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South African constitution authors must be elected, ANC official says
South Africa must take the "non-negotiable" steps of establishing an interim government and an elected constitutional assembly to draft both a constitution and a bill of rights on its path toward democratic government, Cyril Ramaphosa, secretary general of the African National Congress, told a Stanford Law School audience Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Negotiations among all political groups in the country over a new constitution could begin later this month, and an interim government could be in place early next year, said the lawyer who is best known for organizing South Africa's black mineworkers. He spoke to about 300 people attending the afternoon lecture in Kresge Auditorium.
However, the negotiations could be delayed indefinitely if President F.W. de Klerk's government brings its current constitutional reform proposals to the table, Ramaphosa said. If that happens, he said, "we are once again going to have to drag him 'kicking and screaming,' " a reference to U.S. Secretary of State James Baker's comment about his bringing all Middle Eastern parties to the current Middle East talks "kicking and screaming."
The South African government wants an "all-party congress" to draft a new constitution and an end to white supremacy. That is unacceptable to the groups fighting for democracy, Ramaphosa said, because no one - not even his own African National Congress - can claim a mandate or legitimacy.
"The process leading up to a new constitution must be democratic itself," he said. "It is highly inconceivable that a group of individuals can produce a democratic result."
The African National Congress, the leading black liberation group in South Africa, has its own proposals for a constitution and a bill of rights, but insists that it must argue for them before a constitutional assembly elected on the basis of proportional representation, he said.
Later, Ramaphosa told reporters that the de Klerk government's currently circulating proposals are a "regression" from the government's statements of a year ago and could delay the negotiations indefinitely. Whereas once the government had said that "votes must have equal value" under any new system, the current proposals call for such things as two votes in local elections for property owners and one vote for non-property owners.
"If they intend to put forth these proposals at negotiations, there is going to be a great deal of delay," Ramaphosa said.
He outlined his own organization's proposals for a constitutional government and labeled as a "betrayal" President Bush's recent decision to lift U.S. sanctions against South Africa. The condition of freeing all political prisoners has not been met, he said, because 165 prisoners are still incarcerated in a state that South Africa has claimed is independent but whose independence the United States has refused to recognize.
Local governments in the United States must maintain their sanctions, he said, as negotiations begin in South Africa. He compared the importance of sanctions in keeping on their heat to making tea. His mother taught him, he said, the water must reach the boiling point or the tea will be "lousy."
"The situation in South Africa is about to reach the boiling point, and it would be short-sighted to switch the water off now when the very reason for the sanctions is about to be achieved," he said.
At its July conference, the ANC leadership did agree to endorse the phasing out of "people to people" sanctions, such as in sports and academics, if the appropriate organizations in South Africa have taken steps to integrate and equalize resources for blacks and whites.
That has happened with cricket, where racially separate leagues have been merged. It may happen soon with rugby, and South African academic organizations are moving in the direction of compliance, he said.
The ANC, however, still opposes holding any sports competitions in South Africa itself and has decided economic sanctions should not be lifted before an interim government is in place.
The proposed interim government should be able to assist the country's transition to democracy, he said, by suggesting to the international community, for example, when South Africa might be ready for a bond issue or other form of loan.
Ramaphosa listed elements in the new constitutional framework that his own organization proposes. They include:
c Reunification of the country, including so-called "homelands" that the government has broken off from South Africa.
c One common citizenship for all people in all provinces.
c Democracy based on proportional representation at the national and local levels.
c A bill of rights that protects human rights specified in various United Nations documents.
c Provisions to guarantee the rights will be enforced and cannot be overruled by any newly elected body.
c An independent judiciary.
c Mechanisms for aiding the country's social and economic transformation to a democracy, including constitutional provisions for affirmative action and non-discrimination.
"Under the guise of protecting minority rights," Ramaphosa said, the de Klerk government seeks to maintain local whites-only enclaves with a social and economic status quo, he said. The government also proposes a coalition government - a "five-headed presidency" - that would make the country ungovernable, he said. In this way, the existing government "would forever have veto power over an elected government."
Ramaphosa, who first visited Stanford in 1983 when he was organizing South African mineworkers, led a major strike of mine workers in 1987. He was elected secretary general of the African National Congress in July. He is serving as a Phleger Visiting Professor at the Law School this week, according to Law Prof. William Gould, who attended the ANC's July conference.
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