THE ruling National Party has proposed a new constitution for South Africa which would create a multiparty democracy, outlaw all racial discrimination, and ensure representation for the main parties in both the Cabinet and the executive.According to the draft proposals - the result of 18 months of intense debate and preparation - the current post of president would be replaced by an executive council of between three to five members who would appoint a multiparty Cabinet. The proposals break with tradition by proposing a federal system based on nine semiautonomous regions and establishing a system of proportional representation - rather than voting districts - as the basis for one house of a two-house Parliament.
Positions similar The draft proposals for a new constitution - to be presented at a rare Federal Congress of the National Party next week - are strikingly similar to the position of the African National Congress as reflected in proposals discussed at its national conference in Durban last month (July 2-6). Once approved by the party, the proposals will form the National Party's mandate at an all-party conference which could be held before the end of the year. The purpose of the conference, which will include all legitimate parties, is to endorse a set of constitutional principles, agree on the form of an interim government and the forum that will draw up the new constitution. Political scientists say the proposals amount to a federal system in everything but name. A "federal system" is a politically loaded term in South African politics, especially in the National Party, because it has traditionaly been the stand of the liberal opposition and has been strenuously resisted by successive National Party governments. It is the favored system of the liberal Democratic Party. But the ANC has always backed a unitary state - where power is centralized - as federalism smacks of compro mise in radical blacks circles. President Frederik de Klerk has promised to hold a referendum to ensure majority support of whites before before a new constitution is adopted. But government officials have said that the referendum could include all races with the white vote counted separately. Christoffel van der Merwe, the new secretary-general of the National Party, says the party favors a form of coalition rule. "We need a participatory democracy so that we don't end up with a winner-takes-all system in South Africa," he says. The National Party document concurs with the ANC on a multiparty democracy based on an independent judiciary and a bill of individual rights and gives the courts the power to interpret and enforce the constitution.
Split legislature The draft also finds common ground with the ANC on the need for a two-house split legislature consisting of one house, elected by universal suffrage and proportional representation, and a senate elected according to regions. The plan envisages dividing the country into nine regions each with its own "government," but it does not spell out what powers would be transferred to those regional governments. The ANC favors a centralized system where as much power as possible is retained by the central government, and executive power would be vested in a president who would appoint a prime minister to head a Cabinet of Ministers. The ANC has not decided whether the president should be elected by the people or by Parliament. The National Party's proposals were published in the Afrikaans-language newspaper Rapport and the biggest Afrikaans-language daily, Beeld. Government officials confirmed the accuracy of the leaked proposals.