Marais Viljoen

Marais Viljoen
Marais Viljoen
State President H. E. Marais Viljoen
5th State President of South Africa
In office
4 June 1979 – 4 September 1984
Preceded by John Vorster
Succeeded by Pieter Willem Botha
State President of South Africa
as President of the Senate

In office
21 August 1978 – 10 October 1978
Preceded by Nicolaas Johannes Diederichs
Succeeded by John Vorster
11th President of the Senate
In office
22 January 1976 – 19 June 1979
Preceded by Johannes de Klerk
Succeeded by Jimmy Kruger
Personal details
Born 2 December 1915(1915-12-02)
Robertson, Cape Province
South Africa
Died 4 January 2007(2007-01-04) (aged 91)
Pretoria, Gauteng
South Africa
Political party National Party
Spouse(s) Dorothea Maria Brink
Children Elizabeth Magdalena Viljoen
Religion Dutch Reformed Church

Marais Viljoen (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 an executive president, P. W. Botha.[1]


Early life

Viljoen was the youngest of six children. 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, who in turn married Belgian Louis Arnold Meyers and had one son. Before entering a political career, he worked in the Post Office, and thereafter at the Afrikaans language newspaper, Die Transvaler, edited by Hendrik Verwoerd, who later became Prime Minister.

Political career

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, after which B.J. Vorster was briefly elected to the position. Viljoen was seen as a relatively moderate member of the National Party that instituted apartheid.[2]

State Presidency

After Vorster's resignation 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 of the Republic of South Africa, 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 retired from public life he maintained an interest in politics thereafter.[3]


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


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

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