White South Africans
White South Africans are South Africans descended from any of the white racial or ethnic groups of Europe and parts of the Middle East. In linguistic, cultural and historical terms, they are generally divided into the Afrikaans-speaking descendants of the Dutch East India Company's original settlers, known as Afrikaners or Boers, and the Anglophone descendants of predominantly British colonists. In 2016, 57.9% were native Afrikaans speakers, 40.2% were native English speakers, and 1.9% spoke another language as their mother tongue, such as Portuguese or German. White South Africans are by far the largest European-descended population group in Africa.
|2019 estimate: |
|Regions with significant populations|
|Throughout South Africa, but mostly concentrated in urban areas. Population by provinces, as of the 2011 census:|
|Afrikaans (58%), English (40%), other (2%)|
|Christianity (85.6%), Irreligious (8.9%), Judaism (0.9%), Other (4.6%)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|White Namibians, White Zimbabweans, Afrikaners, British diaspora in Africa, Coloureds, South African diaspora|
White South Africans differ significantly from other White African groups, because they have a sense of separate cultural identity, as in the case of the Afrikaners, who established a distinct language, culture and faith.
The history of White settlement in South Africa started in 1652 with the settlement of the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) under Jan van Riebeeck. Despite the preponderance of officials and colonists from the Netherlands, there were also a number of French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution at home and German soldiers or sailors returning from service in Asia. The colony remained under Dutch rule for two more centuries, after which it was annexed by Great Britain around 1806. At that time, South Africa was home to about 26,000 people of European descent, a relative majority of whom were still of Dutch origin. However, beginning in 1818 thousands of British immigrants arrived in the growing Cape Colony, looking to join the local workforce or settle directly on the frontier. About a fifth of the Cape's original Dutch-speaking white population migrated eastwards during the Great Trek in the 1830s and established their own autonomous Boer republics further inland. Nevertheless, the population of European origin continued increasing in the Cape as a result of immigration, and by 1865 had reached 181,592 people. Between 1880 and 1910, there was an influx of immigrants arriving from Eastern Europe, including many Lithuanian Jews. Similarly, an influx of Arabs, particularly Lebanese, began arriving to South Africa in the late 19th century.
The first nationwide census in South Africa was held in 1911 and indicated a white population of 1,276,242. By 1936, there were an estimated 2,003,857 white South Africans, and by 1946 the number had reached 2,372,690. The country began receiving tens of thousands of European immigrants, namely from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Greece, and the territories of the Portuguese Empire during the mid to late twentieth century. South Africa's white population increased to over 3,408,000 by 1965, reached 4,050,000 in 1973, and peaked at 5,044,000 in 1990.
The number of white South Africans resident in their home country began gradually declining between 1990 and the mid-2000s as a result of increased emigration.
Today, white South Africans are also considered to be the last major white population group of European ancestry on the African continent, due in part to the mass exodus of colonialists from most other African states during regional decolonisation. Whites continue to play a role in the South African economy and across the political spectrum. The current number of white South Africans is not exactly known, as no recent census has been measured, although the overall percentage of up to 9% of the population represents a decline, both numerically and proportionately, since the country's first non-racial elections in 1994. Just under a million white South Africans are also living as expatriate workers abroad, which forms the majority of South Africa's brain drain.
Under the Population Registration Act of 1950, each inhabitant of South Africa was classified into one of several different race groups, of which White was one. The Office for Race Classification defined a white person as one who "in appearance is obviously a white person who is generally not accepted as a coloured person; or is generally accepted as a white person and is not in appearance obviously a white person." Many criteria, both physical (e.g. examination of head and body hair) and social (e.g. eating and drinking habits, familiarity with Afrikaans or a European language) were used when the board decided to classify someone as white or coloured. This was virtually extended to all those considered the children of two White persons, regardless of appearance. The Act was repealed on 17 June 1991.
In Employment Equity Act of 1994, legislation propagates employment of black (black being classified as: African, Indian, Chinese, and Coloured population groups, as well as disabled people) South Africans. Black Economic Empowerment legislation further empowerers blacks as the government considers ownership, employment, training and social responsibility initiatives, which empower black South Africans, as important criteria when awarding tenders. However, private enterprises adheres to this legislation voluntarily. Some reports indicate a growing number of whites suffering from poverty compared to the pre-apartheid years and attribute this to such laws — over 350,000 Afrikaners may be classified as poor, with some research claiming that up to 150,000 are struggling for survival. This, combined with a wave of violent crime, has led to vast numbers of Afrikaners and English-speaking South Africans leaving the country.
Diaspora and emigration
Since 1994, there has been significant emigration of white people from South Africa. There are thus currently large Afrikaner and English-speaking South African communities in the United Kingdom, Australia and other developed countries. Between 1995 and 2005, more than one million South Africans emigrated, citing violent and racially motivated black on white crime as the main reason, as well as the lack of employment opportunities for whites.
In recent decades, there has been a steady proportional decline in South Africa's white community, due to higher birthrates among other South African ethnic groups, as well as a high rate of emigration. In 1977, there were 4.3 million whites, constituting 16.4% of the population at the time. As of 2016, it is estimated that at least 800,000 white South Africans have emigrated since 1995.
Like many other communities strongly affiliated with the West and Europe's colonial legacy in Africa, white South Africans were in the past often economically better off than their black African neighbors and have surrendered political dominance to majority rule. There were also some white Africans in South Africa who lived in poverty—especially during the 1930s and increasingly since the end of minority rule. Current estimates of white poverty in South Africa run as high as 12%, though fact-checking website Africa Check described these figures as "grossly inflated", and suggested that a more accurate estimate was that "only a tiny fraction of the white population – as little as 7,754 households – are affected".
The new phenomenon of white poverty is often blamed on the government's affirmative action employment legislation, which reserves 80% of new jobs for black people and favours companies owned by black people (see Black Economic Empowerment). In 2010, Reuters stated that 450,000 whites live below the poverty line according to Solidarity and civil organisations, with some research saying that up to 150,000 are struggling for survival. However, the proportion of white South Africans living in poverty is still much lower than for other groups in the country, since approximately 50% of the general population fall below the upper-bound poverty line.
A further concern has been crime. Some white South Africans living in affluent white suburbs, such as Sandton, have been affected by the 2008 13.5% rise in house robberies and associated crime. In a study, Dr. Johan Burger, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), said that criminals were specifically targeting wealthier suburbs. Burger explained that several affluent suburbs are surrounded by poorer residential areas and that inhabitants in the latter often target inhabitants in the former. Burger alleged an entitlement complex among criminals: "They feel they are entitled, for their own sakes, to take from those who have a lot". The report also found that residents in wealthy suburbs in Gauteng were not only at more risk of being targeted but also faced an inflated chance of being murdered during the robbery.
The global financial crisis slowed down the high rates of white people emigrating overseas and has led to increasing numbers of white emigrants returning to live in South Africa. Charles Luyckx, CEO of Elliot International and a board member of the Professional Movers Association said that in the past six months leading to December (2008), emigration numbers had dropped by 10%. Meanwhile, he revealed that "people imports" had increased by 50%. These figures may be grossly unreliable due to legislation which does not allow South Africans to hold dual citizenships so many who emigrate let their citizenship remain dormant or lapsed while changing citizenship and no reporting method exists.
Furthermore, immigration from Europe has also supplemented the white population. The 2011 census found that 63,479 white people living in South Africa were born in Europe; of these, 28,653 had moved to South Africa since 2001.
At the end of apartheid in 1994, 85 percent of South Africa's arable land was owned by whites. The land reform program introduced after the end of apartheid intended that, within 20 years, 30 percent of white-owned commercial farm land should be transferred to black owners. Thus, in 2011, the farmers' association Agri South Africa coordinated efforts to resettle farmers throughout the African continent. The initiative was offered millions of hectares from 22 African countries that hoped to spur development of efficient commercial farming. The 30 percent target was not close to being met by the 2014 deadline. According to a 2017 government audit, 72% of the nation's private farmland is owned by white people. In February 2018, the Parliament of South Africa passed a motion to review the property ownership clause of the constitution, to allow for the expropriation of land, in the public interest, without compensation, which was supported within South Africa's ruling ANC party on the grounds that the land was originally seized by whites without just compensation. In August 2018, the South African government began the process of taking two white-owned farmlands. Western Cape ANC secretary Faiez Jacobs referred to the property clause amendment as a "stick" to force dialogue about the transfer of land ownership, with the hope of accomplishing the transfer "in a way that is orderly and doesn’t create a ‘them’ and ‘us’ [situation]."
The Statistics South Africa Census 2011 showed that there were about 4,586,838 white people in South Africa, amounting to 8.9% of the country's population. This is a 6.8% increase since the 2001 census. According to the Census 2011, South African English is the first language of 36% of the white population group and Afrikaans is the first language of 61% of the white population group. The majority of white South Africans identify themselves as primarily South African, regardless of their first language or ancestry.
Approximately 87% of white South Africans are Christian, 9% are irreligious, and 1% are Jewish. The largest Christian denomination is the Dutch Reformed Church (NGK), with 23% being members. Other significant denominations are the Methodist Church (8%), the Roman Catholic Church (7%), and the Anglican Church (6%).
Many white Africans of European ancestry have migrated to South Africa from other parts of the continent due to political or economic turmoil in their respective homelands. Thousands of Portuguese settlers from Mozambique and Angola and white Zimbabweans emigrated to South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s. However, the overwhelming majority of European migration correlated with the historic colonization of the region (some migrating for the purpose of capitalizing on the exploitation of resources, minerals and other lucrative elements found in South Africa, others for better life and farming opportunities without many restrictions in newly colonised lands).
Meanwhile, many white South Africans also emigrated to Western countries over the past two decades, mainly to English-speaking countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, and with others settling in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, France, Argentina, Mexico, Israel and Brazil. However, the financial crisis has slowed down the rate of emigration and as of May 2014, Homecoming Revolution has estimated that around 340,000 white South Africans have returned in the last decade.
According to Statistics South Africa, white South Africans make up 8.9% (Census 2011) of the total population in South Africa. Their actual proportional share in municipalities is likely to be higher, given the undercount in the 2001 census.
|Province||White pop. (2011)||White pop. (2001)||% province (2011)||% province (2001)||% change 2001-2011||% total whites (2011)|
White South Africans continue to participate in politics, having a presence across the whole political spectrum from left to right.
South African President Jacob Zuma commented in 2009 on Afrikaners being "the only white tribe in a black continent or outside of Europe which is truly African", and said that "of all the white groups that are in South Africa, it is only the Afrikaners that are truly South Africans in the true sense of the word." These remarks have led to the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR) laying a complaint with the Human Rights Commission against Zuma. In 2015, a complaint was investigated for hate speech against Jacob Zuma who said "You must remember that a man called Jan van Riebeeck arrived here on 6 April 1652, and that was the start of the trouble in this country."
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki stated in one of his speeches to the nation that: "South Africa belongs to everyone who lives in it. Black and White." The history of white people in South Africa dates back to the sixteenth century.
Prior to 1994, a white minority held complete political power under a system of racial segregation called apartheid. Some white people supported this policy, but some others opposed it. During apartheid, immigrants from Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan were considered honorary whites in the country, as the government had maintained diplomatic relations with these countries. These were granted the same privileges as white people, at least for purposes of residence. Some African Americans such as Max Yergan were granted an 'honorary white' status as well.
Statistics for the white population in South Africa vary greatly. Most sources show that the white population peaked in the period between 1989 and 1995 at around 5.2 to 5.6 million. Up to that point, the white population largely increased due to high birth rates and immigration. Subsequently, between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s, the white population decreased overall. However, from 2006 to 2013, the white population increased.
|Year||White population||% of total population||Source|
|1911||1,270,000 ||22.7% ||1911 Census|
|1960||3,088,492 ||19.3% ||1960 Census|
|1961||3,117,000 ||19.1% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1961|
|1962||3,170,000 ||19.0% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1962|
|1963||3,238,000 ||19.0% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1963|
|1964||3,323,000 ||19.0% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1964|
|1965||3,398,000 ||19.0% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1965|
|1966||3,481,000 ||19.0% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1966|
|1967||3,563,000 ||19.0% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1967|
|1968||3,639,000 ||19.0% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1968|
|1969||3,728,000 ||19.0% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1969|
|1970||3,792,848 ||17.1% ||1970 Census|
|1971||3,920,000 ||17.0% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1971|
|1972||4,005,000 ||16.9% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1972|
|1973||4,082,000 ||16.8% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1973|
|1974||4,160,000 ||16.7% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1974|
|1975||4,256,000 ||16.8% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1975|
|1976||4,337,000 ||18.2% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1976|
|1977||4,396,000 ||17.9% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1977|
|1978||4,442,000 ||18.5% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1978|
|1979||4,485,000 ||18.4% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1979|
|1980||4,522,000 ||18.1% ||1980 Census|
|1981||4,603,000 ||18.0% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1981|
|1982||4,674,000 ||18.3% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1982|
|1983||4,748,000 ||18.2% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1983|
|1984||4,809,000 ||17.7% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1984|
|1985||4,867,000 ||17.5% ||1985 Census|
|1986||4,900,000 ||17.3% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1986|
|1991||5,068,300 ||13.4% ||1991 Census|
|1992||5,121,000 ||13.2% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1992|
|1993||5,156,000 ||13.0% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1993|
|1994||5,191,000 ||12.8% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1994|
|1995||5,224,000 ||12.7% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1995|
|1996||4,434,697 ||10.9% ||South African National Census of 1996|
|1997||4,462,200 ||10.8% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1997|
|1998||4,500,400 ||10.7% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1998|
|1999||4,538,727 ||10.5% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 1999|
|2000||4,521,664 ||10.4% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2000|
|2001||4,293,640 ||9.6% ||South African National Census of 2001|
|2002||4,555,289 ||10.0% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2002|
|2003||4,244,346 ||9.1% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2003|
|2004||4,434,294 ||9.5% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2004|
|2005||4,379,800 ||9.3% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2005|
|2006||4,365,300 ||9.2% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2006|
|2007||4,352,100 ||9.1% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2007|
|2008||4,499,200 ||9.2% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2008|
|2009||4,472,100 ||9.1% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2009|
|2010||4,584,700 ||9.2% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2010|
|2011||4,586,838 ||8.9% ||South African National Census of 2011|
|2013||4,602,400 ||8.7% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2013|
|2014||4,554,800 ||8.4% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2014|
|2015||4,534,000 ||8.3% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2015|
|2016||4,515,800 ||8.1% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2016|
|2017||4,493,500 ||8.0% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2017|
|2018||4,520,100 ||7.8% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2018|
|2019||4,652,006 ||7.9% ||Stats SA: Mid-year population estimates, 2019|
Contraception among white South Africans is stable or slightly falling: 80% used contraception in 1990, and 79% used it in 1998. The following data shows some fertility rates recorded during South Africa's history. However, there are varied sources showing that the white fertility rate reached below replacement (2.1) by 1980. Likewise, recent studies show a range of fertility rates, ranging from 1.3 to 2.4. The Afrikaners tend to have a higher birthrate than that of other white people.
|Year||Total fertility rate||Source|
|2011||1.7 ||Census 2011|
The average life expectancy at birth for males and females
|Year||Average life expectancy||Male life expectancy||Female life expectancy|
|Province||White unemployment rate (strict)|
|Population group||Average income (2015)||Average income (2011)||Average income (2001)|
|White||R 444 446 (321.7%)||R 365 134 (353.8%)||R 193 820 (400.6%)|
|Indian/Asian||R 271 621 (196.6%)||R 251 541 (243.7%)||R 102 606 (212.1%)|
|Coloured||R 172 765 (125.0%)||R 112 172 (108.7%)||R 51 440 (106.3%)|
|Black||R 92 983 (67.3%)||R 60 613 (58.7%)||R 22 522 (46.5%)|
|Total||R 138 168 (100%)||R 103 204 (100%)||R 48 385 (100%)|
Percentage of workforce
|Province||Whites % of the workforce||Whites % of population|
Religion among white South Africans remains high compared to other white ethnic groups, but likewise it has shown a steady proportional drop in both membership and church attendance with until recently the majority of white South Africans attending regular church services.
|- Christianity||3 726 266||86.8%|
|- Dutch Reformed churches||1 450 861||33.8%|
|- Pentecostal/Charismatic/Apostolic churches||578 092||13.5%|
|- Methodist Church||343 167||8.0%|
|- Catholic Church||282 007||6.6%|
|- Anglican Church||250 213||5.8%|
|- Other Reformed churches||143 438||3.3%|
|- Baptist churches||78 302||1.8%|
|- Presbyterian churches||74 158||1.7%|
|- Lutheran churches||25 972||0.6%|
|- Other Christian churches||500 056||11.6%|
|No religion||377 007||8.8%|
|Other or undetermined||117 721||2.7%|
|Total||4 293 637||100%|
Notable White South Africans
Science and technology
- Christiaan Barnard, surgeon who performed first successful human heart transplant
- Mike Botha, master diamond cutter and educator; Yves Landry Award for Outstanding Innovation in Education, Canada
- Peter Sarnak, Princeton's Eugene Higgins professor of mathematics, specialising in number theory
- Stanley Skewes, mathematician whose work in number theory produced the record breaking Skewes number
- Percy Deift, mathematician specialising in analysis
- Sydney Brenner, biologist; Nobel Prize, Physiology/Medicine 2002
- Allan McLeod Cormack, physicist; Nobel Prize, Medicine 1979
- Gordon Murray, designer of Formula One race cars, including the Championship winning Mclaren MP4/4 and the ultra-exclusive McLaren F1 Roadcar
- Elon Musk, engineer, founder of SpaceX, Tesla Motors and PayPal
- Basil Schonland, physicist
- Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu, a Linux based computer Operating system; first African in space
- Neil Turok, cosmologist
- George F. R. Ellis, cosmologist
- Max Theiler, virologist; Nobel Prize, Medicine 1951
- Phillip Tobias, palaeo-anthropologist
- Flight Lieutenant Andrew Beauchamp-Proctor VC, DSO, MC and bar, DFC fighter ace, 1st World War
- Major William Bloomfield VC, South African East African campaign, 1st World War
- Captain William Faulds VC MC, Delville Wood, 1st World War
- Major John Frost DFC, South African Air Force fighter ace during the Second World War
- Lieutenant Colonel Reginald Frederick Johnson Hayward VC, Western Front, 1st World War
- Captain Petrus Hugo DSO DFC, fighter ace, Second World War
- Squadron Leader Albert Gerald Lewis DFC, South African fighter ace, 2nd World War
- Adolph "Sailor" Malan, Second World War ace fighter pilot
- Squadron Leader John Dering Nettleton VC, Battle of Britain
- Major Oswald Reid VC, 1st World War
- Captain Clement Robertson VC, Western Front
- Lieutenant Colonel John Sherwood-Kelly VC CMG DSO, Second Boer War, Bambatha Rebellion, 1st World War
- Captain Quentin Smythe VC, North Africa 2nd World War
- Major Edwin Swales VC DFC, pilot during the Second World War
- Lieutenant Kevin Winterbottom HC, South African Air Force
- Staff Sergeant Danny Roxo HC, 32 Battalion, South African Army
- General Constand Viljoen SSA SD SOE SM MMM MP, former South African military chief and former leader of the Freedom Front Plus
- Air Vice Marshal John Frederick George Howe, CB, CBE, AFC (26 March 1930 – 27 January 2016)
Royalty and Aristocracy
Arts and media
- Charlize Theron, Academy Award-winning actress
- Candice Swanepoel, model.
- Madelaine Petsch, actress, model, YouTuber.
- J. M. Coetzee, novelist; Nobel Prize, Literature 2003
- Jani Allan, columnist and radio commentator
- David Bateson, voice actor in the Hitman video game series
- Neill Blomkamp, director
- Sharlto Copley, actor
- Herman Charles Bosman, writer
- Breyten Breytenbach, writer and painter
- Andre Brink, novelist
- Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, Miss Universe 2017
- Johnny Clegg, musician noted for performing in Juluka and Savuka
- Embeth Davidtz, actress, South African-American, born to South African parents in Indiana
- Die Antwoord, band; rap-rave group formed in Cape Town
- Kongos (band); rock band
- Casper de Vries, comedian
- Jakob Daniël du Toit, poet
- Elisabeth Eybers, poet
- Duncan Faure, singer-songwriter and musician
- Athol Fugard, playwright
- Nadine Gordimer, writer; Nobel Prize, Literature 1991
- Sonja Herholdt, recording artist
- Sid James, actor, Carry On team
- Ingrid Jonker, poet
- Alice Krige, actress
- Antjie Krog, writer
- Caspar Lee, YouTuber, actor
- Lara Logan, journalist and war correspondent
- Eugène Nielen Marais, poet, writer, lawyer and naturalist
- Dalene Matthee, writer
- Dave Matthews, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter
- Deon Meyer, writer
- Shaun Morgan, singer and guitarist for the rock band Seether
- Alan Paton, writer
- Sasha Pieterse, actress in the hit ABC family series Pretty Little Liars
- Trevor Rabin, musician and composer, member of the rock band Yes
- Stelio Savante American Movie Award-winning and SAG Nominated actor
- Leon Schuster, comedian, filmmaker, actor, presenter and singer
- Troye Sivan, YouTuber, singer (half Australian)
- Neil Sandilands, actor, director and cinematographer
- Winston Sterzel, YouTuber, first China vlogger and cofounder of ADVChina
- Tammin Sursok, actress, born in South Africa, but raised in Australia
- Esta TerBlanche, actress and model
- Edwin Gagiano, South African-born Actor, filmmaker, singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles.
- Pieter-Dirk Uys, performer and satirist, creator of Evita Bezuidenhout
- N. P. van Wyk Louw, poet
- Tanit Phoenix, actress, fashion model
- J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion.
- Cariba Heine, actress
- Dean Geyer, actor and singer
- Cliff Simon, actor and athlete
- Musetta Vander, actress
- Arnold Vosloo, actor
- Basil Rathbone, actor
- Justine Waddell, actress
- Melinda Bam, Miss South Africa 2011
- Nicole Flint, Miss South Africa 2008
- Megan Coleman, Miss South Africa 2006
- Penelope Coelen, Miss World 1958
- Elize du Toit, actress
- J. R. Rotem, productor, songwriter and music publisher
- Sir Antony Sher, actor
- Sir Laurens van der Post, controversial author, conservationist, explorer, journalist and confidant to H.R.H. The Prince of Wales
- Etienne de Villiers, investor; media and sports executive
- Ivan Glasenberg, CEO of Glencore Xstrata, one of the world's largest commodity trading and mining companies
- Sol Kerzner, accountant and business magnate mainly in the casino resort sector
- Harry Oppenheimer, chairman of Anglo American Corporation for 25 years and De Beers Consolidated Mines for 27 years
- Nicky Oppenheimer, chairman of the De Beers diamond mining company and its subsidiary, the Diamond Trading Company
- Anton Rupert, founder of the Rembrandt Group
- Johann Rupert, chairman of the Swiss-based luxury-goods company Richemont and South Africa-based company Remgro
- Desmond Sacco, Chairman and Managing Director of Assore Limited
- Christo Wiese, consumer retail business magnate
- Louis Botha, farmer, soldier, statesman; first Prime Minister of South Africa
- P. W. Botha, former State President of South Africa
- F. W. de Klerk, former State President of South Africa
- Marike de Klerk, former First Lady of South Africa, murdered in her home in 2001
- Sir Patrick Duncan Governor-General at the start of the Second World War
- Ruth First, anti-apartheid activist and scholar
- Sir James Percy FitzPatrick, author, politician and businessman
- Derek Hanekom, Deputy Minister of Technology; prominent ANC member of Parliament
- Sandra Laing, white girl reclassified as "Coloured" during the apartheid era
- D. F. Malan, former Prime Minister of South Africa
- Pieter Mulder, former Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries; leader of the Freedom Front Plus
- Andries Pretorius, former leader of the Voortrekkers who was instrumental in the creation of the South African Republic
- Harry Schwarz, lawyer, politician, diplomat and anti-apartheid leader
- Joe Slovo, former leader of the South African Communist Party played key part in constitutional negotiations in 1990s
- Field Marshal Jan Smuts, soldier, politician and former Prime Minister of South Africa during both World Wars. Only person to sign both world War peace treaties on the winning side.
- Jan Steytler, first leader of Progressive Party of South Africa, former MP
- Helen Suzman, anti-apartheid activist and former MP, solo anti-apartheid parliamentarian from 1961-1974 representing Progressive Party (South Africa), served on first Independent Electoral Commission supervising first non-racial national elections in South Africa
- Colin Eglin, former leader of the Progressive Party (South Africa) and its successors and former MP, played key role in building up parliamentary opposition to apartheid in the 1970s and 1980s, and in constitutional negotiations in 1990s
- Zach de Beer, former Progressive Party (South Africa) MP, subsequent leader of Democratic Party and post-apartheid ambassador to The Netherlands, also played key part in constitutional negotiations in 1990s
- Eugène Terre'Blanche, former leader of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging; murdered
- Marthinus van Schalkwyk, previous Minister of Tourism and ANC member of Parliament; played a key role in merging the National Party into the ANC
- Hendrik Verwoerd, former Prime Minister of South Africa; primary architect of Apartheid; assassinated in Cape Town, in the House of Assembly
- Helen Zille, former leader of the Democratic Alliance and Premier of the Western Cape
- Kevin Anderson, professional tennis player
- Francois Botha, professional boxer
- Okkert Brits, former pole vaulter, holds the African record and only African in the "6 metres club"
- Zola Budd, former track and field runner, broke the world record in the women's 5000 m twice in under three years
- Gerrie Coetzee, former boxer, first boxer from Africa to win a world heavyweight title
- AB de Villiers, professional South African batsman
- Giniel de Villiers, racing driver and winner of the 2009 Dakar Rally
- Natalie du Toit, paralympian swimmer
- Ernie Els, professional golfer, former World No. 1 and winner of four Majors
- Wayne Ferreira, former tennis player
- Lyndon Ferns, former swimmer and gold medallist in the 4x100m freestyle relay at the 2004 Summer Olympics
- Dean Furman (born 1988), footballer
- Retief Goosen, professional golfer, twice US Open champion
- Penny Heyns, former swimmer, the only woman in the history of the Olympic Games to have won both the 100 m and 200 m breaststroke events, at the 1996 Summer Olympics
- Johan Kriek, former professional tennis player and winner of the 1981 Australian Open
- Chad le Clos, swimmer and gold medalist in the 200m butterfly at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London
- Raymond Leppan, professional wrestler, formerly signed with World Wrestling Entertainment performing under the name Adam Rose
- Paul Lloyd Jr., professional wrestler, formerly signed with World Wrestling Entertainment where he performed under the name Justin Gabriel
- Elana Meyer, former long-distance runner, set 15 km road running and half marathon African records
- Percy Montgomery, former rugby union player and current record holder for both caps and points for the Springboks
- Albie Morkel, cricketer
- Morne Morkel, cricketer
- Ryk Neethling, former swimmer and gold medallist in the 4x100m freestyle relay at the 2004 Summer Olympics
- Karen Muir, former swimmer
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