Tricameral Parliament inaugurated

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Impression Tricameral Parliament.

Monday, 3 September 1984

On 3 September 1984, Members of Parliament convened in Cape Town to promulgate a new South African Constitution with a three-tier parliament which would re-enfranchise the Coloured population and enfranchise the Indian population.  The Constitution provided for three houses in parliament. The first House was the House of Assembly for Whites, the second was the House of Representatives for the Coloured community and the third was the House of Delegates for the Indian community.

The House of Assembly comprised of 178 members, of these 166 were elected for a period of 5 years. Four members, one for each province, were selected by the President and the other eight members were elected by the 166 popularly chosen members according to a system of proportional representation. The House of Representatives comprised of 85 members, 80 of these were elected for five years, two were nominated by the President and the last three were elected by the 40 popularly chosen members according to a system of proportional representation. The House of Delegates had 45 members, 40 were elected for a period of 5 years, two were nominated by the President and the last three were elected by the 40 popularly chosen members according to a system of proportional representation.

In order to be eligible to vote for members of this parliament oneneeded to be a South African citizen who fell under one of the  three racial categories that the houses represented. Despite its attempts at increasing enfranchisement this parliamentary system, which was known as the 'Tricameral Parliament', still excluded Black South African citizens from voting. The exclusion of the Black South African community acted as one of the catalysts for the township unrests in the 1980s and protests by the United Democratic Front (UDF).

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights rejected this 'new Constitution', which purported to be expanding enfranchisement, as null and void as it excluded the majority of the population of the country, namely the Black community, from exercising their right to participate in the political affairs of their country. The 1984 Constitution remained in force until it was repealed by the Constitution of Republic of South Africa Act No 200 of 1993. An interim constitution that abolished race as a criterion for voting became the supreme law of the country until the new Constitution was adopted in 1996.

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References:
• Inter-Parliamentary Union, 'South Africa: elections 6 May 1987' [online] Available at www.ipu.org  [Accessed: 23 August 2010]
• Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds) (1999) Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997, Westport: Greenwood
• Leach, G. (1986) South Africa no easy path to peace, London, p.133
• Lotter, H. (1997) Injustice, Violence and Peace, The Case of South Africa, Amsterdam, pp.49.
• Morris, M. et al. (2004) Every Step of the Way, The Journey to Freedom in South Africa, Ministry of Education, p. 224.
• South African History Online (unknown) 'Classroom Grade12': Grad' [online] Available at: www.sahistory.org.za  [Accessed 23 August 2010]
• United Nations Department of Public Information (1985) Year Book of the United Nations, Netherlands, p. 856
• Wallis, F. (2000) Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau

Last updated : 17-Feb-2015

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011