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1953 South African general election

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1953 South African general election

← 1948 15 April 1953 (1953-04-15) 1958 →

All 156 general roll seats in the House of Assembly
Turnout87.95% (Increase 7.71pp)
  First party Second party Third party
DFMalanPortret (cropped).jpg
KoosStrauss (cropped).jpg
Leader D. F. Malan Koos Strauss John Christie
Party National United Labour
Leader since 1934 1950 1946
Last election 70 seats, 37.70% 65 seats, 49.18% 6 seats, 2.57%
Seats won 94 57 5
Seat change Increase 24 Decrease 8 Decrease 1
Popular vote 598,718 576,474 34,730
Percentage 49.48% 47.65% 2.87%
Swing Increase 11.78pp Decrease 1.53pp Increase 0.30pp

Prime Minister before election

D. F. Malan

Elected Prime Minister

D. F. Malan

General elections were held in South Africa on 15 April 1953. The elections consolidated the position of the National Party under D. F. Malan, which won an absolute majority of the 156 elected seats in the House of Assembly. The United Party under JGN Strauss lost several seats, and suffered several splits after the election.

Changes in composition

Native representative members

The second term of the white MPs elected to represent black voters, from special electoral districts in Cape Province under the Representation of Natives Act 1936, expired on 30 June 1948 (just over a month after the National Party came to power in the 1948 general election). These seats were not vacated by a dissolution of Parliament, so they were not contested at either the 1948 or 1953 general elections.

The three representative seats were filled by elections on 17 November 1948. Two Independent MPs (W.H. Stuart of Transkeian Territories and Mrs V.M.L. Ballinger of Cape Eastern) were returned. The third seat was taken by Sam Kahn, a South African Communist Party member, who gained the seat from an Independent.

The term of these members expired on 30 June 1954 (the first 30 June to fall after five years from the date of election).[1]

The Communist Party dissolved itself (at least as an open political party) when legislation to ban it was going through Parliament in 1950. Sam Kahn was ultimately banned from being a member of Parliament, in 1952, under the anti Communist legislation. Subsequently, two successive by-elections were held in Cape Western, but the victors had similar views to Mr Kahn and were also excluded from Parliament. The seat was then left vacant for the remainder of the term.[2]

South-West Africa

The white electors of the territory of South-West Africa (present day Namibia), were allocated six seats in the House of Assembly. These new electoral divisions were first filled at by-elections on 31 August 1950. The governing National Party won all the seats, which were additional to the 150 general roll seats allocated to the Union of South Africa.[3]

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, under the tenth delimitation report of 1953, is set out in the table below. The figures in brackets are the number of electoral divisions in the previous (1947) delimitation. If there is no figure in brackets then the number was unchanged.[4]

Provinces Cape Natal Orange Free State Transvaal Total
Divisions 54 (55) 15 (16) 13 68 (66) 150

The above table does not include the three native representative seats in Cape Province nor the six South-West African divisions, which were not included in the delimitation of the general roll seats for the Union under the South Africa Act 1909.

Position at the dissolution

At the end of the 10th Union Parliament, when it was dissolved in 1953, the House of Assembly consisted of two groups of members. General roll voters (white voters from the whole Union and South-West Africa and coloured electors in Cape Province and Natal) were represented by 156 members. Black voters in Cape Province were represented by three white MPs, known at the time as Native Representative Members (NRM).

The general election, on 15 April 1953, only affected the representatives of general roll voters. From 1938 the Native Representative Members had fixed terms and were elected on a different date.[5] The overall composition of the House, set out by province before the general election, was as below.[6]

Province National United Labour Independent Total
Cape (general) 28 27 - - 55
Cape (NRM) - - - 3 3
Natal 3 11 2 - 16
Orange FS 12 1 - - 13
SW Africa 6 - - - 6
Transvaal 37 25 4 - 66
Total 86 64 6 3 159

Abbreviations in the province list.

  • Orange FS: Orange Free State
  • SW Africa: South-West Africa
  • NRM: Native Representative Members

Note: The NRM seat, formerly held by the Communist Party, is listed as Independent in the above table. Sam Kahn and his two successors, after the Communist Party dissolved its public organisation and went underground, all claimed to be Independents.


Since the 1948 general election Dr Malan's Reunited National Party had merged with its coalition partner, the Afrikaner Party. The merged party was named the National Party (NP). The government had also strengthened its political position, by conferring six parliamentary seats upon the white population of the territory of South West Africa.

The principal opposition party was the United Party (UP). Since the previous general election, in 1948, the UPs veteran leader Field Marshal Jan Smuts had died. The new Leader of the Opposition was J.G.N. Strauss.

The other parliamentary opposition party was the Labour Party. In 1953, the United Party and the Labour Party had an electoral pact, for the third successive general election.

During the campaign, the Labour leader John Christie died. His seat was consequently contested at a by election after the normal day of the general election poll. It was retained by a new Labour candidate and is included in the totals for the results section of this article,

The NP promoted its policy of apartheid Dr Malan suggested that the white voters could unite around the Nationalist programme. The UP criticised the idea of apartheid as impractical. Mr Strauss campaigned alleging that the first task of a South African government should be the suppression of Native criminals, who created insecurity in the cities. United Party supporters were optimistic on the eve of the poll.[7]


Due to a quirk in the first-past-the-post system, the Nationalists won 37 more seats than United despite finishing only two percentage points ahead of United in the popular vote. This was enough to deliver the Nationalists a second consecutive majority government.

South African House of Assembly 1953.svg
National Party598,71849.4894+15
United Party576,47447.6557–8
Labour Party34,7302.875–1
Native Representative Members30
Valid votes1,209,92299.29
Invalid/blank votes8,7090.71
Total votes1,218,631100.00
Registered voters/turnout1,385,59187.95
Source: African Elections Database

By province

Province National United Labour Independent Total
Cape (general) 30 24 0 0 54
Cape (NRM) 0 0 0 3 3
Natal 2 11 2 0 15
Orange FS 13 0 0 0 13
SW Africa 6 0 0 0 6
Transvaal 43 22 3 0 68
Total 94 57 5 3 159
Source: Keesings[8]


  1. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1946-1948, page 9752 (election); The South African Constitution, pp 101-109 (for the details of the native representative seats)
  2. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1950-1952, page 12245
  3. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1950-1952, page 11076
  4. ^ South Africa 1982, page 129 (table setting out delimitations of seats by province, the relevant one being that of 1953)
  5. ^ Smuts: A Reappraisal, page 122
  6. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1952-1954
  7. ^ The Times, edition of 14 April 1953
  8. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1952-1954
  • Keesing's Contemporary Archives
  • Smuts: A Reappraisal, by Bernard Friedman (George, Allen & Unwin 1975) ISBN 0-04-920045-3
  • 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)

External links

This page was last edited on 10 December 2020, at 16:11
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