Negotiating Justice: A New Constitution for South Africa

Negotiating Justice: A New Constitution for South Africa

Negotiating Justice: A New Constitution for South Africa

Negotiating Justice: A New Constitution for South Africa

Synopsis

Between February 1990 when the South African president, F.W. De Klerk, released Nelson Mandela from prison and legalised the ANC, and April 1994 when the first democratic elections were held, South Africa experienced revolutionary changes. This book investigates some of the problems that came to the fore during this 'interregnum' and seeks to explain how a peaceful transition was eventually achieved. Ordinary South Africans as well as those entrusted with building the new state were forced to consider questions of profound importance - human rights and land reform, the future of the Homelands and the validity of the democratic process. The book focuses on these issues and on the interplay of forces of stability and instability in a period that saw the spread of communal violence on a horrific scale such that many prophesied the outbreak of civil war. It offers a way of understanding this violence by looking at the way it served the perceived interests of traditional apartheid and the objectives of the whites in the 'decolonisation' period. The book also explores the way in which De Klerk's National Party changed from support for Inkatha and the idea of Federalism to an alliance of convenience with the ANC which made the elections of April 1994 possible. The historical dimension of the new constitution is examined and the way in which the concept of democracy was negotiated. The book also focuses on the National Peace Accord and the attempt to create institutions to defuse the communal violence - the first time in the modern history of South Africa that an attempt was made to create institutions to serve the needs of the population as a whole. Other chapters examine the issue of a Billof Rights and land reform. A close look at the experience of India since its independence throws light on what can and cannot be achieved through a formal Bill of Rights, and the options facing the new government in achieving

Excerpt

Malyn Newitt

The reform of an autocratic state is a notoriously difficult process. Anyone aware of the history of Europe in the last two hundred years will immediately recall Alexis de Tocqueville’s famous phrase ‘the most dangerous moment for a bad government is generally that in which it sets about reform’. It is as though the rigid structure of a dam is breached and the force of pent-up waters thus released sweep away the remnants of the dam and demolish all the lesser structures in its path.

Seen in retrospect the decolonisation carried out by Britain and France in the early 1960s is a remarkable exception. There was no bursting of the dam. the authoritarian, multi-ethnic colonial states were replaced not by democracy but by one party systems which replicated the colonial state to a remarkable extent and transferred authority from a white to a black governing elite. It is fashionable in the early 1990s to denounce the one-party state as a failure and as the cause of all Africa’s ills. in many areas even the partial dismantling of the post-colonial state has begun. It is certainly true that many African states proved unable to handle the problems of drought, famine, falling world prices for raw materials and the intolerable pressures of the Cold War, but the post-colonial order in Africa acquired and, thirty years later, still maintains elements of stability which begin to appear more impressive in the light of the rapid disintegration of the post-communist order in ussr and Eastern Europe.

1. Alexis de Tocqueville, The Ancien Regime, quoted in Rudé G., Revolutionmy

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