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  • National Party
  • Gerrit Viljoen (bio)

Since the late 1970's the Republic of South Africa has been actively engaged in a process of reform. This process can be described as multidimensional, since changes in the economic, political, and social spheres must be complementary. At a time when South Africa is experiencing serious problems typical of a developing and changing society, the challenge presented by reform is as much the political development of our society as the utilization and realization of the full potential of its economic and human resources.

The South African government is therefore not taking a narrow view of the future. The government is thinking in the broadest way possible about the development of the entire nation. There is, however, a responsible recognition of the urgent need to address the acute inconsistencies in the present constitutional system. Full and equal political rights based on universal adult franchise must be extended to all South Africans. The government also realizes that political participation must be accompanied by political institutionalization in order to legitimize the democratization process. A process of negotiation has therefore been set in motion to achieve greater social, economic, and political equality and a broadening of participation by all South Africans in society and in the political process.

The government envisions a new, united, and more just South Africa, informed by the following universal principles:

  • • full and equal franchise and other political rights for all citizens within an undivided, multiparty democratic South Africa;

  • • the sharing of political power and equal opportunities by all, with the rights of minorities as well as those of individuals protected through constitutional checks and balances and a Charter of Human Rights;

  • • the binding together of all our people into one nation, with one citizenship, composed of a diversity of recognized minorities, with [End Page 41] emphasis on nation building and on common patriotism and loyalty to South Africa;

  • • the identification and strengthening of the common values and ideals uniting our people, to form the basis of our nationhood;

  • • devolution of power to regional and local levels of government;

  • • fairness, justice, and human dignity for all through the dismantling of the remnants of discrimination and apartheid, with necessary corrective measures, especially in the economy;

  • • freedom of association, which will be allowed to take its course free of statutory prescription;

  • • independence of the judiciary and equality for all before the law;

  • • the maintenance of stability and law and order as the essential bases for both constitutional reform and socioeconomic development;

  • • an economic system based on free enterprise—including private ownership, freedom of contract, and effective competition—together with urgent special efforts to improve the quality of life for deprived communities.

The government accepts the principle of the recognition and protection of those fundamental individual rights which form the constitutional basis of most Western democracies. We acknowledge, too, that the most practical way of protecting those rights is a bill of rights justiciable by an independent judiciary. It is clear, however, that a system for the protection of the rights of individuals, minorities, and national entities has to form a balanced whole. South Africa has its own national composition and our constitution has to take this into account. The formal recognition of individual rights does not mean that the problems of a heterogeneous population will simply disappear. Any new constitution that disregards this reality will be inappropriate.

Naturally, the protection of collective, minority, and national rights must not create an imbalance in respect of individual rights. It is neither the government's policy nor its intention that any minority group—however defined—shall be favored above others. Our commitment to the protection of minorities is not a ruse to continue the disparities and injustices of apartheid. What is indeed involved in the protection of minorities is the ability to maintain one's own identity and community life. This concerns community values such as language rights, religion, and cultural practices.

The government believes that it has a sound case to argue in negotiation on behalf of the protection of minority rights, in the cultural as well as the political sense. It should be possible to negotiate a multidimensional system of protection through checks and balances that would...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3214
Print ISSN
1045-5736
Pages
pp. 41-45
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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