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  • Anglo American Corporation
  • Julian Ogitvie Thompson (bio)

For 40 years, apartheid imposed on South Africa a political and economic system that patterned people's lives and dictated their rights and opportunities in terms of classification by race. We must find effective strategies and institutions to address the many injustices, inequalities, and inefficiencies that apartheid has helped to create if South Africa is to become a free, prosperous, nonracial, and multiparty democracy. All South Africans must enjoy equal rights and the freedom to pursue their own political and economic interests without regard to race or color.

Any future constitutional dispensation for South Africa should be negotiated among all the concerned parties. The major political actors already agree that the country should have a multiparty democracy in which the government is chosen by all the people on the basis of [End Page 35] universal suffrage (one man, one vote) in regular, free elections. It may be that some form of federal system with proportional representation would provide the best constitutional structure for accommodating the many different interests in our plural society. This diversity could perhaps find further expression in a bicameral legislature with a popular assembly and an upper house to provide the necessary degree of balance. It will probably also be desirable to design appropriate constitutional mechanisms that encourage power sharing and consensual decision making. In particular, the constitution might promote or require coalition governments as a way to help reconcile different interests.

An effective set of constitutional checks and balances will also be necessary to prevent the abuse of power, which political philosophers over the centuries have warned is the greatest threat to maintaining real democracy. Among the more important of these measures is a bill of rights, enforced by an independent judiciary, that guarantees individuals their fundamental civil liberties. Its protection must also extend to the right to own private property. Far from being the bastion of privilege, as some would have us believe, this right is actually the foundation of political and economic liberty. For if citizens lack the right to mobilize independent resources with which to promote their own interests, all their other rights become meaningless in practice.

Essential to the success of a democratic constitution for South Africa is the forging of a democratic political culture. The institutions of civil society—the churches, the press, trade unions, community groups, political parties, and the universities—must be free to play their part in promoting and sustaining such a culture.

In a future South Africa, we hope to see an economic system that is open, competitive, and capable of generating growth on the order of at least 5 percent a year, which will be required if the country is to meet the social needs of its growing population. International experience, confirmed by recent events in Eastern Europe, shows that only a strong market economy can create opportunities that will allow greater numbers of South Africans to share in the wealth of an increasingly prosperous country, thereby securing the economic foundation for the maintenance of real democracy. Our goal should be a mixed economy with a dynamic private sector operating within a framework of macroeconomic policies designed to encourage growth, enterprise, and investment. Such policies would include a nonpunitive and broadly based tax system, prudent management of the money supply, and sound fiscal policies.

Much of the future success of the economy will depend on South Africa's ability to trade with and attract investment from the outside world. We will need a flexible and open system that can anticipate and adapt to changing global economic demands and, patterns of trade. We will also need enterprises that can compete internationally and manage the capital, technology, and manpower required for large and difficult [End Page 36] ventures such as those needed to develop South Africa's varied metal and mineral resources. But big business also needs small and medium-sized businesses, and there must always be room in a free market economy for the individual entrepreneur.

Deregulation will help encourage the entrepreneurial ethic, and represents one important way in which racial imbalances in the distribution of wealth can be tackled. We should extend the market to give meaningful opportunities for...


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