South Africa Presidents List – Past and Present [2024]

This post is focused on the past and present presidents of South Africa from post-apartheid till date. South Africa is the southernmost country in Africa and one of the most respected and modernized countries in Africa.

It is headed by a president elected by the national assembly and is always the party leader with the majority of the members of the assembly.

From 1961 to 1994 the president’s office was known as the state president’s office, the president and the now-defunct prime minister were both responsible for governing the country. In 1983, the constitution was amended and the prime minister’s office was abolished.

South Africa Presidents List - Past and Present

In 1993, the constitution was amended to limit the presidential term in office to a maximum of two five-year terms. After the end of the infamous apartheid rule in 1994, South Africa had five presidents, with Nelson Mandela as the first post-apartheid president.

Without wasting much time let us quickly examine the topic South Africa Presidents form the post-apartheid up to this moment.

Presidents of the Republic of South Africa

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was the first post-apartheid president in South Africa and the first black president in South Africa. He was born on July 18, 1918, and served as president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He is recognized worldwide for his role in anti-apartheid. Before joining active politics, he worked as a lawyer in Johannesburg. 

He later joined anti-colonial politics and co-founded the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League. He led several protests and was later unsuccessfully charged with treason, however, in 1961 he led a sabotage campaign against the government, and in 1962 he was arrested and given a life sentence. 

He served 27 years on Robben Island and then on Pollsmoor and finally on Victor Vester. He was released from prison on February 11, 1990. 

Mandela served a single presidential term, but for his efforts in anti-apartheid and the reconstruction of South Africa, he is remembered as the “father of the nation”. He received more than 250 honors including the coveted Nobel Peace Prize. He died on December 5th, 2013 after suffering a respiratory problem.

Thabo Mbeki

Thabo Mbeki served as South Africa’s second post-apartheid president. He served for nine years, from June 14th, 1999 until September 24th, 2008. He resigned from office nine months before the end of his second term after a judge found guilty of interfering with the National Prosecuting Authority. 

In January 2009, the appeals court overturned the decision, but his resignation remained. Much was expected of Mbeki since he succeeded Mandela, during his regime, the economy grew 4.5% per year. 

There was a huge creation of jobs and the middle class grew at a faster pace. He made the country a focal point for international investors. He led the development of economic blocks such as BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA).

Kgalema Motlanthe

Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe was South Africa’s third post-apartheid president. He served the shortest term in office, one that lasted just eight months from September 25, 2008 until May 9, 2009. Motlanthe took office after Mbeki’s resignation since he was the vice president and is South Africa’s first Nothern Sotho-speaking president.

He refused to run for president and was named vice president when Jacob Zuma took office in 2009. He served as South African vice president from 2007 until 2012. Before joining politics, he was a trade unionist and a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe, an ANC military wing. He is believed to be a silent political operator behind Jacob Zuma’s success.

Jacob Zuma

Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma took office in 2009. Zuma also served as vice president from 1999 until 2005. Zuma was a controversial president, having faced a significant number of legal challenges, including accusations of rape and corruption. 

He is also known to be a polygamist with six wives. He joined politics in 1959, and in 1963 he was arrested along with 45 other activists and served ten years on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela. 

He described himself as a socialist president and was widely supported by the ANC unions and women and young leagues. Zuma resigned on February 14, 2018 facing a motion of distrust and the request for his removal from the ANC.

Current President: Cyril Ramaphosa

Cyril Ramaphosa became the acting and fifth president of South Africa on February 15, 2018 after Zuma’s resignation. From 2014 to 2018, Ramaphosa had previously served as vice president of South Africa.

He is known to be Nelson Mandela’s preferred choice as future president, having participated in negotiations to end apartheid peacefully and in the development of the first democratic election from South Africa.

Read Also: The 10 Richest Celebrities in South Africa

Presidents of the Republic of South Africa

Presidents of the Republic of South AfricaDeadline at the Office
Nelson Mandela1994-1999
Thabo Mbeki1999-2008
Kgalema Motlanthe2008-2009
Jacob Zuma2009-2018
Cyril Ramaphosa

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