Trisha Shetty (Editor)

President of South Africa

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Style  His/Her Excellency
Inaugural holder  Nelson Mandela
Term length  5 years renewable once
Formation  10 May 1994

Residence  Mahlamba Ndlopfu (Pretoria) Genadendal (Cape Town) Dr John L Dube House (Durban)
Appointer  National Assembly of South Africa

The President of the Republic of South Africa is the head of state and head of government under the Constitution of South Africa. From 1961 to 1994, the head of state was called the State President.


The President is elected by the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, and is usually the leader of the largest party, which has been the African National Congress since the first non-racial elections were held on 27 April 1994. The role was founded to be distinct from the now defunct role of prime minister, but the two roles were merged in the 1983 constitution which specified a four-year term of office. The 1993 and later constitutions limits the president's time in office to two five-year terms. The first President to be elected under the new constitution was Nelson Mandela, and the incumbent president is Jacob Zuma.

Under the interim constitution (valid from 1994 to 1996), there was a Government of National Unity, in which a Member of Parliament (MP) from the largest opposition party was entitled to a position as Deputy President. Along with Thabo Mbeki, the last State President, F.W. De Klerk also served as Deputy President, in his capacity as the leader of the National Party which was the second-largest party in the new Parliament. But De Klerk later resigned and went into opposition with his party. A voluntary coalition government continues to exist under the new constitution (adopted in 1996), although there have been no appointments of opposition politicians to the post of Deputy President.

The President is required to be a member of the National Assembly at the time of his election. Upon his election, he immediately resigns his seat for the duration of his term. The President may be removed either by a motion of no-confidence or an impeachment trial.


The office of the President, and the roles that come with it, were established by Chapter Five of the Constitution of South Africa which was formed by a Constituent Assembly upon the dissolution of apartheid as state policy.

A number of manifestations of the office have existed. Aspects of these offices exist within the presidency today. The executive leadership of the British colonies of Natal and of the Cape of Good Hope were invested in their Governors, likewise was invested in the Presidents of the Boer republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. Alternating sovereignty as a result of wars culminated in the Vereeniging Treaty signed in which concluded the South African War.

The Union of South Africa, a British Dominion, was established on 31 May 1910 and the head of state was invested in the apolitical and ceremonial Monarch of the United Kingdom (who was represented by a viceroy, the Governor-General).

Upon the declaration of South Africa as a republic on 31 May 1961, the office of State President was created. It was originally a ceremonial post, but became an executive post in 1984 when a new constitution abolished the post of Prime Minister and transferred its powers to the State President.

Electoral system

South Africa has an almost unique system for the election of its president. Unlike other former British colonies and dominions who have adopted a parliamentary republican form of government and those that follow the Westminster system, South Africa's President is both head of state and head of government and Commander-in-Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). Contrary to presidential systems around the world, the President of South Africa is elected by the Parliament of South Africa rather than by the people directly. He is thus answerable to it in theory and able to influence legislation in practice as head of the majority party (presently the ANC).

The president is elected at the first sitting of parliament after an election, and whenever a vacancy arises. The president is elected by the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, from among its members. The chief justice must oversee the election. Once elected, a person is no longer a member of the national assembly. They must then be sworn in as president within five days of the election. Should a vacancy arise, the date of a new election must be set by the chief justice, but not more than 30 days after the vacancy occurs.

The Constitution has thus prescribed a system combining both parliamentary and presidential systems in a unique manner. Only Botswana and a few other countries use a similar system. Between 1996 and 2003 Israel combined the two systems in an opposite way, with an elected prime minister.

Although the presidency is the key institution, it is hedged about with numerous checks and balances that prevent its total dominance over the government, as was the case in many African countries. The presidential term is five years, with a limit of two consecutive terms. Thus the electoral system attempts (at least on paper) to prevent the accumulation of power in the president as was during Apartheid or in many other African countries.

Oath or Affirmation

The President-elect will, before formally assuming office, make and subscribe an oath or solem affirmation in the terms st out in Schedule 3 before the Chief Justice or a Judge of the Supreme Court.

Tenure of Office

The President elected in terms of section 77 (1) (a) is subjected to sections 87 and 93 (2), hold office-

(a) for the period terminating on a date five years as from the date of the date of the first sitting of the National Assembly under the Constitution; or

(b) if the Parliament is dissolved during such period, for the period until a President has been elected in terms of section 77 (1) (b) after such dissolution and has assumed office.

Responsibilities of President

(1) The President is responsible for the observance of the provision of the Constitution as the supreme law of the land

(2) The president provides with dignity the executive leadership in the interest of national unity in accordance with the Constitution and the law of the country.

(3) The president cannot hold any other public office and cannot perform remunerative work outside the duties of the president's office.


According to chapter five of the constitution, the president can only exercise the powers of his or her office while within the Republic of South Africa. Should the president be outside of the country, or unable to fulfil the duties of the office, they may appoint an acting president.

The presidential vacancy should be filled first by the deputy president, then cabinet minister selected by the president, then a cabinet minister selected by the cabinet, and finally by the speaker of the national assembly.

Presidential powers

The President is the head of state, head of government and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the Republic of South Africa. The rights, responsibilities and remuneration of the President are enumerated in Chapter V of the Constitution of South Africa and subsequent amendments and laws passed by the Parliament of South Africa.

The executive power of the Republic is invested in the president. He appoints various officials to positions listed in the Constitution however the most significant are the ministers and justices of the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court. Through the Cabinet, the president implements and enforces the constitution and laws and enforces his or her political objectives. Judges are appointed on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission.

The president plays a role in the formation of legislation. He or she signs bills into laws and can do the opposite, veto them (although subject to an override), refers bills back to Parliament or to the Constitutional Court or can call for a referendum. The president summons parliament, often delivering his or her objectives and agenda in a State of the Nation Address at the beginning of each session.

The president is the commander-in-chief of the South African National Defence Force thereby possessing influence or control over foreign and security policy. He or she is accorded the constitutional powers to declare war and make peace, negotiate and sign (although not ratify) treaties (and the alliances that may come with them), and receives and appoints diplomatic officials, confers honours and grants pardons.

Powers and Functions of South African President

(1) The president performs the following powers and functions:

(a) Sign bills duly passes by parliament.

(b) Convey meetings with Cabinet

(c) Refer disputes of a constitutional nature between parties represented in Parliament or between organs of state at any level of government to the Constitutional Court.

(d) Confer honours.

(e) Appoint, accredit, receive and recognise ambassadors, diplomatic representatives and other diplomatic officials.

(f) Appoint commissions of inquiry.

(g) Negotiate and sign international agreements

(2) The president shall consult the Executive Deputy President.

(a) In development and execution of the policies of the international government.

(b) All matters relating to the management of the Cabinet and performance of Cabinet business.

(c) Assign and allocation of functions contemplated in section 84 (5) to an Executive Deputy President.

(3) The President exercises and performs all powers and functions assigned to him by the Constitution or any other law, except those specified in subsections (1) and (2) or where otherwise expressly or by implication provided in this Constitution in consultation with the cabinet. Provided that the cabinet may delegate it's consultation functions in terms of the subsection, with reference to any particular power or function of the president, to any Minister of Ministers.

(4) (a) The President in the Commander-in-Chief of the National Defence Force

(b) The President may -

(ii) With approval of the Parliament, declare a state of national defence.

(iii) Employ the national defence force in accordance with and subject to sections 227 and 228.

The President is addressed as "Your Excellency" or "Mr/Madam President" and referred to as "The Honourable (name)".

The official seat of the President are the Union Buildings in Pretoria and the Tuynhuys in Cape Town. His living residences are Mahlamba Ndlopfu in Pretoria, Genadendal in Cape Town and Dr John L Dube House in Durban.

Presidents of South Africa (1994–present)


  African National Congress

Living former presidents

There are two living former South African Presidents:


President of South Africa Wikipedia