In the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek (South African Republic), the State Secretary appointed two officials to collect, arrange and bind his official records in 1887. In 1899 the first archivist was appointed. On the formation of Union in 1910, the responsibility of archival administration was assigned to the Department of the Interior.

The first legislation regarding archives was the Public Archives Act (Act No. 9 of 1922). In terms of this legislation, provision was made for a central archives repository for the records of central government offices, and for provincial archives repositories for archives of the provincial governments and their colonial or republican predecessors. Consequently the Transvaal Archives Depot in Pretoria, housed in the Union Buildings, had custody of the records of the South African Republic, the Transvaal Colony and the Transvaal Provincial Administration.

The Central Archives Depot was later established under the same administration as the Transvaal Archives Depot to cater for central government records. The Archives Act (Act No. 6 of 1962) extended the scope of archival legislation to the third tier of government, so that records of local authorities were also subject to its provisions. The names of the “depots” were changed in the 1980’s to “repositories.” 

Schedule 5 of the Constitution of South Africa promulgates archives other than national archives, as functional areas of "exclusive provincial legislative competence". The National Archives of South Africa Act (Act No. 43 of 1996, as amended) enabled the devolution of responsibility for provincial archives to provincial governments. The four provinces in the area of the former Transvaal province have taken over responsibility for provincial archives, but the National Archives continues to administer some provincial records in the interim. The previous Transvaal and Central Archives Repositories are now known collectively as the National Archives Repository.

In terms of the specific provincial archival legislation, the different provincial archives also have to perform the same functions to provincial departments, provincial statutory bodies and local authorities.

The following are a list of the applicable provincial archives legislation:

Eastern Cape Province 

Provincial Archives and Records Service Act of the Eastern Cape (Act No.7 of 2003);

Free State Province

Free State Provincial Archives Act (Act No.4 of 1999);

Western Cape Province

Provincial Archives and Records Service of the Western Cape Act (No. 3 of 2005);

Gauteng Province

Gauteng Provincial Archives and Records Service Act (Act No. 5 of 2013);

Northern Cape Province

Northern Cape Provincial Archives and Records Service Act (Act No. 7 of 2013);

KwaZulu Natal Province

KwaZulu-Natal Archives and Records Service Act (Act No.8 of 2011);

Mpumalanga Province

Mpumalanga Archives Act (Act No. 14 of 1998);

Limpopo Province

The Limpopo Province Archives Act (Act No.5 of 2001); and

North West Province

Not yet Promulgated.