High Commission of South Africa, London

High Commission of South Africa in London
Location Trafalgar Square, London
Address Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DP
Balcony of South Africa House

The High Commission of South Africa in London is the diplomatic mission from South Africa to the United Kingdom.[1] It is located at South Africa House, a building on Trafalgar Square, London.[1] As well as containing the offices of the High Commissioner, the building also hosts the South African consulate. It has been a Grade II* Listed Building since 1982.[2]


South Africa House was built by Holland, Hannen & Cubitts in the 1930s[3] on the site of what had been Morley's Hotel until it was demolished in 1936.[4] The building was designed by Sir Herbert Baker, with architectural sculpture by Coert Steynberg and Sir Charles Wheeler, and opened in 1933.[5] The building was acquired by the government of South Africa as its main diplomatic presence in the UK. During World War II, Prime Minister Jan Smuts lived there while conducting South Africa's war plans.

In 1961, South Africa became a republic, and withdrew from the Commonwealth due to its policy of racial segregation.[6] Accordingly, the building became an Embassy, rather than a High Commission. During the 1980s, the building, which was one of the only South African diplomatic missions in a public area, was targeted by protesters from around the world. During the 1990 Poll Tax Riots, the building was set alight by rioters, although not seriously damaged.[7]

The first democratic elections in South Africa were held on the 27 April 1994, and on 31 May of that year, the country rejoined the Commonwealth, 33 years to the day after it withdrew on becoming a republic.[6] Along with country's diplomatic missions in other Commonwealth countries, the mission once again became a High Commission.[8]

Today, South Africa House is no longer a controversial site, and is the focal point of South African culture in the UK. Then President Nelson Mandela appeared on the balcony of South Africa House in 1995, as part of his official state visit. In 2001, Mandela again appeared on the balcony of South Africa House to mark the seventh anniversary of Freedom Day, when the system of Apartheid ended.[9]

See also


Wikimedia Commons has media related to South Africa House, London.
  1. 1 2 "The London Diplomatic List" (PDF). 14 December 2013.
  2. Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1066238)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  3. Cubitts 1810 - 1975, published 1975
  4. "The east side of Trafalgar Square". BHO. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  5. Palliser, David Michael; Clark, Peter; Daunton, Martin J. (2000). The Cambridge Urban History of Britain: 1840-1950. Cambridge University Press. p. 126.
  6. 1 2 South Africa returns to the Commonwealth fold, The Independent, 31 May 1994
  7. Burns, Danny (1992). Poll tax rebellion. AK Press. p. 90.
  8. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Department of International Relations and Cooperation
  9. Hero's welcome for Mandela at concert. BBC News. April 30, 2001.

Coordinates: 51°30′30″N 0°07′37″W / 51.5082°N 0.1269°W / 51.5082; -0.1269

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