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Neonatal invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) in developing countries is poorly described. We provide a baseline description of neonatal IPD in South Africa, before implementation of the 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7) in 2009.Data from children (age ≤ 2 years) with IPD (pneumococcus identified from a normally sterile specimen) from January 2003 to December 2008 were extracted from a national laboratory-based surveillance database. Clinical and laboratory characteristics of IPD among neonates (0–27 days old) was compared with IPD among young children (≥ 28 days ≤ 2 years). Early-onset IPD (0–6 days old) was compared with late-onset IPD (≥ 7–27 days old). Isolates were serotyped using the Quellung reaction.Overall 27,630 IPD cases were reported. Of the 26,277 (95%) with known ages, 6583 (25%) were ≤ 2 years of age, of which 4.5% (294/6583) were neonates. The estimated annual incidence of neonatal IPD in 2008 was 5 per 100,000 live births. Fifty-one percent of neonates with IPD presented with early-onset IPD. Case fatality ratios (CFRs) were high in both groups, 31% (28/89) in neonatal IPD versus 26% (614/2383) in non-neonatal IPD (P = 0.18). Among neonates, the meningitis cases (15/37, 41%) were associated with the highest CFR. The 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) serotypes accounted for 69% (134/194) of neonatal IPD isolates.Pneumococcal neonatal disease in South Africa was not uncommon before PCV introduction and is associated with a high CFR. The indirect effect on neonatal IPD of PCV rollout requires further evaluation.