Accreditation in South Africa dates back to the 70’s,  however in 1980 it was formalised with the formation of the National Calibration Service (NCS), later the National Laboratory Accreditation Service (NLA). Initially the NCS, which was operated under the auspices of the CSIR, accredited laboratories only in the field of calibration.

In 1994 the NLA became an independent section 21 company in line with international requirements pertaining to autonomy. From 1995 the NLA accredited testing laboratories, assuming responsibility for laboratories previously accredited under a South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) system referred to as SABS 0259.

The government through the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) had recognised the need to create a single national accreditation system as long ago as 1993, and the establishment of such a system was approved by Cabinet in late 1994.

During 1995 the newly independent NLA was contracted to manage the establishment of this system, to be called the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS). During July 1995 a working group was formed to finalise the organisational structure and constitution of SANAS, and the new entity was registered as a Section 21 company in January 1996.

The new accreditation body was officially launched in August 1996 and the relationship with Government was formalised through a Memorandum of Agreement was signed with the dti in December 1997, through which SANAS is now recognised as the single national authority for the accreditation.

In 2006 SANAS became a public entity through the promulgation of the Accreditation for Conformity Assessment, Calibration and Good Laboratory Practice Act (Act 19 of 2006).