State President of South Africa
Flag of the President of South Africa (SWM)
Cobus Grobler.png
J.D. Grobler

since 15 July 2001
Style Mr. President (informal)
The Honorable (formal)
Residence Libertas, Pretoria, Transvaal
Term length Unlimited (can be recalled by Parliament)
Inaugural holder C.R. Swart
Formation 31 May 1961 (ceremonial)
15 August 1984 (executive)

The State President of the Republic of South Africa (Afrikaans: Staatspresident van Suid-Afrika) is the head of state as well as the head of the executive government of South Africa. The post was preceded by the Governor General of the Union of South Africa, which was abolished in 1961 when South Africa became a republic and Queen Elizabeth II ceased to be monarch. The officeholder was a ceremonial head of state under the 1961 Constitution Act. It became an executive post when the 1983 Constitution Act was enacted. The 1995 Constitution Act reaffirmed it as an executive office and further extended its powers and functions.

The State President is elected by the Electoral College, which consists of 100 members. 70 of those members are white (who are chosen from the House of Assembly), 20 are colored (who are chosen from the House of Representatives) and 10 are Indian (who are chosen from the House of Delegates). When a Constitution Amendment Act was passed in early 2002, term limits were abolished. Parliament now has the authority to recall the State President with a simple majority in order to remove him from office.

The State President is the commander in chief of the South African Defense Force (SADF) and also takes a proactive role in the country's security apparatus. The office has the power to declare war and peace, and declare states of emergency. Parliament may by simple majority reverse a declaration of war and end a state of emergency. Of the 50 members of the President's Council, the State President appoints 25, who would usually also be part of his executive cabinet.

The State President is deputized by the Vice State President. This office existed briefly between 1981 and 1984, but was abolished under the 1983 Constitution. It was reestablished under the 1995 Constitution. The Vice State President is a generally powerless office, however gains all the functions of the State President should that post become suddenly vacant or incapacitated. On a day by day basis, the Vice State President acts at the pleasure of the State President and generally liaises on behalf of the State President with departments in government and the Multicameral Parliament. The VSP also chairs the President's Council when the Stat President himself is away on other business.

The current State President since 2001 is J.D. Grobler. The Vice State President is Leon Smit.


The origin of the term "State President" as opposed to just "President" is unclear. The term was used in both the Transvaal Republic and Orange Free State prior to those countries rejoining the British Empire as colonies in 1902. It was subsequently adopted by the new republic in 1961. Outside of South Africa and informally, the post is often simply referred to as the President. The fourth house of Parliament is interestingly referred to as the "President's Council", rather than the "State President's Council".


Presidential functions and powers

According to the Constitution Act, the State President has the following powers and responsibilities -

  • Commander in Chief of the South African Defense Force.
  • Conferral of honors.
  • Chief diplomat of the Republic (both signage and ratification).
  • Pardoning of prisoners, conditionally or unconditionally.
  • Proclamations of martial law and states of emergency.
  • Declarations of war and peace.

List of State Presidents

See also