Famous South African Men

The very mention of the country South Africa brings to our minds the image of Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician who served as the country’s first democratically elected black president. South Africa is one country which boasts of a very diverse and multiethnic population—and this is the reason behind both the nation’s achievements and misfortune. The nation has emerged from great political turmoil to become one of the most developed countries in Africa. South African men—of all races, ethnicities and culture—have played a pivotal role in the transition of their nation from one torn by war and strife to one that other African nations look up to today.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite South African Men

 1 Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela.
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Famous As: Anti-Apartheid Activist, President of ANC and Former President of South Africa
Birthdate: July 18, 1918
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mvezo
Died: December 5, 2013
Revered as the Father of the Nation by the South Africans, Nelson Mandela was a statesman who rose to become the country’s first black head of state. He reconciled a nation divided along racial lines and dismantled the legacy of apartheid.

 2 Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah.
6
Famous As: Actor, Comedian,TV host
Birthdate: February 20, 1984
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa

Trevor Noah is a writer, political commentator, comedian and television host and hosts the American satirical news programme, The Daily Show. He has also hosted several other shows, including the late-night talk show, Tonight with Trevor Noah. He is an actor too. He has written an autobiographical book, Born A Crime, and has received numerous accolades and awards, including the Emmy Award.

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 3 AB de Villiers

AB de Villiers.
15
Famous As: Cricketer
Birthdate: February 17, 1984
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Bela-Bela, South Africa

AB de Villiers, also known as “Mr. 360” and “Superman,” has captained the South African cricket team in Tests, ODIs, and T20s. Named the ICC ODI Player of the Year thrice, the Wisden "cricketer of the decade" is a devout Christian, has written an autobiography, and released a pop album.

 4 Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu.
9
Famous As: Anti-Apartheid Activist
Birthdate: October 7, 1931
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Klerksdorp, South Africa
Desmond Tutu is known for his anti-Apartheid activism in South Africa. The first black Archbishop of Cape Town, he has also been the Bishop of Johannesburg. His efforts to eradicate AIDS, poverty, anti-LGBT sentiments, and human rights violations earned him the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 5 Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius.
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Famous As: Runner
Birthdate: November 22, 1986
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Sandton, South Africa

From being an infant whose both legs were amputated below knee, Oscar Pistorius went on to become a top athlete with wins in Paralympic Games and other sporting events. The South African sprinter also became the first amputee runner to compete at the Olympics Games. However, later, he was convicted for the murder of his girlfriend and is currently imprisoned.

 6 Jacob Zuma

Jacob Zuma.
7
Famous As: Fourth President of South Africa
Birthdate: April 12, 1942
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal

Jacob Zuma is a South African politician and fourth president of South Africa. During his presidency, which lasted from 2009 to 2018, Zuma was accused of racketeering and corruption which ultimately led to his resignation. Apart from being a politician, Zuma also runs the Jacob Zuma Foundation, which aims at building houses for the poor and sending children to school.

 7 Shaka

Shaka.
1
Famous As: Zulu Emperor
Birthdate: 1787 AD
Birthplace: KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Died: September 22, 1828

Widely regarded as one of the most influential and important monarchs of the Zulu Kingdom, Shaka reigned as the king of the Zulu Kingdom from 1816 to 1828. Through a series of influential and wide-reaching reforms, Shaka was able to re-organize the Zulu military into a formidable force. His life and work inspired the 1986 South African TV series, Shaka Zulu.

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 8 Steve Biko

Steve Biko.
2
Famous As: Anti-apartheid Activist
Birthdate: December 18, 1946
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Ginsberg, South Africa
Died: September 12, 1977

Civil rights activist Steve Biko, or the Father of Black Consciousness, is remembered for his work against apartheid in South Africa. He founded the Black Consciousness Movement while still a medical school student. He was banned by the pro-apartheid regime in 1973. He was beaten to death in custody.

 9 Dave Matthews

Dave Matthews.
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Famous As: Lead vocalist and guitarist for the Dave Matthews Band.
Birthdate: January 9, 1967
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Johannesburg
South African-born American singer Dave Matthews gained fame as the lead singer and guitarist of the rock band Dave Matthews Band. Known for hits such as So Much to Say, Some Devil, and Gravedigger, he has won two Grammys, one with the band and the other as a solo artist. 

 10 Gary Player

Gary Player.
2
Famous As: South African golfer
Birthdate: November 1, 1935
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa
South African former golfer Gary Player became the only non-American to win the career Grand Slam, at 29. Named to the World Golf Hall of Fame, he has earned more than 160 professional tournaments. He has also written golf books, designed golf courses, and launched The Player Foundation.

 11 Sharlto Copley

Sharlto Copley
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Famous As: Actor, Film director, Film producer, Screenwriter
Birthdate: November 27, 1973
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Pretoria

Sharlto Copley is a South African actor best known for playing important roles in science fiction films, such as District 9, Elysium, Europa Report, Chappie, and Hardcore Henry. His portrayal of Wikus van der Merwe in District 9 earned him several accolades including a couple of IGN Movie Awards.

 12 Kevin Carter

Kevin Carter.
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Famous As: Photographer
Birthdate: September 13, 1960
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Johannesburg
Died: July 27, 1994

Kevin Carter was a South African photojournalist whose photograph titled the vulture and the little girl, which depicted the 1993 famine in Sudan, earned him the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in 1994. Carter committed suicide in 1994 after suffering from depression. A book titled The Bang Bang Club, which was later made into a film, depicts his story.

 13 Cyril Ramaphosa

Cyril Ramaphosa.
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Famous As: President of South Africa
Birthdate: November 17, 1952
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Soweto

Cyril Ramaphosa is a politician and the current president of South Africa. Also the president of South Africa's popular political party African National Congress (ANC), Ramaphosa played a key role during the nation's transition to democracy during which he served as ANC's chief negotiator. He also played a crucial role in ending apartheid and was considered Nelson Mandela's political heir.

 14 Hashim Amla

Hashim Amla
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Famous As: Cricketer
Birthdate: March 31, 1983
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Durban, South Africa

One of the best ODI bastmen in the world, South African cricketer Hashim Amla has made many records, from being the fastest to reach 20 ODI centuries to being the fourth player to score centuries against all Test-playing nations. He was also the Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 2013.

 15 Ernie Els

Ernie Els.
1
Famous As: Professional Golfer
Birthdate: October 17, 1969
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Johannesburg

Ernie Els is a South African golfer renowned for his fluid golf swing and imposing physical stature, which has earned him the nickname, The Big Easy. A former World No. 1, Els has four major championships under his belt. Ernie Els is only one of six golfers to twice win the Open Championship as well as the U.S. Open.

 16 Arnold Vosloo

Arnold Vosloo
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Famous As: Film actor, Stage actor, Television actor
Birthdate: June 16, 1962
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Pretoria

Born to stage-actor parents in South Africa, Arnold Vosloo is best known as Imhotep from The Mummy franchise. He is also often mistaken for Billy Zane from Titanic for his uncanny resemblance to the actor. The Dalro Award-winning actor has also appeared in series such as 24 and Bosch.

 17 Christiaan Barnard

Christiaan Barnard.
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Famous As: Cardiac Surgeon
Birthdate: November 8, 1922
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Beaufort West, South Africa
Died: September 2, 2001
Born to a preacher father of modest means, Christiaan Barnard completed his medical school on scholarships. In December 1967, he revolutionized medical science by performing the first human heart transplant by transplanting 25-year-old accident victim Denise Darvall’s heart into 53-year-old chronic heart patient grocer Louis Washkansky.

 18 Kevin Pietersen

Kevin Pietersen
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Famous As: Cricketer
Birthdate: June 27, 1980
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Pietermaritzburg

Born to a South African father and an English mother, former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen still holds the record for being the fastest to make 2,000 ODI runs. Named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year, he was also nicknamed “shining” once, for his phenomenal contribution to the England team.

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 19 John Kani

John Kani.
3
Famous As: Actor, Playwright, Director
Birthdate: August 30, 1942
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New Brighton, Eastern Cape

John Kani is a South African actor, playwright, director, and author. He is best known for playing T'Chaka in American superhero films, such as Black Panther and Captain America: Civil War. One of the few South African actors to achieve international recognition, John Kani was included in the Top 100 Great South Africans list, which was published in 2004. 

 20 Neill Blomkamp

Neill Blomkamp
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Famous As: Film director, Screenwriter
Birthdate: September 17, 1979
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Johannesburg

Born in South Africa, Neill Blomkamp later moved to Canada. He began his career as a 3-D and special effects artist and later turned to direction. He is known for his documentary-style filmmaking that uses the cinéma vérité technique. Two of his best-known sci-fi films are District 9 and Elysium.

 21 Basil Rathbone

Basil Rathbone
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: June 13, 1892
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa
Died: July 21, 1967

Basil Rathbone was an English actor best remembered for playing private detective Sherlock Holmes in 14 movies made between 1939 and 1946. Renowned for playing morally ambiguous characters, Rathbone won the prestigious Tony Award for his portrayal of Dr. Austin Sloper in The Heiress. Basil Rathbone has been honored with three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

 22 Lucky Dube

Lucky Dube.
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: August 3, 1964
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Ermelo, South Africa
Died: October 18, 2007
Named Lucky by his mother, following his birth after many unsuccessful pregnancies, Lucky Dube grew up to become one of the most influential South African reggae stars ever. His desert reggae made him hugely popular among the Australian aboriginal community, too. The Rastafarian supporter was later killed by carjackers.

 23 Caspar Lee

Caspar Lee.
1
Famous As: YouTuber, Vlogger
Birthdate: April 24, 1994
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London , England

British-South African social-media sensation and YouTuber Caspar Lee soared to fame with his comedy videos. He later also stepped into acting with films such as Spud 3. A budding entrepreneur, he co-owns the student housing company Proper Living and has been featured on Forbes 30 Under 30.

 24 Wayde van Niekerk

Wayde van Niekerk
1
Famous As: Athlete
Birthdate: July 15, 1992
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cape Town, South Africa

Wayde van Niekerk is a South African athlete who competes as a sprinter in the 200 and 400 metres. He is the current Olympic and world record holder in the 400 metres. Wayde van Niekerk holds the world record in the 300 metres as well. He won the gold medal in the 400 metres event at the 2016 Olympic Games.

 25 Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson
2
Famous As: Tennis player
Birthdate: May 18, 1986
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa

Kevin Anderson is a South African tennis player who became the fifth-ranked player in the world in 2018. He is the first South African player to be ranked in the top five since 1985 when Kevin Curren was ranked fifth in the world. Anderson has reached two Grand Slam finals; US Open (2017) and Wimbledon (2018).

 26 Faf du Plessis

Faf du Plessis
1
Famous As: Cricketer
Birthdate: July 13, 1984
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Pretoria

Faf du Plessis is a South African cricketer who captained the national team in the ODI format from 2013 to 2019. He has also captained the national team in the other two formats of the game. He became the first South African player to score centuries in ODI, T20, and Test cricket after he scored his first T20I century in 2015.

 27 Justin Gabriel

Justin Gabriel
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Famous As: Professional wrestler
Birthdate: March 3, 1981
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Cape Town

Justin Gabriel is a South African wrestler best known for his achievements in WWE; he is a three-time WWE Tag Team Champion with Heath Slater. He also won two Slammy Awards during his time in WWE. In 2011, he was ranked 61st in the PWI 500 list.

 28 Jan Smuts

Jan Smuts
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Famous As: Botanist, Officer, Lawyer
Birthdate: May 24, 1870
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Malmesbury, Western Cape
Died: September 11, 1950

Jan Smuts was a South African military leader, statesman, and philosopher. He played a key role in the formation of the Union of South Africa and helped shape its constitution. From 1919 to 1924 and again from 1939 to 1948, he served as the Union of South Africa's prime minister. He played a major role in establishing the United Nations.

 29 Chris Barnard

Chris Barnard
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Birthdate: July 15, 1939
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mataffin, Nelspruit, South Africa
Died: December 28, 2015

Chris Barnard was a South African cardiac surgeon best remembered for performing the first human-to-human heart transplant surgery in the world. Barnard is credited with developing a cure for intestinal atresia in children. He saved the lives of at least 10 babies in Cape Town and his technique was adopted by surgeons in the United States of America and Britain.   

 30 Adam Rose

Adam Rose
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Famous As: Wrestler
Birthdate: July 20, 1979
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa

Raymond John Leppan, better known by his ring name, Adam Rose, is a retired South African wrestler. He once described himself as the “life of the party” and has also represented NXT and WWE. He was also part of an E:60 documentary titled Behind the Curtain.

 31 Thabo Mbeki

Thabo Mbeki
1
Famous As: Politician, Economist
Birthdate: June 18, 1942
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Transkei

Thabo Mbeki is a South African politician who is currently serving as the chancellor of the University of South Africa. From 1999 to 2008, he served as the president of South Africa. During his tenure as the president, the South African economy grew, creating employment opportunities. Over the years, he has received several awards, including the prestigious Good Governance Award.

 32 J. M. Coetzee

J. M. Coetzee.
2
Famous As: Novelist, Author, Essayist
Birthdate: February 9, 1940
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Cape Town, South Africa

Nobel Prize- and two-time Booker Prize-winning author J. M. Coetzee had started his career as a Fulbright scholar. After teaching English in the U.S. and South Africa, he now lives and teaches in Australia. He is best known for his colonial settings in novels such as Waiting for the Barbarians.

 33 Kyle Edmund

Kyle Edmund
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Famous As: Tennis player
Birthdate: January 8, 1995
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa

Today an ace professional tennis player, Kyle Edmund was introduced to the game at the age of ten. He made his breakthrough on the junior circuit at sixteen and debuting at Davis Cup at twenty. A top ranked male British player in 2018-2019, having a career-high singles world ranking of 14, he is currently ranked at 104 because of chronic knee injury.

 34 Ahmed Deedat

Ahmed Deedat.
2
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 1, 1918
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Surat
Died: August 8, 2005

Ahmed Deedat was a South African public speaker and writer of Indian descent. A popular Muslim missionary, Deedat is remembered for his inter-religious public debates with Christians. He is credited with establishing an Islamic missionary organization called IPCI. In 1986, he was honored for his missionary work with the prestigious King Faisal International Prize.  

 35 Chad le Clos

Chad le Clos
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Famous As: Swimmer
Birthdate: April 12, 1992
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Durban, South Africa

Olympic gold medalist South African swimmer Chad le Clos, who plays for the club Energy Standard, also holds records in the 50- and 100-m butterfly categories in the Commonwealth Games. He is one of his nation’s most-decorated Olympians but failed to get a medal in the 2020 Olympics.

 36 Kagiso Rabada

Kagiso Rabada.
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Famous As: Cricketer
Birthdate: May 25, 1995
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Johannesburg, Gauteng

The first six-time CSA award winner, South African cricketer Kagiso Rabada also became the eighth Proteas bowler to take 200 Test wickets, beating the likes of Allan Donald. He has, however, often been seen breaking ICC rules on the field and was also in trouble once for shouldering Steven Smith.

 37 Imran Tahir

Imran Tahir
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Famous As: Cricketer
Birthdate: March 27, 1979
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Lahore

Imran Tahir is a professional cricketer who represents the South African national team. In 2016, he became the fastest South African bowler to reach 100 wickets in the ODI format. In 2018, he became only the fourth South African bowler to take a hat-trick in ODIs. Tahir is currently South Africa’s highest wicket-taker in ODIs and T20Is among spin bowlers.

 38 Hugh Masekela

Hugh Masekela
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Famous As: Trumpeter, Composer, Jazz musician
Birthdate: April 4, 1939
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Witbank

A pioneer of South African jazz, instrumentalist Hugh Masekela excelled in the trumpet and introduced South African music to countries such as the U.S. He was also a vocal anti-apartheid activist, played for the Jazz Epistles, and was known for his iconic albums such as Hope and Johannesburg.

 39 Julius Malema

Julius Malema
2
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: March 3, 1981
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Seshego

Julius Malema is a South African activist and politician. He is credited with founding a South African political party called the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), for which he currently serves as the president and commander-in-chief. One of the most controversial politicians in South Africa, Malema was charged with racketeering, money laundering, and fraud in 2012.

 40 Adhir Kalyan

Adhir Kalyan
1
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 4, 1983
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Durban

Adhir Kalyan is a South African actor best known for playing Timmy in the American sitcom television series Rules of Engagement. He is also known for portraying the role of Awalmir "Al" Karimi in a television sitcom series titled United States of Al. Born into an Indian South African family, Kalyan is often cast to play characters of Asian origin.

 41 Sobhuza II

Sobhuza II.
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Famous As: Former King of Swaziland
Birthdate: July 22, 1899
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Zombodze, Swaziland
Died: August 21, 1982

Sobhuza II was the king of Swaziland from 1899 to 1982, although his coronation took place in 1921 as he was too young to rule early in his reign. His reign of 82 years and 254 days makes him the longest-reigning monarch in recorded history. Sobhuza II played a key role in events that eventually led to his country's independence.

 42 Benni McCarthy

Benni McCarthy
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Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: November 12, 1977
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cape Town, South Africa

South African former footballer Benni McCarthy had played for a number of European clubs, such as Ajax Amsterdam, before moving on to the South African club Orlando Pirates. He also represented Bafana Bafana, the South African national team, in the 1998 World Cup and African Cup of Nations.

 43 Hansie Cronje

Hansie Cronje.
2
Famous As: Cricketer
Birthdate: September 25, 1969
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bloemfontein, South Africa
Died: June 1, 2002

Hansie Cronje was a South African international cricketer. He captained the South African national cricket team in the 1990s. In 2000, he was implicated in a cricket match-fixing scandal and banned from the sport for life. He died in a plane crash in 2002. It was rumored that he was murdered on the orders of a cricket betting syndicate.

 44 Johann Rupert

Johann Rupert
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Famous As: Entrepreneur, Businessperson
Birthdate: June 1, 1950
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Stellenbosch

Johann Rupert is a South African-born businessman best known as the son of famous business magnate Anton Rupert. Johann is currently serving as the chairman of a luxury goods company called Richemont. In 2019, he was named the second-wealthiest person in South Africa when he was featured in Forbes magazine's The World's Billionaires list.

 45 Joost van der Westhuizen

Joost van der Westhuizen
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Famous As: Rugby union player
Birthdate: February 20, 1971
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Pretoria
Died: February 6, 2017

Joost van der Westhuizen was a South African rugby player. He took part in three Rugby World Cups, helping his national team win the 1995 World Cup. Widely regarded as the greatest scrumhalf in the history of the game, van der Westhuizen was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2007.

 46 Oliver Tambo

Oliver Tambo
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: October 27, 1917
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mbizana Local Municipality
Died: April 24, 1993

Oliver Tambo was a South African revolutionary and politician who played an important role in the anti-apartheid movement alongside Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu. In 1943, he helped found the ANC Youth League and later served as the African National Congress' president. He is also remembered for organizing several guerilla units that facilitated attacks against the apartheid state.

 47 P. W. Botha

P. W. Botha.
1
Famous As: Former Prime Minister of South Africa
Birthdate: January 12, 1916
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paul Roux, South Africa
Died: October 31, 2006
Better known as PW, Pieter Willem Botha had been the president and prime minister of South Africa. A law school drop-out, Botha grew up to unsuccessfully attempt a reconciliation between apartheid sympathizers and all-Black student and labor organizations. His refusal to testify before the TRC invited a fine.

 48 Paul Kruger

Paul Kruger.
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Famous As: President of South Africa
Birthdate: October 10, 1825
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Whittlesea, South Africa
Died: July 14, 1904

Paul Kruger was a South African politician who served as the last State President of the South African Republic. Revered by his admirers as a tragic folk hero, Kruger was one of the most influential military and political personalities in 19th-century South Africa. His life inspired the 1941 German film Ohm Krüger, in which Kruger was played by Emil Jannings.

 49 Francois Pienaar

Francois Pienaar
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Famous As: Rugby union player
Birthdate: January 2, 1967
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Vereeniging

Francois Pienaar is a former rugby player who captained the South African national team from 1993 to 1996. He is best-known for helping his team win the 1995 Rugby World Cup. In 2004, he was ranked 50th in a list named Top 100 Great South Africans. In 2005, he was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame.

 50 Shaun Morgan

Shaun Morgan
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Famous As: Singer, Guitarist
Birthdate: December 21, 1978
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Pietermaritzburg

Shaun Morgan is a South African singer-songwriter and musician. Morgan has been the longest-serving member of the popular rock band Seether where he plays the guitar and contributes with lyrics and vocals. Shaun Morgan is regarded as one of South Africa's most influential and popular rock guitarists of his generation.

Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr, the intellectual was a key figure in The African Movement during the pre-apartheid era. The country produced Dr. Christiaan Barnard, the man who would ultimately became a pioneer in cardiology and perform the world’s first successful human heart transplant. Great scientists like Sydney Brenner, Austin Roberts and Hans Merensky were also born in South Africa. The country’s contribution to contemporary world literature has been noteworthy. Works of the writers like the Nobel Laureate John Maxwell Coetzee and Alan Paton are famous throughout the world. . Browse on to discover many more fascinating details about the famous men of South Africa.