Top 10 Famous South Africans

1. Jan van Riebeeck (1619-1667) – OK, so this guy is Dutch, not South African, but he makes the list as he was the founder of Cape Town, which makes him pretty famous. Van Riebeeck was an explorer and originally ‘discovered’ South Africa in 1652. It was the foundation of Cape Town that started an influx of Dutch settlers to South Africa. I guess you could say he founded the Dutch South Africa.

2. Sid James (1913-1976) – Sid James was one of those old school comedians/actors/jack of all trades. He made his name as Tony Hancock’s co-star in‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ but will always be remembered for his work on Carry On films. He was known for his ‘dirty laugh’. He was also known for being a dirty man too.

3. Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) – You don’t get more famous than Mandiba (that’s what they called him in South Africa). Nelson Mandela was the Father of the Nation, revered as a God. Mandela was the first black president and the first democratically elected president of South Africa in 1994. Words can’t praise him enough. Absolute hero.

Nelson Mandela

4. Desmond Tutu (1931-) – Desmond Tutu rose to fame during the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid. He became the first black South African Archbishop of Cape Town and is one of the most recognised figures in religion worldwide. Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and the Gandhi Peace Prize in 2005. He has done loads to promote world peace, hence the mention.

5. Francois Pienaar (1967-) – Pienaar was a distinctly average rugby player who did amazing things for his country. He became the first South African captain to lift the Rugby World Cup in 1995. It was hosted in South Africa, so people were pretty pleased that they won.

6. Dave Matthews (1967-) – He is in a good band . A very good band. They call themselves ‘The Dave Matthews Band’, which isn’t a very original name. They are their own particular brand of ‘travel rock’ and definitely worth a listen.


Dave Matthews

7. Ernie Els (1969-) – Ernie Els is a professional golfer who has been at the top of his game since the 1990s. He used to be number one in the world long before Tiger Woods could even hold a club (probably). He is a pretty chilled character, and big too, hence his nickname ‘The Big Easy’. He is in the ‘World Golf Hall of Fame’.

8. Johnty Rhodes (1969-) – A cricket who literally sprang up everywhere. Wasn’t particularly good at batting or bowling (which is predominately what you should be good at in cricket), but he was amazing at fielding. Regarded as the greatest fielder in the history of the sport. Watch his run-out of Inzamam ul Huq – absolute classic.

9. Charlize Theron (1975-) – A Hollywood starlet. She’s famous for ‘The Devil’s Advocate’ and ‘The Cider House Rules’, and won critical acclaim and countless awards for her wacky portrayal of a serial killer in ‘Monster’, becoming the first South African to win an Academy Award. Good looking too…

Charlize Theron

10. The Big-Bang Club (1990-1994) – A group of four photographers who tried to change people’s perceptions of South Africa and to raise awareness of the horrors of the apartheid through photography. The four photographers were Kevin Carter, Greg Marinovich, Ken Oosterbroek, and Joao Silva, two of whom won the Pulitzer Prize. A film is now being made about them – keep an eye-out.

So there we have it, 10 very famous South Africans. If you’re heading to South Africa then make sure you check out our info on how to get there, how to get around andthings to see and do when you’re there!


Written by PH

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