Marais Viljoen

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Marais Viljoen
Marais Viljoen.jpg
State President H. E. Marais Viljoen
5th State President of South Africa
In office
4 June 1979 – 4 September 1984
Prime MinisterP. W. Botha
Vice PresidentAlwyn Schlebusch (1981–1984)
Preceded byB. J. Vorster
Succeeded byP. W. Botha
In office
21 August 1978 – 10 October 1978
Prime MinisterB. J. Vorster
P. W. Botha
Preceded byNico Diederichs
Succeeded byB. J. Vorster
President of the Senate
In office
22 January 1976 – 19 June 1979
Preceded byJohannes de Klerk
Succeeded byJimmy Kruger
Personal details
Born(1915-12-02)2 December 1915
Robertson, Cape Province
Union of South Africa
Died4 January 2007(2007-01-04) (aged 91)
Pretoria, Gauteng
South Africa
Political partyNational Party
Dorothea Maria Brink
(m. 1940; death 2005)
ChildrenElizabeth Magdalena
Alma materUniversity of Cape Town

Marais Viljoen, DMS (2 December 1915 – 4 January 2007) was the last ceremonial State President of South Africa from 4 June 1979 until 3 September 1984. Viljoen became the last of the ceremonial presidents of South Africa when he was succeeded in 1984 by Prime Minister P. W. Botha, who combined the offices into an executive presidency.[1]

Early life[edit]

Viljoen in the Netherlands, 1975

Viljoen was the youngest of six children of Magdalena Debora "Lenie" (de Villiers) and Gabriel Francois Viljoen. He was married on 20 April 1940 to Dorothea Maria Brink (17 September 1917 – 5 October 2005), with whom he had one daughter Elizabeth Magdalena (Elna) Viljoen.

After finishing school at Jan van Riebeeck High School in Cape Town, he went to work in the Post Office, and thereafter at the Afrikaans language newspaper, Die Transvaler, edited by Hendrik Verwoerd, who later became Prime Minister.

Early political career[edit]

Viljoen was elected to the House of Assembly as MP for Alberton, near Johannesburg, as President of the Senate, and as acting State President from 21 August 1978 to 10 October 1978, when B.J. Vorster was briefly elected to the position. Viljoen was seen as a relatively-moderate member of the National Party, which instituted apartheid.[2]

State Presidency[edit]

After Vorster's resignation as a result of the Muldergate Scandal in 1979, Viljoen held the post of non-executive State President from 4 June 1979 until 3 September 1984. The State Presidency during this time was a ceremonial post, like that of the Governor-General, which it replaced in 1961.

Under the 1983 Constitution, the last under apartheid, the position of the State President was changed to a more powerful executive position. Viljoen retired and was replaced by P. W. Botha, who until 1984 had been the executive Prime Minister. After Viljoen had retired from public life, he continued to maintain an interest in politics.[3]

Depiction on a coin[edit]

He is depicted on the obverse of the 1985 1 Rand coin.


Viljoen died on 4 January 2007 of heart failure.[4] He received a state funeral on 13 January 2007.[5]



  1. ^ "Marais Viljoen". The Independent. London. 10 January 2007.
  2. ^ "Former state president Marais Viljoen passes away". Mail & Guardian. 5 January 2007.
  3. ^ Archived 12 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Former state president Marais Viljoen passes away". Mail & Guardian. 5 January 2007. Archived from the original on 12 March 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2007.
  5. ^ "Viljoen funeral shows SA 'moving forward'". Business Day. 15 January 2007. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2007.
Political offices
Preceded by
Nicolaas Johannes Diederichs
Acting State President of South Africa
Succeeded by
Balthazar Johannes Vorster
Preceded by
Balthazar Johannes Vorster
State President of South Africa
Succeeded by
Pieter Willem Botha