During Verwoerd's term in office, South Africa ceased to be a Commonwealth realm under Queen Elizabeth II and became a republic in 1961. The creation of a republic was one of the National Party's cherished goals since originally coming to power in 1948, however the opposition United Party and many English-speaking whites were against such a change.
Once again, Verwoerd changed the law to his advantage. He lowered the voting age for whites to 18, and allowing whites in South West Africa (now Namibia), which was then under South African rule, to vote. On October 5, 1960, 52 per cent of white voters voted 'Yes' to a republic.
However, this brought into question South Africa's status within the Commmonwealth, which included many of South Africa's main trading partners, such as the United Kingdom. Since India had become a republic in 1949, republic status was no longer incompatible with membership, but the Commonwealth now had new Asian and African members who saw the apartheid regime's membership as an affront to the organization's democratic principles. Consequently, South Africa left the Commonwealth on becoming a republic, although many in the National Party welcomed this as a clean break with the colonial past.
In 1966, Verwoerd was stabbed to death in the House of Assembly by Dimitri Tsafendas , a parliamentary clerk, who escaped the death penalty on the grounds of insanity. Tsafendas's motive for killing Verwoerd remains unclear.