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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Overview of 1996

In January 1996, at a rally celebrating the 84th birthday of the ANC, Mandela urged the IFP to return to the CA. Buthelezi dismissed the call. The ANC, he said, was intent on writing a constitution to its own liking since it had previously said that it planned to finalize the constitution by May 1996 whether the IFP returned or not. In early February the national council of the IFP confirmed that the party would not return to the CA until international mediation had taken place. Later in the month Professor Washington Okumu, who had brokered the agreement of 19th April 1994 (which had brought the IFP into the April 1994 election and had provided for international mediation 'as soon as possible' thereafter) stated that Chief Buthelezi and the IFP 'had a point in feeling betrayed'.

Towards the end of April the ANC said that it had made concessions to the IFP by agreeing that provinces should have 'exclusive' powers, and that the IFP could have no valid reason for maintaining its boycott. The IFP responded that the powers envisaged for the provinces were 'normal for local authorities' and would not prevent 'massive intervention by the state' in provincial affairs. In addition, provincial powers remained 'substantially inferior' to those accorded the provinces by the 1993 constitution.

Meanwhile the CA continued its deliberations. In terms of the transitional constitution the constitution had to be adopted within two years & the CA set a deadline for its adoption by the CA at 8th May 1996. As this deadline approached, the CA was unable to agree on a number of key provisions & the ANC warned that it would invoke the deadlock-breaking mechanisms contained in the 1993 constitution would be invoked if necessary. Agreement was reached on the outstanding issues on 7th May another cliffhanger -- and the CA adopted the text on 8th May. Its adoption was supported by a significantly greater majority than the two thirds required. Of the 490 delegates only two -- the African Christian Democratic Party -- voted against it, and ten -- the Freedom Front -- abstained.

The IFP, of course, was not present for the occasion, having walked out of the CA in April 1993 when the ANC refused to honor its pledge to have the differences between the two submitted to international mediation as the agreement between the two parties in April 1993 had stipulated in return for the IFP's participation in the elections. While the ANC hailed the text as the 'birth certificate' of a new nation committed to equality and freedom, Buthelezi called it 'an Orwellian document that would lead to a one party state'.

The Constitutional Court, however, had to certify the final constitution as being in compliance with the 36 constitutional embedded in the interim constitution hammered out at Kempton Park. Among the parties raising objections were the NP, DP and the IFP on the grounds that the constitution severely diluted provincial powers. On 6 September the Constitutional Court handed down its judgment & referred the text back to the CA for amendments. The court found that provincial powers had been impermissibly diminished; the right of individual employers to engage in collective bargaining had not been adequately protected; certain ordinary statutes had been shielded from constitutional scrutiny, contrary to the constitutional principle requiring the constitution to be the supreme law of the land; the bill of rights had not been adequately entrenched against amendment, for the 'special majority' envisaged by the constitutional principles in this regard had not been incorporated; the independence and impartiality of the public protector and the auditor general had not been sufficiently safeguarded in that both were subject to dismissal by a simple majority in the lower house of the legislature; and the structures, powers and functions of local government had not adequately been specified.

The CA reconvened, did the necessary redrafting & resubmitted the reformulated test to the court, which certified the constitution on 4th December 1996.

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act of 1996 was signed by Mandela, on 10th December 1996 -- International Human Rights Day -- at a ceremony in Sharpeville & came into effect on 4th February 1996. No election could be held under its provisions until 30th April 1999, unless Parliament earlier passed a vote of no confidence in the executive.

The NP withdrew from the government of national unity --at both national and provincial level -- on 30th June. The decision was hotly debated within the NP. Many of the party's most senior people believed that it was a mistake but de Klerk was adamant. Having failed to have enforced coalition entrenched in the constitution he argued that the future of the party depended on it being able to differentiate itself from the ANC to the electorate in policy directions, that it needed to articulate a program of economic & social action that presented voters with an alternative to the ANC's RDP, which de Klerk believed was not delivering on its promises. If the party continued to be part of a coalition government then it could hardly claim to have policies that were an alternative to policies it had already endorsed as part of government. Thus, the best course of action, proponents of withdrawal argued, was to withdraw from a temporary power sharing arrangement & establish itself as an effective opposition prior to the election due in April 1999.

De Klerk's arguments would have held more water if SA was a mature democracy or well on its way to becoming one. But the past was too present for the NP to play the role of critic to the government's attempts to haul the country out of the miasma of the previous decades. Parliamentary debate that harped on government failure reinforced the perception among Blacks that the NP had reverted to playing an obstructionist role, that it was the party of white power & privilege, opposing legislation that would go some way toward leveling the economic playing field. Moreover, the move to opposition politics brought into sharp focus two contrasting styles of politics, the African style (consensus politics) & the Westminster style (confrontational & often abrasively so.) Henceforth parliamentary politics was characterized by increasing negativity. The issue of race bubbled under the surface. To the ANC criticism was not perceived as legitimate but rather as a subliminal say of saying that Blacks were not up to the job of governing. The NP was incapable of grasping the full import of this insinuation & would, of course, deny it vehemently precisely because it was incapable of coming to terms with its own past & had not been compelled to do so during negotiations it had not, after all been defeated, not yet willing to stand up & call apartheid, no matter what had been its intent, an evil.

The ANC flexed its own muscles, especially within its own ranks. Bantu Holomisa, the former military ruler of the Transkei, who once described himself as "Mandela's favorite general," was dismissed from his post as deputy minister of environmental affairs and tourism and subsequently expelled from the ANC, for bringing the ANC into disrepute by accusing Stella Sicgau, the former head of the Transkei he had removed but now an ANC minister, of having been corrupt when she ruled the Transkei.

Bringing the party into disrepute became the cardinal sin in the ANC & Holomisa's expulsion gave an indication that party members were part of a collective; displays of individualism were not encouraged, statements that might in any way be construed as criticism of the party were sufficient for the erring member to find himself/herself before a disciplinary committee. Since the party could redeploy members out of national parliament to a provincial parliament or out of parliament altogether, the party leadership held the membership on an effective leash. When a rift developed between Free State Premier Mosiuoa Patrick "Terror" Lekota the NEC called on Lekota and his executive council to resign. Lekota was 'redeployed' by the ANC to the chairmanship of the National Council of Provinces, the body that replaced the Senate. Loyalty to the leadership took precedence over was individual merit as the ticket to a more successful future.

With one eye on the proceedings in the CA & another on provisions of the interim constitution, the IFP, pursued its vision of a KwaZulu-Natal that would have considerable autonomy from the national government. The legislature passed, with the support of all parties, a provincial constitutional that would grant such powers ton the province but in March the Constitutional Court ruled that it was inconsistent with the transitional constitution.

In June the Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel, who had previously served as Chris Liebenberg's deputy minister, presented the government's new macroeconomic policy framework to Parliament. The document, entitled Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR), noted that job creation was inadequate and that economic growth of 3% a year would fail to reduce unemployment. GEAR envisaged an economic growth rate of 6% per year and the acceleration of employment creation to reach 409000 jobs a year in 2000. This would be achieved through regulated labour flexibility and the promotion of continued improvements in productivity. GEAR became the subject of acrimonious debate between the ANC & the government & its alliance partners, COSATU & the SACP. To the latter GEAR was nothing less than a sharp veer to the right, a betrayal of workers' rights, genuflecting on the knee to the gods of the markets. To which the government might have responded: there are no other gods to genuflect to.

Henceforth, the government committed itself to getting the "economic fundamentals" in order: budget deficits under 3 per cent of GDP, monetary policy to target inflation, prudence in government, and privatization of some state assets. The new thinking seemed to be predicated on the assumption that once the markets were convinced that the government was deadly serious about getting its economic house in tip- top condition that elusive direct foreign investment (FDI) would begin to flow, stimulating growth & lifting all boats. Either a turn to the right, an acknowledgment of the imperatives of globalization & the harsh measures SA had to take to become competitive in the global market place or a rethink of Socialism of a Special Kind. That a stage of capitalism had to precede the advent of socialism. If so, the SACP & COPSATU weren't party to the plot.

Local government elections were held in parts of the Western Cape and in KwaZulu-Natal. They were won by the NP and the IFP respectively. The IFP emerged with the highest number of proportional votes 44 per cent as well as 39 per cent of the 1 884 local government seats. The ANC followed with 33 per cent of proportional votes and 30% of seats. The IFP appeared to have consolidated its position in KZN & threw cols water on the ANC's contention that it had won the province in 1994 but was dissuaded from contesting the results in court in order to preserve the fragile peace. In the Western Cape the NP was the majority party, winning 49 percent of the proportional votes as well as 43 per cent of the 1446 local government seats. The ANC followed with 38 per cent of proportional votes and 34 per cent of seats.

Local governments, however, were mendicants, largely because the Masakhane campaign had fallen flat on its face. After two years of democracy, the masses hadn't yet bought into the idea that freedom meant you had to pay your bills -- revenues owed to local governments amounted to R26 billion in June 1996. Local authorities owed Eskom a total of R1.2 billion ranging from R888million in Gauteng to R8 million in the Western Cape to nothing in KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Cape. Rents owed amounted to R6 billion.

The TRC's Committee on Human Rights Violations conducted more than 40 hearings into human rights abuses suffered by individuals during a 33-year period from 1st March 1960 to 5th December 1993. The committee also obtained statements regarding human rights abuses from some 9 000 individuals. Most of the hearings centered on abuses allegedly committed by the former security forces. Political parties and organisations testified to the commission in August and September 1996.

The TRC's Committee on Amnesty obtained more than 5 000 applications for amnesty, mostly from convicted prisoners. It was agreed that the cut-off date for the granting of amnesty should be extended from 5th December 1993 to 10th December 1994. Applicants for amnesty had to tell the truth & acknowledge culpability for the actions for which they were seeking amnesty & express remorse.

Mandela announced in November that he would resign as president of the ANC at the end of 1997 & leave it to the ANC conference scheduled for the end of '97 to elect his successor.

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