There is no place however, for Ballance’s county team-mate Aduil Rashid, whyo has not made the Test squad with England deciding the conditions in South Africa mean the chances of playing two spinners are “extremely remote”.
Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow are the other two Yorkshireman in the squad.
Former opener Nick Compton has also earned a recall, just over two years after being dropped ahead of the 2013 Ashes Test series.
Moeen Ali and Samit Patel will be England’s frontline spinners for the four-Test series, with Rashid now set to travel to Australia to play for a Big Bash franchise,
With his coach at Yorkshire, Jason Gillespie, heading over to coach Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash, it would be logical in some way for Rashid to follow him there.
Bell’s omission comes in the wake of a series of below-par performances from the 33-year-old, who has scored just one Test century since July 2014.
National selector James Whitaker said: “Ian Bell has been an outstanding player for many years and undoubtedly still has plenty to offer England in the future.
“It was clearly a difficult decision but he has struggled for runs in recent series and we felt that it was the right time for him to take a break and spend time working on his game out of the spotlight.”
Nottinghamshire batsman Alex Hales, who was in the England Test squad for the Pakistan tour, and new Surrey left-arm fast bowler Mark Footitt are the only two uncapped players in the squad, which is missing injured pacemen Mark Wood and Steven Finn.
Compton, 32, will provide competition to Hales as captain Alastair Cook’s prospective opening partner as England look to solve a long-standing issue at the top of the order.
Middlesex batsman Compton scored two centuries in nine Tests before being dropped in 2013 while Yorkshire’s Ballance, who averages 47 from his 15 Test appearances with four hundreds, has not featured since this summer’s Ashes.
Whitaker said of the changes: “The inclusion of Nick Compton and Gary Ballance alongside Alex Hales, Joe Root and James Taylor gives Trevor Bayliss and Alastair Cook plenty of options in the top order.
“Adil Rashid showed plenty of promise in the UAE, but with the conditions in South Africa making the likelihood of playing two spinners extremely remote, he misses out.
“We feel this provides an excellent opportunity for him to spend some time developing his white ball skills in the lead up to the ICC World T20 in March, and it is likely that Adil will travel to Australia to play for a Big Bash franchise.”
England arrive in South Africa on December 11 and play two three-day warm-up matches before the first Test begins in Durban on Boxing Day.
The second Test takes place in Cape Town from January 2, with the final two matches being held in Johannesburg (January 14-18) and Centurion (January 22-26).
Whitaker added: “Playing the number one ranked Test side in the world in their home conditions will be a really exciting challenge for this squad and one I’m sure these players will relish.”
Bell took to Twitter to speak about his omission from the England squad.
“I’m absolutely gutted not to be selected for the tour to SA,” read a post on the verified @Ian_Bell account.
“I certainly feel I could have contributed out there & have been working tirelessly 2 get into the best possible condition for the tour. I’m going 2 enjoy a winter break with my family for the 1st time in 11yrs and come back determined to win my place back. Wishing all the guys selected the best of luck.”
England squad for four-Test tour to South Africa: A Cook (captain, Essex), M Ali (Worcestershire), J Anderson (Lancashire), J Bairstow (Yorkshire), G Ballance (Yorkshire), S Broad (Nottinghamshire), J Buttler (Lancashire), N Compton (Middlesex), M Footitt (Surrey), A Hales (Nottinghamshire), C Jordan (Sussex), S Patel (Nottinghamshire), J Root (Yorkshire), B Stokes (Durham), J Taylor (Nottinghamshire), C Woakes (Warwickshire).