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Essentials of South Africa's Interim Constitution

By John BattersbyStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / November 17, 1993



The white-dominated parliament in Cape Town, which has been the seat of sovereignty since 1910, will sit for the last time this month to approve a transition to democracy that will extend the vote to blacks for the first time. Here are the main provisions of the interim constitution Parliament will ratify.

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* Sovereignty will pass from the executive to the constitution, with a constitutional court as the final arbiter of the charter.

* A complex network of checks and balances - including a system of proportional representation, a bill of rights, a constitutional court, and a senate elected by the provinces - will limit the power of the executive and empower individuals and provincial and local governments.

* A multiparty Transitional Government of National Unity will rule for five years. The Cabinet will reflect proportional strengths of all parties that win more than 5 percent of the total vote.

* The president will be elected by the majority party, and deputy presidents from the second- and third-place parties in the elections. A black president will have the final say in the country's affairs for the first time.

* A bill of rights will give black South Africans constitutional protection from discrimination and enshrine fundamental human rights, including: the right to vote; equality before the law; restitution of land for the disposed since 1913; freedom of speech and association; access to official information; freedom to practice the religion and culture of choice; and the right to education, shelter, and fair treatment in the workplace.

* Parliament will be comprised of a 400-strong national assembly - to act as the legislature and constitutional assembly - and a 90-strong Senate. Laws will be passed by a simple majority. The Assembly will make laws, the Senate will protect regional interests, and the Constitutional Assembly will draw up the final constitution within two years.

* A Cabinet, appointed by the president, will be the highest executive authority - making decisions on the basis of unanimity where possible, or by a 60 percent majority.