondwet van die Republiek van Suid-Afrika, 1996

Signed by President 10 Dec 1996, effective date 4 Feb 1997; confirms the 1994 list, as follows: Sesotho sa Leboa [1], Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu.

For term South Africa :: Suid-Afrika as well as the polity style in each of these languages, see South Africa: Polity Style: 1910-2024.

Part 3: Sovereignty

3.1 South Africa Act, 1909 :: Zuid-Afrika Wet, 1909, in creating the Union of South Africa :: Unie van Zuid-Afrika does not purport to grant the new polity sovereign status; but the new polity increasingly functions as such, e.g., as full member of the League of Nations.

3.2 Statute of Westminster, 1931, effective 11 Dec 1931, makes the polity legislatively independent of the British Parliament and the appointment of the governor-general independent of the British government. This Act of the British Parliament is regarded as establishing the Union of South Africa as a sovereign state.

3.3 Status of the Union Act, 1934 :: Wet op die Status van die Unie, 1934, effective with Royal assent 22 Jun 1934, is intended to adopt, explicitly, the relevant provisions of the Statute of Westminster, 1931 and authoritatively confirm the sovereign independence of the polity.

Part 4: Office Styles: Royal Style and Titles

4.1 Despite the provisions of Art. 137 of the South Africa Act, 1909 :: Zuid-Afrika Wet, 1909, no Dutch-language or Afrikaans-language form of the Royal Style and Titles is statutorily prescribed before 1953.

4.2 The proclamation of the accession of Elizabeth II on 6 Feb 1952 adds the phrase "Sovereign in and over the Union of South Africa" to the recitation of the Titles; this addendum has no statutory authority.

4.3 Royal Style and Titles Act, 1953 :: Wet op Koninglike Styl en Titels, 1953

Effective date: 29 May 1953; prescribes the following style:

English: Queen of South Africa and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth;
Afrikaans: Koningin van Suid-Afrika en Haar ander Koninkryke en Gebiede, Hoof van die Statebond;
Latin: Africae Australis regnorumque suorum ceterorum Regina, consortionis populorum Princeps.

Part 5: Office Styles: Governor-General

1. The Letters Patent passed 29 Dec 1909 provided for appointment of a Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief in and over Our Union of South Africa. In official use "in and over" were normally replaced with "of" (Dutch: Goeverneur-Generaal en Opperbevelhebber van de Unie van Zuid-Afrika; Afrikaans: Goewerneur-Generaal en Opperbevelhebber van die Unie van Suid-Afrika).

2. The Letters Patent passed 15 Feb 1937 (came into operation 1 Mar 1937, countersigned and confirmed by the Royal Great Seal of the Union 11 Mar 1937) omitted any reference to "Commander-in-Chief", only stating that "The Command-in-Chief of the naval and military forces, vested in Us by the South Africa Act, 1909, is hereby assigned to the Governor-General as Our representative." Accordingly, the representatives of the Crown appointed between 1937 and 1960 used Governor-General of the Union of South Africa (Afrikaans: Goewerneur-Generaal van die Unie van Suid-Afrika).

3. The style Officer Administering the Government of the Union of South Africa (Afrikaans: Amptenaar Belas met die Uitoefening van die Uitvoerende Gesag van die Unie van Suid-Afrika) was in official use during a vacancy in the office of Governor-General.

Part 6: Office Styles: President and Acting President

From 10 May 1994 the Constitution prescribes the styles President :: President and Acting President :: Waarnemende President; in the prescribed form of the oath of office, as well as in the form of proclamations, the style is President of the Republic of South Africa :: President van die Republiek van Suid-Afrika, and Acting President of the Republic of South Africa :: Waarnemend President van die Republiek van Suid-Afrika.

In each of the other official languages, the prescribed styles are as follows (English included for reference):

  • English: President / Acting President (of the Republic of South Africa)
  • Sesotho sa Leboa (Sepedi): Mopresidente / Mopresidente wa Motšwaoswere (wa Repabliki yaAfrika-Borwa)
  • Sesotho: Mopresidente / Mopresidente wa mokobobo (wa Rephaboliki ua Afrika Borwa)
  • Setswana: Poresidente / Poresidente wa nama-o-tshwere (wa Rephaboliki ya Aforika Borwa)
  • siSwati: Mengameli / Bambela laMengameli (weRiphabhulikhi yeNingizimu Afrika)
  • Tshivenda: Muphuresidennde / Mufarela Muphuresidennde (wa Riphabuliki ya Afurika Tshipembe)
  • Xitsonga: Presidente / Presidente wa Khomela (wa Riphabliki ra Afrika Dzonga)
  • isiNdebele: Mongameli / Mjaphethe kaMongameli (weRiphabliki yeSewula Afrika)
  • isiXhosa: Mongameli / Bambela-Mongameli (weRiphabliki yomZantsi Afrika)
  • isiZulu: Mongameli / Bamba likaMongameli (weRiphabhuliki yaseNingizimu Afrika)

Sources: [2]

[1] In the English-language text of the 1996 Constitution termed Sepedi.
[2] "The South African Constitution", by Henry John May, 3rd ed. (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1955)