Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Where De Klerk's Plan Goes Awry Meaningful Negotiations on Power-Sharing in South Africa Will Have to Start from Scratch

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Where De Klerk's Plan Goes Awry Meaningful Negotiations on Power-Sharing in South Africa Will Have to Start from Scratch

Article excerpt

SHARING power means less than conceding power. That became clear this month when President Frederik de Klerk proposed a political rearrangement of South Africa that would give blacks the vote and substantial legislative authority, but with a minority veto.

At the core of Mr. De Klerk's new constitution, offered as it was to a congress of his ruling National Party, is a two-house parliament. Africans, the overwhelming majority of the country, would elect representatives to the lower house (where legislation would originate) on the basis of universal suffrage.

But what De Klerk extolled as "full participation" for all South Africans on "a universally acceptable basis" would then be limited, probably severely so, by an upper house. Vaguely following the US model, the members of the upper house would represent South Africa's regions, and would have the power to veto measures passed by the lower house.

Modern South Africa has always been divided into four provinces. More recently 13 homelands were carved out of or across the provinces. De Klerk now wants to create nine new regions. The populations and productive capacities of the regions would vary greatly, but his party's proposal gives them equal representation in the upper house.

The African National Congress (ANC) has voiced outrage at such a blatant undercutting of majority rule. Moreover, De Klerk suggests that any bloc receiving as few as 10 percent of the vote in a region would be entitled to seats. Thus a party representing but a small minority in but one region could have surprising influence nationally.

If it combined its over-weighted strength with other small parties in other regions, the presumed power of the ANC could be frustrated, since critical legislation would be subject to a two-thirds favorable vote in the upper house.

There are echoes in the National Party plan of concurrent majority theory, and also of a kind of Swiss- and Belgian-type consociation. Likewise, De Klerk proposed a collective presidency very similar to that employed by now fractured Yugoslavia. The ANC regards such a troika as a device to minimize black power. …

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