Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Multiracial Body Assumes Seat of Power in South Africa

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Multiracial Body Assumes Seat of Power in South Africa

Article excerpt

SOUTH AFRICA takes a significant stride on its inexorable march to majority rule today when a multiracial council, which will help govern the country until the first nonracial election on April 27, meets for the first time here.

"It will render the present Parliament a lame duck and symbolizes the end of white rule," says Prof. Marinus Wiechers, head of the constitutional law department at the University of South Africa in Pretoria, and a key adviser to multiparty negotiators on constitutional change.

"Formally, the new body is not taking over, but power will shift rapidly now away from the white minority to the majority," Professor Wiechers says.

The multiracial body, called the Transitional Executive Council, will act as a watchdog of the ruling National Party government and serve as a referee to ensure that no party enjoys an advantage over another in the run-up to the elections. The TEC meets as the white-dominated Parliament gathers for the last time to approve a package of laws - including an interim constitution and an Electoral Act - that will terminate the life of the current Parliament and trigger a complex transition to democracy.

Parliament, which is comprised of representatives of the white, Indian, and mixed-race minorities, no longer has the legitimacy to alter decisions taken by multiparty negotiators without their approval. But the institution of Parliament is still the only body that can confer legality on the new nonracial constitution.

The TEC meets against the backdrop of frantic last-minute efforts by the government and African National Congress (ANC) to secure an commitment from white right-wing parties and the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party to take part in the TEC and the election in return for further constitutional changes that would increase regional autonomy.

The right-wing Afrikaner Volksfront and IFP, both members of the Freedom Alliance, are the major parties pushing for greater regional autonomy. …

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