Famous South African Men

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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.

Vote for Your Favourite South African Men
 1 
Elon Musk
(CEO of Tesla)
Elon Musk
331
Birthdate: June 28, 1971
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Pretoria, South Africa

Entrepreneur, engineer and industrial designer, Elon Musk, is famous as founder of the electronic payment firm PayPal, and the SpaceX spacecraft company. He is also the CEO of Tesla Motors. Elon Musk has plans to revolutionize transportation on earth as well as to space through futuristic technology.

 2 
Nelson Mandela
(President of South Africa (1994-1999))
Nelson Mandela
55
Birthdate: July 18, 1918
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mvezo, South Africa
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.
 3 
Trevor Noah
(Comedian & Host Of The Daily Show)
Trevor Noah
37
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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 4 
AB de Villiers
(Cricketer)
AB de Villiers
44
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.

 5 
Desmond Tutu
(First Black African Archbishop of Cape Town & Nobel Peace Prize Winner)
Desmond Tutu
50
Birthdate: October 7, 1931
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Klerksdorp, South Africa
Died: December 26, 2021
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.
 6 
Oscar Pistorius
26
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.

 7 
Cyril Ramaphosa
(President of South Africa)
Cyril Ramaphosa
16
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.

 8 
Kimbal Musk
(The Founder of 'The Kitchen Restaurant Group' and Co-Founder of 'Big Green' a 501 non profit organization)
Kimbal Musk
26
Birthdate: September 20, 1972
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa
Kimbal Musk, the younger brother of business tycoon and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, owns the community restaurant chain known as The Kitchen Restaurant Group. He also co-founded the non-profit Big Green, which builds outdoor classrooms, and Square Roots, which specializes in urban farming. He is also a prime Tesla shareholder.
 9 
Shaka
(Zulu Emperor)
Shaka
9
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.

 10 
Steve Biko
(Anti-apartheid Activist)
Steve Biko
12
Birthdate: December 18, 1946
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Tarkastad, 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.

 11 
Gary Player
(South African golfer)
Gary Player
7
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.
 12 
Dave Matthews
(Lead Vocalist, Songwriter and Guitarist of the 'Dave Matthews Band')
Dave Matthews
9
Birthdate: January 9, 1967
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa
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. 
 13 
Sharlto Copley
(Actor, Film director, Film producer, Screenwriter)
Sharlto Copley
6
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.

 14 
Kevin Carter
(Photographer)
Kevin Carter
20
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.

 15 
Arnold Vosloo
(Famous for His Roles as 'Imhotep' in the Movies: 'Mummy' and 'The Mummy Returns')
Arnold Vosloo
8
Birthdate: June 16, 1962
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa

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.

 16 
Hashim Amla
(Cricketer)
Hashim Amla
2
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.

 17 
Ernie Els
(Professional Golfer)
Ernie Els
3
Birthdate: October 17, 1969
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa

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.

 18 
Kagiso Rabada
(Cricketer)
Kagiso Rabada
6
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.

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 19 
Jacques Kallis
(Cricketer)
Jacques Kallis
5
Birthdate: October 16, 1975
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

One of the best all-rounders the world has ever seen, South African cricketer Jacques Kallis was known for his signature cover drive throughout his career. He remains the only cricketer to score over 10,000 runs and take more than 250 wickets in both ODI and Test cricket.

 20 
Christiaan Barnard
(Cardiac Surgeon)
Christiaan Barnard
3
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.
 21 
Watkin Tudor Jones
12
Birthdate: September 26, 1974
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Johannesburg

Watkin Tudor Jones, better known as Ninja, is a South African rapper, songwriter, record producer, and director. He is a member of the rap-rave group Die Antwoord. He has been active in the hip hop scene since he was 13 and has played with numerous bands in his career. He is also an occasional actor.

 22 
John Kani
(Actor, Playwright, Director)
John Kani
7
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. 

 23 
Dale Steyn
(Cricketer)
Dale Steyn
5
Birthdate: June 27, 1983
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Phalaborwa

The son of a mine worker, South African fast bowler Dale Steyn is known for his mercurial on-field persona and for his swing and speed. He has many accolades to his credit, such as the Wisden Cricketer of the Year. He also topped the ICC Test rankings for 263 weeks.

 24 
Kevin Anderson
(South African Former Professional Tennis Player)
Kevin Anderson
8
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).

 25 
Lucky Dube
(Musician)
Lucky Dube
28
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.
 26 
F. W. de Klerk
(Former State President of South Africa)
F. W. de Klerk
11
Birthdate: March 18, 1936
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa
Died: November 11, 2021
F. W. de Klerk served as the State President of South Africa from 1989 to 1994 and as the Deputy President from 1994 to 1996. He was also the National Party leader from 1989 to 1997. His government helped crush the apartheid system and established universal suffrage. 
 27 
Neill Blomkamp
(Director Known for the Science Fiction Films ‘District 9’, ‘Elysium’ and ‘Chappie')
Neill Blomkamp
4
Birthdate: September 17, 1979
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa

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.

 28 
Sid James
(Actor)
Sid James
8
Birthdate: May 8, 1913
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa
Died: April 26, 1976

Sid James was an actor best remembered for playing multiple characters in the popular Carry On series. James has been the subject of many tribute shows including BBC's 2013 show The Many Faces of Sid James. In 1998, actor Geoffrey Hutchings played Sid James in a play titled Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick which was premiered at the National Theatre.

 29 
Faf du Plessis
(Cricketer)
Faf du Plessis
4
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.

 30 
Jan Smuts
(2nd Prime Minister of South Africa)
Jan Smuts
3
Birthdate: May 24, 1870
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Riebeeck West, South Africa
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.

 31 
Thabo Mbeki
(Politician, Economist)
Thabo Mbeki
3
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 
Hansie Cronje
(South African International Cricketer)
Hansie Cronje
8
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.

 33 
Jacob Zuma
(President of South Africa (2009-18))
Jacob Zuma
29
Birthdate: April 12, 1942
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nkandla, South Africaa

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.

 34 
David Bale
(Entrepreneur)
David Bale
4
Birthdate: September 2, 1941
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: South Africa
Died: December 30, 2003

David Bale was an English entrepreneur and animal rights activist. He worked closely with The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, which aims at protecting endangered mountain gorillas, and served as one of its board members. Apart from his work as an activist for animal rights and environmental causes, David Bale is also known as the father of actor Christian Bale.

 35 
Wayde van Niekerk
(South African Track and Field Sprinter Who Competes in the 200 and 400 Metres)
Wayde van Niekerk
11
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.

 36 
Caspar Lee
(YouTuber, Vlogger)
Caspar Lee
8
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.

 37 
Louis Oosthuizen
6
Birthdate: October 19, 1982
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mossel Bay

Louis Oosthuizen is a South African golfer best known as the winner of the 2010 Open Championship which was held in Scotland. In addition to winning the 2010 Open Championship, Oosthuizen has also finished runner-up in the other three major championships. In 2013, he became the fourth-ranked golfer in the world according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

 38 
Benni McCarthy
(South African Coach and Former Football Player Who Played as a Forward)
Benni McCarthy
2
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.

 39 
Ahmed Deedat
(Writer)
Ahmed Deedat
8
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.  

 40 
Paul Kruger
(5th President of the South African Republic (1883 - 1902))
Paul Kruger
1
Birthdate: October 10, 1825
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Steynsburg, 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.

 41 
Justin Gabriel
(Professional wrestler)
Justin Gabriel
5
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.

 42 
Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden
1
Birthdate: 1908 AD
Birthplace: Hadhramaut, South Arabia
Died: September 3, 1967

Known widely as the father of Osama bin Laden, Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was a Saudi business tycoon. He established the Jeddah-headquartered construction conglomerate Saudi Binladin Group and earned contracts from the Saudi royal family. He was also one of the richest non-royal Saudi and had 22 wives.

 43 
Hugh Masekela
(Former Jazz Trumpeter who was described as)
Hugh Masekela
1
Birthdate: April 4, 1939
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Emalahleni Local Municipality, South Africa
Died: January 23, 2018

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.

 44 
J. M. Coetzee
(South African-Australian Writer and Recipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature)
J. M. Coetzee
7
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.

 45 
Chad le Clos
(Swimmer)
Chad le Clos
4
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.

 46 
Wilbur A. Smith
(Novelist)
Wilbur A. Smith
2
Birthdate: January 9, 1933
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kabwe, Zambia
Died: November 13, 2021

South African novelist, Wilbur A. Smith, specializes in historical fiction and writes extensively about the international involvement in Southern Africa over the past few centuries. An accountant by profession, he started writing professionally when he was in his 30s. Many of his novels became best-sellers, and he has sold more than 120 million copies of his 35 published novels. 

 47 
Oliver Tambo
(Politician)
Oliver Tambo
1
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.

 48 
Kevin Pietersen
(Cricketer)
Kevin Pietersen
5
Birthdate: June 27, 1980
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

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.

 49 
Patrice Motsepe
(President of CAF (Since 2021))
Patrice Motsepe
7
Birthdate: January 28, 1962
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ga-Rankuwa, South Africa

The first black African to be featured on the Forbes billionaires’ list, African Rainbow Minerals founder Patrice Motsepe also owns a football club. In 2021, he took over as the president of the Confederation of African Football. The mining tycoon has also signed The Giving Pledge.

 50 
Johann Rupert
(Entrepreneur, Businessperson)
Johann Rupert
3
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.

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.