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Marais Viljoen

Marais Viljoen

In office
4 June 1979 – 4 September 1984
Preceded by John Vorster
Succeeded by P. W. Botha

In office
21 August 1978 – 10 October 1978
Preceded by Nicolaas Johannes Diederichs
Succeeded by John Vorster

Born December 2, 1915(1915-12-02)
Robertson, Western Cape
Died 4 January 2007 (aged 91)
Pretoria, Gauteng Province
Political party National Party

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.


Early life

Marais 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

Marais served 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. Marais was seen as a relatively moderate member of the National Party that instituted apartheid.

State Presidency

After Vorster's resignation in 1979, Marais 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 more powerful executive position. Marais 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. [1]


Marais Viljoen died on 4 January 2007 due to heart failure.[1] He received a state funeral on 13 January 2007.[2]


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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