Top 500+ Most Famous And Legendary South Africans Of All Time [Part 1]


South Africa is one of the most versatile and colorful countries in the world, it is a hub that carries everyone along in its web of growing technology and evolution. The country has also produced lots of influential and notable individuals both in the country and in diaspora. Here we bring to you a list of Top 500+ Famous South Africans that ever lived. These people are some of the most wonderful people that ever lived. Some of them fought and gave their lives to make sure that the generation of South Africa today enjoy freedom and peace. Some lived in South Africa, Some were born away from home while some others lived at home all their life. This list comprises of Present and Past top ranking politicians, Entertainers, writes and more. Here’s goes the list.

Most Popular South Africans That Ever Lived [Part 1 of 3]

Famous South African Prime Ministers and Presidents

  • Jacobus Boshoff, 2nd President of the Orange Free State (1808–1881)
  • Louis Botha, Boer commander-in-chief and 1st Prime Minister of South Africa (1862–1919)
  • Pieter Willem Botha, 9th and last Prime Minister and 8th State President of South Africa (1916–2006)
  • Johannes Henricus Brand, 4th President of the Orange Free State (1823–1888)
  • Thomas François Burgers, 4th President of South African Republic (1871–1877)
  • Schalk Willem Burger, 6th and last President of South African Republic (1852–1918)
  • Frederik Willem de Klerk, 9th and last State President of South Africa (1990–1994) and joint Nobel Peace Prize winner (born 1936)
  • Nicolaas Johannes Diederichs, 4th State President of South Africa (1903–1978)
  • Jacobus Johannes Fouché, 3rd State President of South Africa (1898–1980)
  • James Barry Munnik Hertzog, Boer general and 3rd Prime Minister of South Africa (1866–1942)
  • Josias Hoffman, 1st President of the Orange Free State (1807–1879)
  • Petrus Jacobus Joubert, Boer general and member of the Troika in the South African Republic (1834–1900)
  • Paul Kruger, member of the Troika, 5th President of South African Republic (1825–1904)
  • Daniel François Malan, 5th Prime Minister of South Africa and is responsible for laying the groundwork for Apartheid (1874–1959)
  • Nelson Mandela, 1st democratically elected President of South Africa and joint Nobel Peace Prize winner (born 1918)
  • Thabo Mbeki, 2nd post-apartheid President of South Africa (born 1942)
  • John X. Merriman, last prime minister of the Cape Colony (1841–1926)
  • Kgalema Motlanthe, 3rd post-apartheid President of South Africa (born 1949)
  • Jozua François Naudé, 2nd State President of South Africa (1889–1969)
  • Marthinus Wessel Pretorius, 3rd President of the Orange Free State, 1st and 3rd President of the ZAR (1819–1901)
  • Francis William Reitz, 5th President of the Orange Free State (1844–1934)
  • Jan Smuts, Boer general, British field marshal, 2nd and 4th Prime Minister of South Africa (1870–1950)
  • Johannes Strijdom, 6th Prime Minister of South Africa (1893–1958)
  • Martinus Theunis Steyn, 6th and last President of the Orange Free State (1857–1916)
  • Charles Robberts Swart, last Governor-General of the Union of South Africa and 1st State President of the RSA (1894–1982)
  • Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, 7th Prime Minister of South Africa and primary architect of Apartheid (1901–1966)
  • Marais Viljoen, 5th and 7th State President of South Africa (1915–2007)
  • Balthazar Johannes Vorster, 8th Prime Minister and 6th State President of South Africa (1915–1983)
  • Jacob Zuma, 4th post-apartheid President of South Africa (born 1942)


See Also: South Africa’s Biggest Cities

Famous South African Royalties

  • Cetshwayo kaMpande, 4th Zulu king (1826–1884)
  • Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon, 7th Zulu king (1924–1945)
  • Goodwill Zwelethini, 8th and current king of the Zulu nation (born 1948)
  • Dingane kaSenzangakhona, 2nd Zulu king and half-brother of Shaka (1795–1840)
  • Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo, 5th Zulu king (1868–1913) not officially recognized
  • Mangosuthu Buthelezi, politician and a Zulu prince (born 1928)
  • uZibhebhu kaMaphitha, Zulu prince and chief (1841–1904)
  • Masalanabo Modjadji, Balobedu’s 2nd Rain Queen (died 1894)
  • Khetoane Modjadji, Balobedu’s 3rd Rain Queen (1869–1959)
  • Makoma Modjadji, Balobedu’s 4th Rain Queen (1905–1980)
  • Mokope Modjadji, Balobedu’s 5th Rain Queen (1936–2001)
  • Makobo Modjadji, Balobedu’s 6th Rain Queen (1978–2005)
  • Mpande, 3rd Zulu king and half-brother of Shaka (1798–1872)
  • Mzilikazi, king of the Matabele (c. 1790–1868)
  • Sekhukhune, king of the Marota (or Bapedi) (1814–1882)
  • Shaka, founder of the Zulu nation (1787–1828)
  • Solomon kaDinuzulu, 6th Zulu king (1891–1933) not officially recognized


See Also: Top 100 Secondary Schools in South Africa

Famous South African Authors

  • Lady Anne Barnard, travel writer and artist (1750–1825)
  • Herman Charles Bosman, author (1905–1951)
  • André P. Brink, author (born 1935)
  • John Maxwell Coetzee, 2003 Nobel Prize-winning author (born 1940)
  • K. Sello Duiker, novelist (1974–2005)
  • Sir Percy FitzPatrick, writer, businessman and politician (1862–1931)
  • Graeme Friedman, author and clinical psychologist
  • Damon Galgut, author (born 1963)
  • Nadine Gordimer, 1991 Nobel Prize-winning author (born 1923)
  • C. J. Langenhoven, writer and poet (1873–1932)
  • Dalene Matthee, author (1938–2005)
  • Gcina Mhlope, author, storyteller, playwright, director, actor (born 1959)
  • Phaswane Mpe, novelist (1970–2004)
  • Alan Paton, author (1903–1988)
  • Karel Schoeman, novelist and historian (born 1939)
  • Olive Schreiner, author (1855–1920)
  • Etienne van Heerden, novelist (born 1956)
  • Marlene van Niekerk, novelist (born 1954)
  • Lyall Watson, writer (1939–2008)
  • Rachel Zadok, London-based South African writer (born 1972)
  • J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of The Rings (1892-1973)

John Maxwell Coetzee - Famous South African

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Famous South African Actors/Actresses

  • Sandra Prinsloo, South African actress (born 1947) (The Gods Must Be Crazy, Quest for Love (1988 film)) stage(afrikaan adaption of Miss Julie which saw the first on-screen kiss between a black man and a white woman)
  • Peter Cartwright, actor (born 1935)
  • Sharlto Copley, actor, (District 9) (born 1973)
  • Embeth Davidtz, actress (born 1965)
  • Brett Goldin, actor (1977–2006)
  • David James, actor (born 1972), stage, television, and film actor
  • Sid James, film & television actor (1913–1976)
  • Adhir Kalyan, actor (born 1983)
  • John Kani, actor, entertainer and writer (born 1943)
  • Alice Krige, actress (born 1954)
  • Sean Michael (South African actor), (born 1969)
  • Patrick Mynhardt, actor (1932–2007)
  • Winston Ntshona, actor (born 1941)
  • Sasha Pieterse, actress (born 1996)
  • Basil Rathbone, actor (1892–1967)
  • Stelio Savante, actor (born 1970)
  • Antony Sher, actor, author and painter (born 1949)
  • Cliff Simon, actor (born 1962)
  • William Smith, TV teacher and presenter
  • Janet Suzman, actress (born 1939)
  • Charlize Theron, actress (born 1975)
  • Pieter-Dirk Uys, political satirist and entertainer (born 1945)
  • Musetta Vander, actress (born 1969)
  • Arnold Vosloo, actor (The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, 24) (born 1962)

Sasha Pieterse

See Also: South African Famous TV Celebrities

Famous South African Singers, Musicians and Composers

  • Zain Bhikha, world renowned singer-songwriter of the Nasheed genre
  • Johan Botha, opera singer (born 1965)
  • Johnny Clegg, musician (born 1953)
  • Mimi Coertse, opera singer (born 1932)
  • Fanie de Jager, operatic tenor (born 1949)
  • Lucky Dube, reggae singer (1964–2007)
  • Daniel Friedman (Deep Fried Man), musical comedian (born 1981)
  • Claire Johnston, singer
  • David Kramer, singer and playwright (born 1951)
  • Winston Ngozi Mankunku tenor sax player (1943–2009)
  • Mahlathini, mbaqanga singer (1938-1999)
  • Miriam Makeba, singer and civil rights activist (born 1940)
  • Manfred Mann, musician (born 1940)
  • Hugh Masekela, jazz trumpeter and singer (born 1940)
  • Gwendolyn Masin, violinist, author, pedagogue (born 1977)
  • Aquiles Priester, drummer (born 1971)
  • Koos Ras, comedian, singer, writer, composer (1928–1997)
  • Enoch Sontonga, composer of national anthem (1873–1905)
  • Joseph Shabalala, founder and director of Ladysmith Black Mambazo (born 1941)
  • Shaun Morgan, lead singer of the award-winning band Seether (born c. 1978)
  • Dave Matthews, musician, Dave Matthews Band (born c. 1967)
  • ZP Theart, singer, ex Dragonforce (born c. 1974)
  • Hilda Tloubatla, lead singer of Mahotella Queens (born 1942)
  • Trevor Rabin, musician, composer, former member of progressive rock band Yes
  • Watkin Tudor Jones, rapper, performance artist, band member of Die Antwoord
  • Yolandi Visser, rapper, performance artist, band member of Die Antwoord

lucky-dube - Famous South African

Famous South African Leaders and Politicians

  • Ken Andrew, politician (born 1943)
  • Kader Asmal, an activist, politician and professor of human rights (born 1934)
  • Sibusiso Bengu, politician (born 1934)
  • Thozamile Botha, politician (born 1948)
  • Cheryl Carolus, politician (born 1958)
  • Yusuf Dadoo, doctor and politician (1909–1983)
  • Patricia de Lille, politician (born 1951)
  • Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, politician (born 1949)
  • Abba Eban, Israeli diplomat and politician (1915–2002)
  • De Villiers Graaff, United Party opposition leader (1913–1999)
  • Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr, journalist and politician (1845–1909)
  • Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr, academic and politician (1894–1948)
  • Danny Jordaan, politician and soccer administrator (born 1951)
  • Tony Leon, DA opposition leader (born 1956)
  • Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, politician and 2nd wife of Nelson Mandela (born 1936)
  • Trevor Manuel, minister of finance (born 1956)
  • Lindiwe Mazibuko, current Parliamentary Leader for the opposition Democratic Alliance (born 1980)
  • Roelf Meyer, politician and businessman (born 1947)
  • Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, deputy president (born 1955)
  • Gagathura (Monty) Mohambry Naicker, medical doctor and politician (1910–1978)
  • Bulelani Ngcuka, politician (born 1954)
  • Dullah Omar, politician (1934–2004)
  • Andries Pretorius, Boer leader and commandant-general (1799–1853)
  • Deneys Reitz, boer commando, deputy Prime Minister and High Commissioner to London (1882–1944)
  • Pixley ka Isaka Seme, ANC founder member (1881–1951)
  • Mbhazima Shilowa, trade unionist and premier (born 1958)
  • Joe Slovo, politician (1926–1995)
  • Harry Schwarz, lawyer, politician, ambassador to United States and anti-apartheid leader (1924–2010)
  • Helen Suzman, politician (1917–2009)
  • Catherine Taylor, politician (1914–1992)
  • Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, PFP opposition leader (1940–2010)
  • Helen Zille, DA opposition leader, current Premier of the Western Cape (born 1951)
  • Jacob Zuma, current President (born 1942)

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

See Also: Famous South African Movie Actors 

Famous South Africans that Ever Lived – [Part 1. Contd]

Famous South African Theologians

  • Ahmed Deedat (1918–2005)
  • David Bosch (1929–1992)
  • Dion Forster (born 1972)
  • Johan Heyns (1928–1994)
  • Andrew Murray (1828–1917)
  • Bhakti Narasimha Swami (born 1960)

Famous South African Academics

  • Estian Calitz, academic (born 1949)
  • Miriam Green, academic now living in England
  • Adam Habib, political scientist
  • Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr, academic and politician (1894–1948)
  • Tshilidzi Marwala, academic and businessman (born 1971)
  • Njabulo Ndebele, Principal of the University of Cape Town (born 1948)
  • Adriaan N Pelzer, Historian and Vice-Principle University Pretoria (1915-1981)
  • Pierre de Villiers Pienaar, Pioneering role in speech language therapy and lexicography in South Africa (1904–1978)
  • Calie Pistorius, academic and Principal of the University of Pretoria (born 1958)
  • David Webster, anthropologist (1945–1989)

Famous South African Scientists

  • Andrew Geddes Bain, geologist (1797–1864)
  • Peter Beighton, geneticist (born 1934)
  • Wilhelm Bleek, linguist (1827–1875)
  • Robert Broom, palaeontologist (1866–1951)
  • Sydney Brenner, biologist, 2002 Physiology or Medicine Nobel Prize winner (born 1927)
  • Phillip Clancey, ornithologist (1918–2001)
  • Allan McLeod Cormack, physicist (1924–1998)
  • Clement Martyn Doke, linguist (1893–1980)
  • Alexander du Toit, geologist (1878–1948)
  • Robert Allen Dyer, botanist (1900-1987))
  • J.W.B. Gunning, zoologist (1860–1913)
  • David Lewis-Williams, archaeologist (born 1934)
  • Lucy Lloyd, anthropologist (1834–1914)
  • Thebe Medupe, astrophysicist (born 1973)
  • Hans Merensky, geologist (1871–1952)
  • Austin Roberts, zoologist (1883–1948)
  • Basil Schonland, physicist (1896–1972)
  • J.L.B. Smith, ichthyologist (1897–1968)
  • Phillip Tobias, palaeontologist (1925–2012)

Famous South African Medical and Veterinary Doctors

  • Abraham Manie Adelstein, UK Chief Medical Statistician (1916–1992)
  • Christiaan Barnard, pioneering heart surgeon (1922–2001)
  • Wouter Basson, apartheid medical scientist (born 1950)
  • Patrick Soon-Shiong, surgeon, founder Abraxis BioScience, billionaire (born 1952)
  • Arnold Theiler, veterinarian (1867–1936)
  • Max Theiler, virologist, 1951 Nobel Prize winner (1899–1972)

Take a look at the Part 2 of this Article here


  1. Stacey Dresner and Judie Jacobson (29 December 2004). “Movers & Shakers in 2004”.
  2. Graeme Macpherson (11 June 2008). “Furman: I’m not going anywhere”

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