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  • Democratic Party
  • Denis Worrall (bio)

[l]f Rousseau were approached today by some liberal-minded South African and asked for advice of the kind he gave to Poland and Corsica, he would be at a loss where to begin, for he would not be facing one nation trying to modify its institutions, but several peoples, with diverse traditions, each trying to keep or gain its freedom by power.

-Jacques Barzun

President de Klerk's speech of February 2 of this year had several important consequences. First, the moral right of black South Africans to participate in government on the same basis as whites is now an established fact of South African political life. Second, the focus of the debate has shifted from reforming the present social and political order to transforming it. And third, with the unbanning of organizations like the African National Congress (ANC), the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), and the South African Communist Party (SACP), the country's politics, so long dominated by a minority of five million whites, has become the politics of all of its more than 35 million people.

The implications of these developments are, of course, profound, not only for concepts of public interest and policy, but also for the shape of the new South Africa. South Africans can now talk practically and concretely about negotiations for establishing a nonracial, apartheid-free democracy. While there may be detours along the way, the Democratic Party believes that this process is irreversible.

For the Democratic Party (DP), the party of liberal democracy, this is an exciting development. Our excitement is tempered, however, by the [End Page 45] sober realization that achieving democracy in the South African situation will be difficult. Democracy elsewhere works because of what Tocqueville called the "habits of the heart"; good intentions are not enough.

The DP is committed to establishing a federation of self-governing states united under a federal constitution. The respective powers of the federal government and the states should be entrenched in the constitution, as should the doctrine of separation of powers, a bill of human rights, and provisions for an independent judiciary and local authorities. The DP also envisages a bicameral legislature, with a lower house based on universal suffrage in a system of proportional representation and an upper house elected on some geographic basis. The executive branch would be elected by the legislature. These principles would also guide the federal states in constituting governments.

The DP is committed to a justiciable bill of human rights for protecting individuals against the misuse of executive or legislative power. It is committed in particular to the protection of linguistic, cultural, and religious rights, and supports constitutional arrangements that will grant the greatest possible autonomy to linguistic, cultural, and religious interest groups.

This, in broad outline, is how the DP sees the government of the new South Africa, and this is the program-suitably elaborated-that the DP will take into the negotiation process. We recognize, however, that a constitution alone-however brilliantly formulated-is no guarantee of democracy. A multiparty political system, which assumes a high level of tolerance, is essential.

Of all the issues that will have to be negotiated, the nature of the future South African economy is probably the most important. South Africa has advantages over most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and can make a very important contribution to the economic development of the southern African region. South Africa should not, therefore, repeat the mistakes that have been made elsewhere.

The DP recognizes that the present economy, with its racial disparities in income, wealth, and public spending, is unacceptable to the majority of South Africans. We also recognize that every black politician will be under tremendous pressure to deliver a greater share of the economic pie to his constituents. We do not believe, however, that the answer to these problems lies in the simple expedient of "nationalization." This, we say, is not the way to build the confidence needed for South Africa to retain its capital and skilled workers, and to draw the foreign investment necessary to generate the jobs required by the country's burgeoning population.

Needless to say, the DP believes that the new...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3214
Print ISSN
1045-5736
Pages
pp. 45-48
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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