Union of South Africa
Overview
 
The Union of South Africa is the historic predecessor to the present-day Republic of South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

. It came into being on 31 May 1910 with the unification of the previously separate colonies of the Cape
Cape Colony
The Cape Colony, part of modern South Africa, was established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652, with the founding of Cape Town. It was subsequently occupied by the British in 1795 when the Netherlands were occupied by revolutionary France, so that the French revolutionaries could not take...

, Natal
Colony of Natal
The Colony of Natal was a British colony in south-eastern Africa. It was proclaimed a British colony on May 4, 1843 after the British government had annexed the Boer Republic of Natalia, and on 31 May 1910 combined with three other colonies to form the Union of South Africa, as one of its...

, Transvaal and the Orange Free State
Orange Free State
The Orange Free State was an independent Boer republic in southern Africa during the second half of the 19th century, and later a British colony and a province of the Union of South Africa. It is the historical precursor to the present-day Free State province...

. Following the First World War, the Union of South Africa was granted the administration of the German South-West Africa
German South-West Africa
German South West Africa was a colony of Germany from 1884 until 1915, when it was taken over by South Africa and administered as South West Africa, finally becoming Namibia in 1990...

 colony as a League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 mandate and it became treated in most respects as if it were another province of the Union.

The Union of South Africa was founded as a dominion
Dominion
A dominion, often Dominion, refers to one of a group of autonomous polities that were nominally under British sovereignty, constituting the British Empire and British Commonwealth, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. They have included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland,...

 of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

.
Encyclopedia
The Union of South Africa is the historic predecessor to the present-day Republic of South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

. It came into being on 31 May 1910 with the unification of the previously separate colonies of the Cape
Cape Colony
The Cape Colony, part of modern South Africa, was established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652, with the founding of Cape Town. It was subsequently occupied by the British in 1795 when the Netherlands were occupied by revolutionary France, so that the French revolutionaries could not take...

, Natal
Colony of Natal
The Colony of Natal was a British colony in south-eastern Africa. It was proclaimed a British colony on May 4, 1843 after the British government had annexed the Boer Republic of Natalia, and on 31 May 1910 combined with three other colonies to form the Union of South Africa, as one of its...

, Transvaal and the Orange Free State
Orange Free State
The Orange Free State was an independent Boer republic in southern Africa during the second half of the 19th century, and later a British colony and a province of the Union of South Africa. It is the historical precursor to the present-day Free State province...

. Following the First World War, the Union of South Africa was granted the administration of the German South-West Africa
German South-West Africa
German South West Africa was a colony of Germany from 1884 until 1915, when it was taken over by South Africa and administered as South West Africa, finally becoming Namibia in 1990...

 colony as a League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 mandate and it became treated in most respects as if it were another province of the Union.

The Union of South Africa was founded as a dominion
Dominion
A dominion, often Dominion, refers to one of a group of autonomous polities that were nominally under British sovereignty, constituting the British Empire and British Commonwealth, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. They have included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland,...

 of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

. It was governed under a form of constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

, with the British monarch represented by a governor-general. The Union came to an end when the 1961 constitution
South African Constitution of 1961
The Constitution of 1961 was the fundamental law of South Africa for two decades. Under the terms of the constitution South Africa left the Commonwealth and became a republic...

 was enacted. On 31 May 1961 the nation became a republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

, under the name of the "Republic of South Africa".

Main features

Unlike Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, the Union was a unitary state
Unitary state
A unitary state is a state governed as one single unit in which the central government is supreme and any administrative divisions exercise only powers that their central government chooses to delegate...

, rather than a federation
Federation
A federation , also known as a federal state, is a type of sovereign state characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions united by a central government...

, with each colony's parliaments being abolished and replaced with provincial councils. A bicameral parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

 was created, consisting of a House of Assembly
House of Assembly of South Africa
The House of Assembly was the lower house of the Parliament of South Africa from 1910 to 1984, and latterly the white representative house of the Tricameral Parliament from 1984 to 1994, when it was replaced by the current National Assembly...

 and Senate
Senate of South Africa
The Senate was the upper house of the Parliament of South Africa between 1910 and its abolition from 1 January 1981, and between 1994 and 1997.-1910-1981:...

, and its members were elected mostly by the country's white minority. During the course of the Union the franchise changed on several occasions often to suit the needs of the government of the day. Parliamentary Supremacy was entrenched and save for procedural safeguards the courts were unable to intervene in Parliament's decisions or policies.

Capitals

Owing to disagreements over where the Union's capital
Capital City
Capital City was a television show produced by Euston Films which focused on the lives of investment bankers in London living and working on the corporate trading floor for the fictional international bank Shane-Longman....

 should be, a compromise was reached in which every province would be dealt a share of the benefits of the capital: the administration would be seated in Pretoria
Pretoria
Pretoria is a city located in the northern part of Gauteng Province, South Africa. It is one of the country's three capital cities, serving as the executive and de facto national capital; the others are Cape Town, the legislative capital, and Bloemfontein, the judicial capital.Pretoria is...

 (Transvaal), the Seat of Parliament would be in Cape Town
Cape Town
Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality...

 (Cape Province), the Appellate Division would be in Bloemfontein
Bloemfontein
Bloemfontein is the capital city of the Free State Province of South Africa; and, as the judicial capital of the nation, one of South Africa's three national capitals – the other two being Cape Town, the legislative capital, and Pretoria, the administrative capital.Bloemfontein is popularly and...

 (Orange Free State), and Pietermaritzburg
Pietermaritzburg
Pietermaritzburg is the capital and second largest city in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It was founded in 1838, and is currently governed by the Msunduzi Local Municipality. Its "purist" Zulu name is umGungundlovu, and this is the name used for the district municipality...

 (Natal) was given financial compensation. This arrangement effectively continues today, as most organs of state are located in Pretoria, with the notable exceptions of the Constitutional Court and Human Rights Commission (both in Johannesburg), the Supreme Court of Appeal and Judicial Services Commission (both in Bloemfontein) and Parliament (Cape Town). The only reference to a capital city in the current South African Constitution is that Cape Town is the Seat of Parliament.

Relationship to the Crown

The Union initially remained under the British Crown
British monarchy
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties...

 as a self-governing dominion
Dominion
A dominion, often Dominion, refers to one of a group of autonomous polities that were nominally under British sovereignty, constituting the British Empire and British Commonwealth, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. They have included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland,...

 of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

. With the passage of the Statute of Westminster
Statute of Westminster 1931
The Statute of Westminster 1931 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Passed on 11 December 1931, the Act established legislative equality for the self-governing dominions of the British Empire with the United Kingdom...

 in 1931, the Union was considered equal in status to the other Dominion
Commonwealth Realm
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

s, and the United Kingdom could no longer legislate on behalf of South Africa. The Monarch was represented in South Africa by a Governor-General
Governor-General of the Union of South Africa
The Governor-General of the Union of South Africa was the representative of the British and later South African Crown in the Union of South Africa between 31 May 1910 and 31 May 1961...

, while effective power was exercised by the Prime Minister (who was Head of Government
Head of government
Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

). Louis Botha
Louis Botha
Louis Botha was an Afrikaner and first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa—the forerunner of the modern South African state...

, formerly a Boer
Boer
Boer is the Dutch and Afrikaans word for farmer, which came to denote the descendants of the Dutch-speaking settlers of the eastern Cape frontier in Southern Africa during the 18th century, as well as those who left the Cape Colony during the 19th century to settle in the Orange Free State,...

 general, was appointed first Prime Minister of the Union, heading a coalition representing the white Afrikaner
Afrikaner
Afrikaners are an ethnic group in Southern Africa descended from almost equal numbers of Dutch, French and German settlers whose native tongue is Afrikaans: a Germanic language which derives primarily from 17th century Dutch, and a variety of other languages.-Related ethno-linguistic groups:The...

 and English-speaking communities.
Prosecutions before courts were instituted in the name of the Crown (cited in the format Rex v Accused) and government officials served in the name of the Crown.

During the course of the Union the Royal Styles of the Monarch were modified, with Elizabeth II being the last reigning Queen of South Africa.

Languages

As an entrenched clause in the Constitution originally, Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 was an official language
Official language
An official language is a language that is given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a nation's official language will be the one used in that nation's courts, parliament and administration. However, official status can also be used to give a...

 alongside English, but it was de facto replaced by Afrikaans
Afrikaans
Afrikaans is a West Germanic language, spoken natively in South Africa and Namibia. It is a daughter language of Dutch, originating in its 17th century dialects, collectively referred to as Cape Dutch .Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch; see , , , , , .Afrikaans was historically called Cape...

 in 1926 whilst officially Dutch and Afrikaans co-existed legally until the 1960s.

Final days of the South Africa Act and legacy

Following a referendum on 5 October 1960, in which whites voted in favour of a republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

, the Union became the Republic of South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 on 31 May 1961 and left the Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 in the face of condemnation of its apartheid policies. Subsequently the South African Parliament passed a Constitution that repealed the South Africa Act
South Africa Act 1909
The South Africa Act 1909 was an Act of the British Parliament which created the Union of South Africa from the British Colonies of the Cape of Good Hope, Natal, Orange River Colony, and the Transvaal Colony. The Act also made provisions for admitting Rhodesia as a fifth province of the Union in...

. The features of the Union were carried over with very little change to the newly formed Republic.
The decision to transform from a Union to Republic was narrowly decided in the referendum. The decision together with South Africa's insistence on adhering to its policy of apartheid resulted in South Africa's de facto expulsion from the Commonwealth of Nations (South Africa left the association when it was resolved that she would not be permitted to remain on the terms she wished).

On the question of race relations, some have opined that the Union was so pre-occupied with uniting the white races (the British and the Boers) into a single race that it enabled the gulf between whites and blacks to enlarge.

Segregation

The South Africa Act
South Africa Act 1909
The South Africa Act 1909 was an Act of the British Parliament which created the Union of South Africa from the British Colonies of the Cape of Good Hope, Natal, Orange River Colony, and the Transvaal Colony. The Act also made provisions for admitting Rhodesia as a fifth province of the Union in...

 dealt with race in two specific provisions. First it entrenched the vote of the Cape Colony which operated free of racial considerations (although due to socio-economic restrictions no real political expression of non-whites was possible.) Second it made "native affairs" a matter for the national government. The practice therefore was to establish a Minister of Native Affairs.

Reasons for unification

At the close of the Anglo-Boer War in 1902, the four colonies were for the first time under a common flag, and the most significant obstacle which had prevented previous plans at unification had been removed. Hence the long-standing desire of many colonial administrators to establish a unified structure became feasible.

Previous attempts to unite the colonies had been made by Sir George Grey
George Grey
George Grey may refer to:*Sir George Grey, 2nd Baronet , British politician*George Grey, 2nd Earl of Kent *Sir George Grey , Governor of Cape Colony, South Australia and New Zealand...

 the Governor of Cape Colony from 1854 to 1861; he had been overruled by the Colonial Office, though the Orange Free State
Orange Free State
The Orange Free State was an independent Boer republic in southern Africa during the second half of the 19th century, and later a British colony and a province of the Union of South Africa. It is the historical precursor to the present-day Free State province...

 had agreed and the Transvaal may also have agreed. Subsequently Lord Carnarvon
Henry Herbert, 4th Earl of Carnarvon
Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert, 4th Earl of Carnarvon, PC, DL, FSA, FRS , known as Lord Porchester from 1833 to 1849, was a British politician and a leading member of the Conservative Party...

 who was Secretary of State for the Colonies
Secretary of State for the Colonies
The Secretary of State for the Colonies or Colonial Secretary was the British Cabinet minister in charge of managing the United Kingdom's various colonial dependencies....

 from 1874 to 1878 had promoted self-government and federation.

South African customs union and trade tariffs

The matter of trade tariffs had been a long-standing source of conflict between the various political units of Southern Africa. Essentially at the heart of the crisis lay the fact that the Transvaal was a landlocked economic hub that resented its dependence on its neighbours, as well as the costs it was incurring through rail and harbour customs.

The Cape Colony was heavily dependent upon customs as a source of tax revenue and subsequently was directly competing with both Natal and Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique). At the time of unification the bulk of cargo destined for the Witwatersrand area entered through Lourenço Marques (now Maputo
Maputo
Maputo, also known as Lourenço Marques, is the capital and largest city of Mozambique. It is known as the City of Acacias in reference to acacia trees commonly found along its avenues and the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. It was famous for the inscription "This is Portugal" on the walkway of its...

 in Mozambique) owing largely to the relative distance and the ZARs policy of reducing its dependence on the British Empire. The South African Customs Union came into existence in 1906, but various problems existed with the arrangements particularly because the Transvaal was insistent on dominating the Union.

After Unification the South African Customs Union continued to exist including the other British territories (the Protectorates and Rhodesia).

The Union of South Africa and Southern Rhodesia

In 1922 the colony of Southern Rhodesia
Southern Rhodesia
Southern Rhodesia was the name of the British colony situated north of the Limpopo River and the Union of South Africa. From its independence in 1965 until its extinction in 1980, it was known as Rhodesia...

 had a chance (ultimately rejected) to join the Union through a referendum
Southern Rhodesia government referendum, 1922
The Southern Rhodesia government referendum of October 27, 1922 saw the voters of the colony of Southern Rhodesia by a comfortable majority reject the chance to join the Union of South Africa in favour of establishing a responsible government within the colony...

. The referendum resulted from the fact that by 1920 British South Africa Company
British South Africa Company
The British South Africa Company was established by Cecil Rhodes through the amalgamation of the Central Search Association and the Exploring Company Ltd., receiving a royal charter in 1889...

 rule in Southern Rhodesia was no longer practical with many favouring some form of 'responsible government'. Some favoured responsible government within Southern Rhodesia while others (especially in Matabeleland) favoured membership in the Union of South Africa.

Prior to the referendum representatives of Southern Rhodesia visited Cape Town where the Prime Minister of South Africa, Jan Smuts
Jan Smuts
Jan Christiaan Smuts, OM, CH, ED, KC, FRS, PC was a prominent South African and British Commonwealth statesman, military leader and philosopher. In addition to holding various cabinet posts, he served as Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa from 1919 until 1924 and from 1939 until 1948...

, eventually offered terms he considered reasonable and which the United Kingdom government found acceptable. Although opinion among the United Kingdom government, the South African government and the British South Africa Company favoured the union option (and none tried to interfere in the referendum), when the referendum was held the results saw 59.4% in favour of responsible government for a separate colony and 40.6% in favour of joining the Union of South Africa.

The Union of South Africa and South-West Africa

Following the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 the Union of South Africa occupied and annexed the German colony of German South-West Africa
German South-West Africa
German South West Africa was a colony of Germany from 1884 until 1915, when it was taken over by South Africa and administered as South West Africa, finally becoming Namibia in 1990...

. With the establishment of the League of Nations and cessation of the war, South Africa obtained a Class C Mandate to administer South-West Africa "under the laws of the mandatory (South Africa) as integral portions of its territory". Subsequently the Union of South Africa generally regarded South-West Africa as a fifth province, although this was never an official status.

With the creation of the United Nations, the Union applied for the incorporation of South-West Africa, but its application was rejected by the U.N., which invited South Africa to prepare a Trusteeship
United Nations Trust Territories
United Nations trust territories were the successors of the remaining League of Nations mandates and came into being when the League of Nations ceased to exist in 1946. All of the trust territories were administered through the UN Trusteeship Council...

 agreement instead. This invitation was in turn rejected by the Union, which subsequently did not modify the administration of South-West Africa and continued to adhere to the original mandate. This caused a complex set of legal wranglings that were not finalised when the Union was replaced with the Republic of South Africa. In 1949, the Union passed a law bringing South-West Africa into closer association with it including giving South-West Africa representation in the South African parliament.

Walvis Bay
Walvis Bay
Walvis Bay , is a city in Namibia and the name of the bay on which it lies...

, which is now in Namibia
Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

, was originally a part of the Union of South Africa as it was a part of the Cape Colony at the time of Unification (it fell under the magisterial district of Cape Town). In 1921 Walvis Bay was integrated with the Class C Mandate over South-West Africa for the rest of the Union's duration and for part of the Republic era.

The Statute of Westminster

The Statute of Westminster 1931
Statute of Westminster 1931
The Statute of Westminster 1931 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Passed on 11 December 1931, the Act established legislative equality for the self-governing dominions of the British Empire with the United Kingdom...

 passed by the Imperial Parliament in December 1931, which repealed the Colonial Laws Validity Act and implemented the Balfour Declaration 1926, had a profound impact on the constitutional structure and status of the Union. The most notable effect was that the South African Parliament was released from many restrictions concerning the handling of the so called "native question". However the repeal was not sufficient to enable the South African Parliament to ignore the entrenched clauses of its constitution (the South Africa Act
South Africa Act 1909
The South Africa Act 1909 was an Act of the British Parliament which created the Union of South Africa from the British Colonies of the Cape of Good Hope, Natal, Orange River Colony, and the Transvaal Colony. The Act also made provisions for admitting Rhodesia as a fifth province of the Union in...

) which led to the constitutional crisis
Constitutional crisis
A constitutional crisis is a situation that the legal system's constitution or other basic principles of operation appear unable to resolve; it often results in a breakdown in the orderly operation of government...

of the 1950s.

External links

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