A New Power-Sharing Proposal May Speed S. African Settlement

By John Battersby, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, February 16, 1993 | Go to article overview

A New Power-Sharing Proposal May Speed S. African Settlement


John Battersby, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


A NEW proposal that the ruling National Party and the African National Congress (ANC) should share power for five years after the drafting of a democratic constitution has brought South Africa closer than ever before to a negotiated political settlement.

But the plan also has intensified strong opposition from Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, whose Inkatha Freedom Party rejects any bilateral deal between the government and the ANC.

Western diplomats worry that deep-seated hostilities between the ANC and Inkatha could become a major obstacle to a negotiated national settlement.

The proposal - which would endorse the principle of majority rule with checks and balances but stop short of full democracy - was made at a three-day meeting of ANC and government negotiators that ended Friday in Cape Town.

The plan now must be approved by the top decisionmaking bodies of both parties. It would then be taken to a multiparty conference - scheduled for next month - for discussion and ratification by other parties.

So far, the proposal has had a mixed reception. Western diplomats, political scientists, the business community, and the English-language media have broadly welcomed the plan. But it was sharply criticized by the Zulu-based Inkatha, the radical Pan-Africanist Congress, and right-wing white parties.

"The National Party has made the pragmatic choice to abandon a losing anti-ANC coalition with the Inkatha Freedom Party and instead aim at establishing a strong center with the ANC - against traditional ideological leanings," says Professor Heribert Adam, a sociologist from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, who is a visiting lecturer at the University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Business.

The key to the proposal is that semi-autonomous regions would play a role in the drafting of the new constitution through representatives elected in the first democratic elections.

Once the new constitution was accepted, the ANC and the government would share power in a multiparty Cabinet in which the parties would be represented according to the proportion of votes they won in the ballot. Parties that won at least 5 or 10 percent of the vote would earn representation in the Cabinet.

The government regards this last point as central to securing power sharing.

The ANC sees it more as an attempt to promote unity through a transitional government of national unity. The ANC prefers a voluntary arrangement; the government wants the principle written into a transitional constitution.

ANC President Nelson Mandela enters a three-day meeting with the ANC national executive committee today to seek approval for the proposal. …

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