About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Solidarity (SOL)

Solidarity was launched during the build-up to the 1984 election for the House of Delegates. Although the party came very close to victory in the election, its position thereafter weakened substantially. It was almost impossible for the party to enforce discipline; it was also consistently outwitted by the National People's Party.

Between 1984 and 1989 there were few policy differences between the two strongest parties in the House of Delegates, namely Solidarity and the NPP. In fact it was only through a court action brought by a renegade member of Solidarity, Pat Poovalingam, that a merger between the par-ties was averted. At the party's congress in January 1987 it again re-solved to form a coalition with the NPP, the ruling party in the House. As a result of this agreement the leader of Solidarity, Dr J N Reddy, was appointed as Minister of the Budget, and another member, Ismail Kathrada, was appointed to the Ministers' Council. Following these events Pat Poovalingam and four other members of Solidarity were suspended from the party for refusing to accept the "unity pact". They in turn formed the Progressive Re-form Party, which petered out a few years later. A few months after the "coalition" was formed, the differences between the parties became so serious that many members resigned and the unity pact disbanded.

After this Solidarity experienced a stormy period in the House of Delegates. Alliances were formed, only to be disbanded. In May 1988 Solidarity formed an alliance with the newly established People's Party of South Africa in an attempt to oust Amichand Rajbansi as chairman of the Ministers' Council. The findings of the James commission of inquiry, appointed by the State President to investigate alleged irregularities in the House of Delegates, led to Rajbansi's dismissal. In March 1989 Reddy was appointed chairman of the Ministers' Council.

After threats to withdraw his party from the House during the run-up to the election, Reddy decided to participate after all. Once again there were no clear-cut policy differences between Solidarity and the NPP. The main aim of Solidarity is the promotion of the interests and prosperity of all South Africans. The party favours free enterprise, one education system and a bill of human rights guaranteeing individual liberties. Like the NPP, Solidarity justifies its participation in the tricameral parliament by saying that it is the only means of improving the lot of the Indian community and eradicate apartheid.

In the September 1989 election Solidarity won 16 of the 40 seats. An interesting phenomenon was that the party drew the support of 8,7 per cent of registered voters. Taking potential voters into consideration, the percentage vote was approximately 22 per cent (the official figure was 23,2 per cent). A system of prior voting, over a period of 30 days, had been introduced to prevent intimidation of voters, and more than 96 per cent of votes were cast in this manner. Despite this neither voter participation nor the legitimacy of the House of Delegates increased significantly. In fact, more than 76 per cent of the registered voters did not participate in the election.

After the election, Solidarity was accepted as the governing party and, at the request of the State President, Reddy assembled a Ministers' Council. The fact that Solidarity was the governing party and was therefore able to assign positions to its members motivated many members of the smaller parties and independent members to join the party. Together with the appointed members, Solidarity thus succeeded in obtaining a working majority. Early in 1991 a motion of no confidence in Dr Reddy was accepted, and he was replaced by Rajbansi (leader of the National People's Party) in the House of Delegates. Shortly after this Solidarity once again became the majority party in the House of Delegates. These events emphasized the tradition of instability in political leadership in the House of Delegates. Another leadership change in the House is thus quite likely before the tricameral dispensation is finally scrapped in the reform process.

The impact of the activities of the House of Delegates and the House of Representatives on political decision-making is debatable. In "general affairs" they managed in some cases to negotiate small concessions in the NP's predetermined reform plan. Admittedly the existence of these two Houses and the publicity which their views received, exposed the critical problems of apartheid. In "own affairs" these Houses clearly used their influence to meet the demands of their voters at a practical level. Accordingly members could use the building of new schools, hospitals and housing units to emphasize their role in the distribution of resources. Given the new direction adopted by the NP and its policy of forming alliances and protecting minority rights, it is to be expected that conservative groups such as Solidarity will align themselves with the National Party.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to theThis resource is hosted by the site.