1910 South African general election

General elections were held in South Africa on 15 September 1910 to elect the 121 members of the House of Assembly. They were the first general election after the Union of South Africa was created on 31 May 1910.

1910 South African general election

15 September 1910 1915 →

All 121 seats in the House of Assembly
61 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Louis Botha Leander Starr Jameson Frederic Creswell
Party South African, Orangia Unie, and Het Volk Unionist Labour
Seats won 66 36 3
Popular vote 30,052 39,766 11,549
Percentage 28.45% 37.65% 10.93%

Elected Prime Minister

Louis Botha
South African

The elections were held alongside the first election to the provincial councils of Cape Province and Transvaal. Those councils used the same electoral districts as those for the House of Assembly seats in the province. The first election for the provincial councils of Natal and Orange Free State, which did not use the same constituency boundaries as the House of Assembly, took place at a later date.[1]

Although the Unionist Party received the most votes, the alliance of parties led by General Louis Botha won a slim majority. The Unionist Party became the official opposition. Botha's alliance would later unite as the South African Party.

Electoral system


The South Africa Act 1909 provided that the franchise in each province should be the same as that in the corresponding colony before the Union, until altered by the Union Parliament. The Act included entrenching clauses, providing that black and coloured voters could only be removed from the common voters roll in the Cape of Good Hope, by legislation passed by a two-thirds majority by both houses of Parliament in joint session.[2]

The franchise, in all parts of the Union, was limited to men over the age of 21. There were some additional qualifications and disqualifications which varied between provinces.

The franchise in the Orange Free State and Transvaal was limited to white men.

Map showing the % of non-white voters by electoral district in Cape Colony in 1908 - on the even of union.

The traditional "Cape Qualified Franchise" system of the Cape of Good Hope was based on property and wage qualifications, equally open to people of all races. At the time of the National Convention in 1908, which drafted the terms of what became the South Africa Act, "22,784 Native and Coloured persons out of a total of 152,221 electors" were entitled to vote in Cape elections.

Natal had a theoretically non-racial franchise, but in practice few non-white electors ever qualified. It was estimated, in 1908, that "200 non-Europeans out of a total of 22,786 electors had secured franchise rights".[3]

The South Africa Act 1909 provided for single member electoral divisions, with members of the House of Assembly being elected using the relative majority (also known as first past the post) electoral system. The act also provided for a delimitation commission to define the boundaries for each electoral division.[4]

Provinces Cape Natal Orange Free State Transvaal Total
Seats 51 17 17 36 121

Contesting parties


South African National Party


The first Union Prime Minister (and former Transvaal Prime Minister), General Botha, assembled an electoral alliance before the first Union election. This grouping was composed of the governing parties of three of the colonies being united and some individual politicians from Natal (which did not have a pre-Union party system).

The colonial parties involved were:

Unionist Party


The 'Unionist Party of South Africa was formed, in May 1910, under the leadership of Leander Starr Jameson (a former Prime Minister of Cape Colony), by the merger of the three colonial opposition parties joined by some individual politicians from Natal.

The parties merged into the Unionist Party were the:

The party was a pro-British conservative party. It favoured the maintenance of a pro-British political culture in South Africa similar to that present in the other 'white dominions'.

Labour Party


The South African Labour Party, formed in March 1910 following discussions between trade unions, the Transvaal Independent Labour Party and the Natal Labour Party, was a professedly socialist party representing the interests of the white working class. The party leader was Colonel F. H. P. Creswell.[5]



Two Independent Unionists were elected unopposed.[7]

Unionist Party39,76637.6536
South African National Party30,05228.4566
Labour Party11,54910.933
Socialist Party4480.420
Independent South African National Party3,4303.251
Independent Labour Party8150.771
Independent Unionist Party2
Source: Van der Waag, Schoeman[8]


  1. ^ The Times, edition of 26 July 1910 reports the fixing of the election dates
  2. ^ Section 35 of the South Africa Act 1909
  3. ^ Discussion of the franchise and the quotations about numbers of voters are from The South African Constitution, p. 10
  4. ^ South Africa 1982, p. 129
  5. ^ a b South Africa 1982, p. 165
  6. ^ The Times, edition of 24 May 1911, a review of the first session of the Union Parliament (which article included confirmation that the first group of 17 Natal MPs included 11 Independents, 4 Unionist Party members and 2 representatives of the South African Party). South Africa 1982, p. 165.
  7. ^ Ian van der Waag (2012) "All splendid, but horrible: The Politics of South Africa's Second "Little Bit" and the War on the Western Front, 1915-1918", Scientia Militaria, volume 40, number 3, pp71–108
  8. ^ B.M. Schoeman (1977) Parlementêre verkiesings in Suid-Afrika 1910–1976, pp33, 66–67
  • 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)