World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

South African general election, 1961

Article Id: WHEBN0004105118
Reproduction Date:

Title: South African general election, 1961  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Elections in South Africa, Politics of South Africa, South African general election, 1943, South African general election, 1929, South African general election, 1953
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

South African general election, 1961

South African general election, 1961

8 October 1961 (1961-10-08)

All 156 general roll seats in the House of Assembly
  First party Second party
Leader Hendrik Verwoerd De Villiers Graaff
Party National United
Last election 103 seats 53 seats
Seats won 105 49
Seat change Increase2 Decrease4
Popular vote 370,395 288,217
Percentage 46.11% 35.88%
Swing Decrease9.23% Decrease7.69%

Prime Minister before election

Hendrik Verwoerd

Elected Prime Minister

Hendrik Verwoerd

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
South Africa
Foreign relations

The 1961 South African general election, held on 8 October of that year, was the first general election after South Africa became a republic following the 1960 South African referendum. The National Party under Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd won a majority in the House of Assembly.

The National Union Party - led by J.D. du P. Basson and ex-Chief Justice Fagan in alliance with the United Party - had been formed as a "bridge" to the United Party for moderate nationalists who were unhappy with Verwoerd's leadership, but the party failed and later merged with the United Party.

This election also saw the first general election appearance of the liberal Progressive Party, which had broken away from the United Party in 1959. The new party retained one MP, in the form of Helen Suzman. She was to remain its sole parliamentary representative until 1974.

Changes in franchise

End of black representation

During the previous Parliament the seats of the three MPs and four Senators representing black South Africans had been abolished. The 1961 election produced the first Parliament with no representation at all for black South Africans.[1]

Coloured Representative Members

The second election for the four coloured representative members took place on 4 October 1961, before the (white voters only) general election on 8 October 1961. Under the Separate Representation of Voters Act 1951, the members were to serve until the dissolution of the new Parliament.

The four seats were won by Independents, with United Party support. The recently formed Progressive Party did not contest the four vacancies.[2]

Reduction in voting age

This was the first election after the passage of the Electoral Law Amendment Act, No. 30 of 1958, which reduced the voting age for white voters from 21 to 18.[3]

Delimitation of electoral divisions

The South Africa Act 1909 had provided for a delimitation commission to define the boundaries for each electoral division, for general roll voters in the four provinces. The representation by province, under the eleventh delimitation report of 1958, is set out in the table below. The figures in brackets are the number of electoral divisions in the previous (1953) delimitation. If there is no figure in brackets then the number was unchanged.[4]

This was only the second general election, in South African history, where the boundaries were unchanged from the previous election.

Provinces Cape Natal Orange Free State Transvaal Total
Divisions 52 (54) 16 (15) 14 (13) 68 150

Composition at the dissolution

At the end of the 12th Parliament elected since the Union of 1910, when it was dissolved in 1961, the House of Assembly consisted of two groups of members. White voters were represented by 156 general roll members and coloured voters in Cape Province by four white MPs known at the time as Coloured Representative Members (CRM).

The general election only affected the representatives of white voters. The other members were elected on a different date (see above).

The representation by party and province, at the dissolution was:- [5]

Province National United Progressive National Union CRM Total
Cape (general) 33 14 5 - - 52
Cape (CRM) - - - - 4 4
Natal 2 11 3 - - 16
Orange Free State 14 - - - - 14
South-West Africa 5 - - 1 - 6
Transvaal 48 17 3 - - 68
Total 102 42 11 1 4 160


The vote totals in the table below may not give a complete picture of the balance of political opinion, because of unopposed elections (where no votes were cast) and because contested seats may not have been fought by a candidate from all major parties.

The total registered electorate was 1,800,426. The votes cast were 802,079 (including 4,518 spoilt votes).[6]

Party Seats[7] Seats % Votes[8] Votes % Leader
National 105 67.31% 370 395 46.11% Hendrik Verwoerd
United 49 31.41% 288 217 35.88% Sir de Villiers Graaff
Progressive Party 1 0.64% 69 045 8.60% Jan Steytler
National Union Party 1 0.64% 50 279 6.26% H.A. Fagan
Independent - - 22 871 2.85% -
Conservative Workers' Party[9] - - 2 461 0.31% -
Total 156 803 268

The overall composition of the House, after the general election.

Province National United Progressive National Union Independents Total
Cape (general) 34 18 - - - 52
Cape (CRM) - - - - 4 4
Natal 2 14 - - - 16
Orange Free State 14 - - - - 14
South-West Africa 6 - - - - 6
Transvaal 49 17 1 1 - 68
Total 105 49 1 1 4 160


  • In No Uncertain Terms, by Helen Suzman (Mandarin Paperback 1994)
  • Keesing's Contemporary Archives
  • South Africa 1982 Official Yearbook of the Republic of South Africa, published by Chris van Rensburg Publications
  1. ^ In No Uncertain Terms, page 44.
  2. ^ Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1961-1962, page 18449
  3. ^ Horrell, Muriel. A Survey of Race Relations in South Africa, 1957–1958. South African Institute of Race Relations. p. 10. Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  4. ^ South Africa 1982, page 129 (table setting out delimitations of seats by province, the relevant one being that of 1958)
  5. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives, 1960-1961, page 18449
  6. ^ South Africa 1982, page 176
  7. ^ South Africa 1982, page 174 (seats by party)
  8. ^ South Africa 1982, page 176 (votes by party)
  9. ^ South Africa 1982, includes votes for the Labour Party. Keesing's Contemporary Archives refers to the Conservative Workers' Party.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.