Volkstaat (Afrikaans for "People's state") is a proposal for the establishment of a homeland for Afrikaners. Outside a possible use of force, the South African Constitution and International Legislation present certain possibilities for the establishment of such a state. The South African regime declared that they would not support a Volkstaat, but "would do everything they could to ensure the protection of the Afrikaner language and culture". What a fine job they are doing.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Power-Sharing in South Africa: The ANC as a Consociational Party?

Political scientists define a consociational state as a state which has major internal divisions along ethnic, religious, or linguistic lines, yet nonetheless manages to remain stable, due to consultation among the elites of each of its major social groups. Consociational states are often contrasted with states with majority rule.

In 1996 two important developments took place. First, the permanent constitution that was adopted that year and took effect in 1999 no longer prescribed a GNU. Second, the NP left the grand coalition cabinet. Although these changes indicate a shift away from pure consociationalism, South Africa has not become a majoritarian democracy. South Africa is still much closer to the consociational than to the majoritarian end of the scale.

First, despite the departure of the National Party, the continued presence of the IFP meant that the government remained a broad and oversized coalition. Second, even without the constitutional obligation to form a GNU, the ANC may still decide at any moment to invite opposition parties to join the government, as happened when in March 1996 President Nelson Mandela offered cabinet posts to two small parties, the Democratic Party and the Pan Africanist Congress, which among them had twelve out of the 400 assembly seats. Third, “the ANC is a strongly multi-racial and multi-ethnic party”. I will return to this point below. Fourth, even if black parties were to dominate the government and white parties were relegated to the opposition, black political power would be counterbalanced by white economic power, like the situation in Malaysia where the Malays are politically dominant but the Chinese possess countervailing economic power.

Finally, a shift to a pure type of majoritarian democracy as can or rather could be found in the United Kingdom - with plurality elections, an unwritten constitution, the absence of constitutional review, and centralized government – is simply not on the agenda. To this list, one could add the introduction of two clauses into the 1996 Constitution aimed at securing the cooperation of the Afrikaner conservatives: article 185, which envisages the establishment of a Commission for the Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities; and article 235, which underwrites the right of self-determination of any community sharing a common cultural and language heritage. However, the Commission can only monitor and make recommendations and the Volkstaat Council investigating the feasibility of an Afrikaner state, lasted only three years feeding suspicions that “the ANC was probably never serious about either of these two clauses.”



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