De Klerk proposes new setup Collective presidency denounced by ANC

September 05, 1991|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa -- President F. W. de Klerk proposed yesterday that South Africa adopt a three-member "collective" presidency in the post-apartheid era to avoid giving any future leader as much power as whites have had in the past.

Mr. de Klerk presented the idea as part of a major constitutional proposal for the new era in which South Africa's black majority would finally get a vote in national affairs.

The African National Congress immediately denounced the proposal as a ploy to ensure "that whites retain the accumulated privileges of apartheid." It called the plan a "cynical" attempt to prevent the black majority from governing and to give whites a "minority veto" over the policies of any new government.

The plan calls for a weak central government run jointly by three political parties and for strong regional and local governments. It was adopted unanimously by the 1,200 delegates at a one-day conference of Mr. de Klerk's National Party.

The meeting was the first integrated congress of the National Party, which enshrined apartheid as government policy after it came to power in 1948. Among the delegates were about three dozen "coloreds," or mixed-race South Africans, who joined the party after it opened its doors to non-whites last year.

Mr. de Klerk said his party had taken on "an indisputable leadership role" in the process of dismantling apartheid and reforming the racially imbalanced society it created.

But, he said, "The National Party has never asked for a mandate to hand over complete power to the ANC or anybody else. And we are certainly not prepared to exchange one form of domination for another."

He said his new proposals were designed to avoid black domination of whites in a new South Africa. "This does not mean apartheid in another guise, but merely what it says -- full rights for the majority, but not the ability to trample down or destroy the rights and values of others," he said.

Under the de Klerk proposals, a collective presidency would include the leaders of the three political parties with the most seats in Parliament. All decisions would be made by consensus, and the presidential body would be required to choose a multiparty Cabinet.

Mr. de Klerk said his government embraced the unusual concept "because we are convinced that concentration of power in the hands of a single person as head of state, as in our present system, is the major single factor bedeviling the cooperation we so badly require."

He said his proposal would force the major political leaders to work together instead of continuing to distrust and undermine one another.

He also proposed a two-chamber Parliament in which one house would be based on proportional representation.

In the other house, seats would be allocated to nine separate regions of the country, with each region getting an equal number of seats. Within the region, seats would be divided equally VTC among each political party that received at least 10 percent of the vote in regional legislative elections.

The ANC charged that the plan for the second house was another attempt to give whites special advantages under the new constitution.

"It is regrettable to have to say that the National Party proposals are a recipe for disaster, designed to deny a future South African government the power to truly liberate the country from the misery that apartheid has wrought," the ANC said in a statement.

"The proposals attempt to create a weak Parliament and executive, hamstrung by arrangements requiring broad consensus among small interest groups," it said, calling the proposals unworkable and "a mockery of the democratic process."

The ANC already has issued its own constitutional proposals, which include a bill of rights to protect basic individual freedoms. The group's proposal, like Mr. de Klerk's, envisions three branches of government: executive, legislative and judiciary.

De Klerk proposal for South Africa

Here is a summary of the key points in President F. W. de Klerk's proposal:

VOTING: All citizens would have equal voting rights in national elections.

NATIONAL GOVERNMENT: The presidency would be replaced by a three-member executive council that could include members of opposition parties. The Cabinet would have posts reserved for opposition members. There would be two houses of Parliament, both elected by all races. Legislation would be passed by a simple majority in both houses.

MINORITIES: Constitutional changes would require a two-thirds majority, and the upper chamber of Parliament would have special powers over legislation involving minorities.

Also, seats for city and town councils might be equally divided between those elected by vote of all residents and those by vote of property owners.

These provisions, along with the reservation of posts for opposition parties, would favor whites and other minorities. The president argues that the country's racial and cultural diversity requires consensus politics rather than a winner-take-all formula.

DECENTRALIZATION OF POWER: Mr. de Klerk wants to move power away from the central government to local authorities. Critics say this would allow white areas to retain special privileges.

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