South African general election, 1910

South African general election, 1910

15 September 1910

All 121 seats in the House of Assembly
  First party Second party
Leader Louis Botha Leander Starr Jameson
Party South African Unionist
Seats won 67 39

Elected Prime Minister

Louis Botha
South African

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The 1910 South African general election was held for the 121 seats in the House of Assembly of the Union of South Africa, on 15 September 1910. This was the first general election, after the Union came into force on 31 May 1910.

In addition to the general election, the first election to the provincial councils of Cape Province and Transvaal took place on the same day. Those councils used the same electoral districts as those for the House of Assembly seats in the province. The first election for the provincial councils of Natal and Orange Free State, which did not use the same constituency boundaries as the House of Assembly, took place on a later date.[1]

The South African National Party (known as the South African Party from 1911) of General Louis Botha won a slim majority. The Unionist Party became the official opposition.

Franchise and Electoral System


The South Africa Act 1909 provided that the franchise in each province should be the same as that in the corresponding colony before the Union, until altered by the Union Parliament. The Act included entrenching clauses, providing that black and coloured voters could only be removed from the common voters roll in the Cape of Good Hope, by legislation passed by a two-thirds majority by both houses of Parliament in joint session.[2]

The franchise, in all parts of the Union, was limited to men over the age of 21. There were some additional qualifications and disqualifications which varied between provinces.

The franchise in the Orange Free State and Transvaal was limited to white men.

The traditional "Cape Qualified Franchise" system of the Cape of Good Hope was based on property and wage qualifications, equally open to people of all races. At the time of the National Convention in 1908, which drafted the terms of what became the South Africa Act, "22,784 Native and Coloured persons out of a total of 152,221 electors" were entitled to vote in Cape elections.

Natal had a theoretically non-racial franchise, but in practice few non-white electors ever qualified. It was estimated, in 1908, that "200 non-Europeans out of a total of 22,786 electors had secured franchise rights".[3]

Electoral system

The South Africa Act 1909 provided for single member electoral divisions, with members of the House of Assembly being elected using the relative majority (also known as first past the post) electoral system.

Formation of Union political parties

South African National Party

The first Union Prime Minister (and former Transvaal Prime Minister), General Botha, assembled an electoral alliance before the first Union election. This grouping was composed of the governing parties of three of the colonies being united and some individual politicians from Natal (which did not have a pre-Union party system). The colonial parties involved were the South African Party of Cape Colony (itself largely based on the Afrikaner Bond), Het Volk from the Transvaal and Orangia Unie from the Orange River Colony (which was restored to its pre-1902 name of Orange Free State as a province of the Union).[4]

The alliance was known, in 1910, as the South African National Party (which should not be confused with the National Party formed in 1914, following a split in the South African Party). It subsequently formalised itself as the South African Party, in 1911.

Unionist Party of South Africa

The Unionist Party of South Africa was formed, in May 1910, under the leadership of Leander Starr Jameson (a former Prime Minister of Cape Colony), by the merger of the three colonial opposition parties joined by some individual politicians from Natal.

The parties merged into the Unionist Party were the Unionist Party of Cape Colony (formerly known as the Cape Progressive Party), the Constitutional Party of the Orange River Colony and the Progressives of Transvaal.[5]

The party was a pro-British conservative party. It favoured the maintenance of a pro-British political culture in South Africa similar to that present in the other 'white dominions'.

South African Labour Party

The South African Labour Party, formed in March 1910 following discussions between trade unions and the Independent Labour Party of Transvaal, was a professedly socialist party representing the interests of the white working class. The party leader was Colonel F. H. P. Creswell.[4]

Delimitation of electoral divisions

The South Africa Act 1909 had provided for a delimitation commission to define the boundaries for each electoral division. The representation by province is set out in the table below.[6]

Provinces Cape Natal Orange Free State Transvaal Total
Seats 51 17 17 36 121


The votes, by party, are not available.
Party Seats[7] Seats % Leader
South African 67 55.37 General Louis Botha
Unionist 39 32.23 Dr L. S. Jameson
Independent 11 9.09 -
Labour 4 3.31 Colonel F. H. P. Creswell
Total 121 100


  • South Africa 1982 Official Yearbook of the Republic of South Africa, published by Chris van Rensburg Publications
  • The South African Constitution, by H.J. May (3rd edition 1955, Juta & Co)
  1. ^ The Times, edition of 26 July 1910 reports the fixing of the election dates
  2. ^ Section 35 of the South Africa Act 1909
  3. ^ Discussion of the franchise and the quotations about numbers of voters are from The South African Constitution, page 10
  4. ^ a b South Africa 1982, page 165
  5. ^ The Times, edition of 24 May 1911, a review of the first session of the Union Parliament (which article included confirmation that the first group of 17 Natal MPs included 11 Independents, 4 Unionist Party members and 2 representatives of the South African Party). South Africa 1982, page 165.
  6. ^ South Africa 1982, page 129
  7. ^ South Africa 1982, page 174 (seats by party)
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