Constitutional change and the issue of reform: A Review of the Buthelezi Commission and President's Council Constitutional Reports

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University of Cape Town

One of the recent growth industries in our political life is in the field of constitutional proposals. From the government side we have had among others the Theron Commission, the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution, and three President's Council reports. An election in 1977 was ostensibly fought at least in part, over the merits of the National Party constitutional proposals. Much of 1982 was dominated by news of the government's new constitutional proposals which precipitated a National Party split and then absorbed most of the efforts of its four provincial party congresses. Outside of government considerable attention has also been paid to constitutional matters. In 1978 a major conference was held in Pietermaritzburg to examine the then constitutional proposals of the National Party and several other constitutional conferences and workshops have subsequently taken place. Indeed the theme of the most recent meeting of the Political Science Association of South Africa was constitutional reform and political stability. In KwaZulu Chief Buthelezi appointed a constitutional commission while the Coloured Persons Representative Council produced its own constitutional proposals before it was disbanded. The opposition parties too have paid more attention to constitutional issues than in the past and both the PFP and the NRP have specific and carefully worked out proposals. Clearly however, the proposals with the greatest political significance are those of the National Party and the Buthelezi Commission, because they are the products of the two largest political groupings in South Africa; the Afrikaners and the Zulus. This review article will therefore be devoted to an analysis of these two reports.