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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
10 Jacob Zuma
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.
11 Chris Hani
Chris Hani was a South African politician who led the South African Communist Party from 1991 to 1993. One of the most important and influential fighters against the apartheid government, Hani played an important role in the development of the armed wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe. He was assassinated by a Polish immigrant named Janusz Waluś.
Kgalema Motlanthe is a South African politician who played an important role during the struggle against apartheid; he was part of the Umkhonto we Sizwe, an armed wing of the ANC. Between 2008 and 2009, Motlanthe served as the third president of South Africa. He is often seen as an important figure behind the political success of Jacob Zuma.
South African prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd was immensely infamous for promoting racial segregation and came to be known as one of the pioneers of apartheid. He was stabbed to death in his parliament office by a Mozambican immigrant who was thought to be insane but was a racially disadvantaged man.
Mangosuthu Buthelezi is a South African politician who is credited with founding the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). He was widely regarded as one of the most important black leaders during the apartheid era. From 1994 to 2004, he served as South Africa's minister of home affairs. He has also won many awards, such as Nadaraja Award and Magna Award.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is a South African anti-apartheid activist, politician, and doctor. One of the most popular South African politicians of her generation, Dlamini-Zuma has served as the country's minister of health, minister of foreign affairs, and minister of home affairs at different periods of time.
Eugène Ney Terre'Blanche was an Afrikaner nationalist who played an important role in the establishment of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging, which he led from 1973 to 2010. An influential personality, Terre'Blanche's philosophy and beliefs have continued to influence white supremacists around the world. His life and career inspired a couple of documentaries, including His Big White Self.
Tokyo Sexwale is a South African anti-apartheid activist, politician, businessman, and former political prisoner. He was imprisoned alongside personalities like Nelson Mandela for his anti-apartheid activities. Over the years, he has received several awards and honours, including honorary doctorates from various universities. In 2004, he was named in the Top 100 Great South Africans list.
Walter Sisulu was a South African activist who played an important role in the anti-apartheid movement. Counted among the most important members of the ANC, Sisulu served more than 25 years in prison for his anti-apartheid activities. For his contribution to the success of the ANC, Sisulu was honored with the prestigious Isitwalandwe Seaparankoe in 1992.
20 P. W. Botha
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.
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.
Zindzi Mandela was a South African poet and diplomat best known as the daughter of the famous anti-apartheid activist, Nelson Mandela. From 1996 to 1998, she also served as a temporary First Lady of South Africa. Over the years, she has been portrayed in films and TV films, such as Mrs Mandela (2009), Invictus (2009), and Mandela (1987).
Ahmed Kathrada was a South African anti-apartheid activist and politician. He is best remembered for his involvement in the anti-apartheid movement, which landed him in jail following the infamous Rivonia Trial. In 1988, he was honored with ANC's highest possible award, the Isitwalandwe Award. In 2004, he was named in the Top 100 Great South Africans list.
25 Joe Slovo
Joe Slovo was a South African politician. One of the most important members of the ANC, Slovo played an important role in the development of Umkhonto we Sizwe, ANC's military wing. A Marxist-Leninist, he also led the South African Communist Party for many years. He was portrayed by Malcolm Purkey in Catch a Fire, a film about anti-apartheid activists.
26 Helen Zille
Helen Zille is a South African anti-apartheid activist and politician. A former journalist, Zille played a major role in exposing the cover-up surrounding the death of Steve Biko, a fellow anti-apartheid activist. In 2008, she was chosen as World Mayor of the Year.
27 Ela Gandhi
Known as Dief the Chief, former Canadian prime minister John Diefenbaker is remembered for his efforts in passing the Canadian Bill of Rights and extending voting rights to First Nations people. He had also had a successful stint as a defense lawyer before being elected to the parliament.
Marais Viljoen was the fifth state president of South Africa. He became the last ceremonial president of South Africa when Prime Minister P. W. Botha succeeded him in 1984. He continued to express a keen interest in politics even after retiring from public life.
31 Pik Botha
Pik Botha was a South African politician who was regarded as a liberal among other politicians of the National Party and the Afrikaner community. In 2013, he appeared in a TV show titled Question Time, in which he discussed the legacy of Nelson Mandela.
33 Baleka Mbete
Baleka Mbete is a South African politician who served as the deputy president of South Africa under President Kgalema Motlanthe. From 2014 to 2019, she also served as South Africa's Speaker of the National Assembly. One of the most controversial South African politicians in the recent past, Mbete is an associate of Tony Yengeni, who was accused of defrauding parliament.
34 Ivan Gazidis
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the UN Under-Secretary-General, was initially a teacher and has also worked at the World YWCA. A women’s rights activist, she works for gender equality and education and has established the Umlambo Foundation. She has also been the South African deputy president. Four of her five children are adopted.
36 Helen Suzman
Born to Lithuanian immigrants in South Africa, Helen Suzman studied commerce and economics, and initially worked as a statistician and a lecturer. A vocal anti-apartheid activist, she later worked for human rights causes and also oversaw the country’s first democratic election as an Independent Electoral Commission member.
37 Ruth First
South African activist/journalist Ruth First is remembered for her relentless fight against apartheid. Born to Latvian immigrants and founders of the South African Communist Party, First was later tried for treason and detained. While working at a Mozambican university in exile, she was assassinated in a parcel bomb attack
Mandla Mandela is a South African politician and the tribal chief of the Mvezo clan. He is best known as the grandson of the popular anti-apartheid revolutionary, Nelson Mandela. Mandla became the chief of the clan when he was just 32 years old and continues to represent the tribe on various political issues.
South African politician and African National Congress member Trevor Manuel has been a cabinet minister under the first four South African presidents. A qualified civil engineer, he grew up being tagged as a "Cape Coloured" in the apartheid era. He remains one of the longest-serving finance ministers of the world.
South African academic and anti-apartheid activist Bonginkosi Emmanuel Nzimande, or Blade Nzimande, is the current Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Technology. The South African Communist Party leader boasts of a PhD in sociology. His books include Children of Wars, which speaks about the impact of violence on education.
42 John Vorster
South African politician John Vorster had served as both the prime minister and the president of his country. Born to an affluent sheep farmer, he initially practiced law. An apartheid supporter, he was the minister of justice during the Rivonia Trial and was later dragged into the Muldergate Scandal.
Boer leader Andries Pretorius was a chief force behind the creation of the South African Republic. He not only led the Great Trek from British-occupied Cape Colony but also defeated thousands of Zulus in the Battle of Blood. His negotiations with the British led to the Sand River Convention.
44 Govan Mbeki
African National Congress and South African Communist Party leader Govan Mbeki initially worked as a teacher but was fired from his job for his political activities. The anti-apartheid leader was a talented writer, too. He was also the father of Thabo Mbeki, who later served as the South African president.
45 Sol Plaatje
Christiaan de Wet was a Boer general, rebel leader, and politician. He served as a field cornet in the First Anglo-Boer War of 1880–81. Following the war, he became a member of the Volksraad. In the Second Boer War, he took part in the Siege of Ladysmith and the surprise attack on Sanna's Post near Bloemfontein.
47 Kumi Naidoo
48 D. F. Malan
D. F. Malan was a South African politician. He served as the prime minister of South Africa from 1948 to 1954. He became involved in National Party politics shortly after its formation. The party enforced racial segregation laws and implemented the system of apartheid. As the prime minister, he took steps to firmly lay down the foundations of apartheid.
John Langalibalele Dube was a South African essayist, philosopher, politician, publisher, educator, editor, novelist, and poet. He served as the president of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) from 1912 to 1917. He felt strongly about human rights and founded the Inanda Seminary Institute for Girls. He was passionate about encouraging black people to launch their own businesses.
50 Magnus Malan
Magnus Malan was a South African military man and politician active during the last years of apartheid in South Africa. He joined the Permanent Force as a cadet and steadily rose through the ranks in the ensuing years. He began his political career in the 1980s. A controversial figure, he was allegedly involved in the KwaMakhutha massacre.