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State President of South Africa

From 1961 to 1994, South Africa's head of state was called the State President or Staatspresident in Afrikaans. The office was established when the country became a republic in 1961, and Queen Elizabeth II ceased to be head of state.

Ceremonial post

State President's Flag 1961-1985
The Republic of South Africa was proclaimed on
May 31st 1961. Charles Robberts Swart, the last Governor-General, was sworn in as the first State President. Like Paul Kruger, and presidents of the Boer republics the State President wore a sash with the Republic's coat of arms, and performed mainly ceremonial duties. The ruling National Party decided against having an executive presidency, instead adopting a minimalist approach, as a conciliatory gesture to English-speaking white South Africans who were opposed to a republic. Like Governors-General before them, State Presidents were retired National Party ministers, and consequently, white, Afrikaner, and male.

Executive post

State President's Flag 1985-1994
Following constitutional reforms in
1984, the office of State President became an executive post, as in the United States, and the office of Prime Minister was abolished. P. W. Botha became the new State President, until his resignation in 1989, when he was replaced by F. W. de Klerk, who oversaw the transition to majority rule in 1994.

End of white minority rule

Under South Africa's first non-racial Constitution, adopted in 1994, the head of state (and of government) was known simply as the President. Nelson Mandela, leader of the African National Congress, was sworn in as President on May 11, 1994.

List of State Presidents