South Africa became independent from Great Britain on December 11, 1931, but the British monarch remained head of state. On May 31, 1961, the country became a republic, severing all formal ties with Great Britain.
After 1961, South Africa was independent of the European powers that had colonized it, but the colonizers, in the form of the white elites that dominated politics and economics in the new country, were still in charge. The country's black majority did not participate in the 1961 referendum, and they had few rights under South Africa's racist apartheid regime. True independence for the majority of the country came only in 1994, when Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress came into power following a multiracial, multiparty election.