1994 - President De Klerk, State Of the Nation Address, 28 February 1994 (Before National Elections)

Mr Speaker

This Parliament has convened to adopt important amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 1993.

The fact that we have done so in the midst of the most crucial election campaign of our national history speaks for itself. It is an indication of the importance which we attach to ensuring that the coming election is as inclusive as possible.

If we wish to have a peaceful and stable future, it is of the greatest importance that as many of our people and parties as possible should participate in this historical process.

It is essential that no-one and no party should be able to claim that they are excluded or that their reasonable concerns have not been accommodated in the Transitional Constitution.

It was to this end that the Government, the National Party and other participating parties have gone out of their way, particularly during the past weeks, to accommodate the concerns raised by the parties of the Freedom Alliance.

The concerns of the Freedom Alliance, as distilled from weeks of hard negotiations, included the following:

The Freedom Alliance said they wanted stronger assurances relating to the autonomy of provinces with regard to their powers, functions and boundaries.

The amendment of section 126 of the Constitution deletes the reference to concurrency. Thus it is made absolutely clear that laws passed by the provincial legislatures will in general prevail over laws passed by the national parliament on matters reserved for the provinces. Only in exceptional circumstances, specifically provided for, will the position be different.

The freedom Alliance was particularly concerned that a future Government might try to diminish the powers of the provinces in the final constitution.

The amendment of constitutional Principle XVIII provides that the powers and functions of provinces will not be substantially diminished in the final constitution. There are those who read something sinister in the word "substantially". However, I am assured that it is a technical provision, which cannot be misused to undermine the scope of provincial powers or autonomy in any meaningful way. It is there merely to provide for some minor changes which might to agreed upon.

The provincial provision, according to the Freedom Alliance. It must also be recalled that no constitutional principle can be changed after the election, even by a 100 % majority in Parliament.

The Freedom Alliance wanted the Provisions to have greater fiscal and financial autonomy.

The amendment of sections 155-159 of the Constitution will strengthen the taxing competence of the provinces, and goes a long way in meeting the requirements of the Freedom Alliance.

The Freedom Alliance asked for greater powers for the provinces in drawing up their own Constitutions.

The amendment of section 160 of the Constitution will enable provincial legislatures to include specific provisions in their own constitutions regarding their own legislative and executive structures. This will allow provinces to legislate for their unique requirements. It will, for example, enable the province of KwaZulu/Natal to make special provision for the Zulu monarchy. Simultaneously it creates room for asymmetry between provinces.

The Freedom Alliance wanted the name of Natal to be changed to KwaZulu/Natal.

The proposed amendments to the Transitional Constitution will make this possible.

Another major concern of the Freedom Alliance was that there should be two separate ballots in the election, one for the national parliament and one for the provincial legislatures.

This will be achieved by amendments to the Electoral Act - which will be amended to extend the deadline for parties to register for the election until 4 March 1994.

Another principal concern of the Freedom Alliance - and particularly of the Afrikaner Volksfront - is its demand for self-determination within a "Volkstaat".

Even this concern will be addressed in t he proposed constitutional amendments. A new constitutional principle will be added on the subject of self-determination - including the possibility that it might be exercised in a territorial entity, if constitutionally agreed. Provision is also made by amending Chapter 11 to create a mechanism for conducting further negotiations of the subject of a Volkstaat for those who really want it.

The Government believes that it and the other negotiating parties have now done everything within reason to address the main concerns of the Freedom Alliance.

The fact is that the Transitional Constitution will bring into being provinces with genuine autonomous powers, based on federal principles.

Those powers are strongly entrenched and cannot be arbitrarily diminished by the central government in terms of either the Transitional Constitution or the final constitution.

Voters will have a double ballot as requested by the Freedom Alliance parties.

Provinces will have extended and independent taxation powers.

Their powers have been further extended and clarified and they will be able to adopt their own constitutions.

* The Province of Natal will be known as KwaZulu-Natal as requested.

* The door has been opened to continued negotiation around the concept of a "Volkstaat".

There can now no longer be any reasonable excuse for non-participation in the elections and in the continuing national constitutional process.

We will achieve these improvements to the Transitional Constitution by adopting amendments in this Parliament.

However, I have for some time had a suspicion that the Freedom Alliance's main difficulty has not been so much with the text of the Constitution, but with the broader realities of our time.

This Parliament can amend the Transitional Constitution - but it cannot amend reality:

* It cannot amend the reality that the Afrikaners are in a minority in all the recognised and historical regions of South Africa.

* It cannot amend the reality that all South Africans are inextricably interdependent - economically, socially and constitutionally.

* It cannot and should not amend the reality that all South Africans have a right to participate in the processes of Government, without being subjected to any form of discrimination.

Parties may continue to boycott the constitutional process, but ultimately they will not be able to avoid these realities.

By boycotting the elections they will wastefully exclude themselves and their followers from making their full contribution tot he constitutional future of South Africa and to the peaceful promotion of their own values and ideals.

However, non-participation - though regrettable and wasteful - is a legitimate option. If parties choose this route it is their right to do so.

I must, however, stress that whether they decide to participate in the process or not, we are determined to proceed with the elections on 26-28 April and with the implementation of the Transitional Constitution.

* We dare not allow any minority to deprive the great majority South Africans of their long-awaited desire to elect national and provincial governments which will for the first time in our history be truly representative of all South Africans.

* We dare not allow anyone to stand in the way of the rapid economic growth and development which can come about only through a constitutional settlement which enjoys internal and external legitimacy.

* We will not allow anyone to deprive South Africans of the hard-won and painstakingly negotiated rights which are now entrenched in the our constitutional system.

As I have said, it is the right of any party to boycott the elections.

It is also the right of any party to continue to pursue its objectives by peaceful and constitutional means.

* However, I will strenuously oppose any attempt by any party to prevent any South African citizen from exercising his or her right to participate in the election.

* The Government will not tolerate any attempt by any party to disrupt the election.

* The Government will use all the means at its disposal, including the security forces, to deal with any party which might seek to achieve its objectives through violence or through unconstitutional, illegal or undemocratic means.

Parties which contemplate secession or the illegal seizure of state or municipal power should have no illusions concerning their position or the consequences of their actions:

* They should have no illusion concerning their support. They constitute a minority of the total South African population and within each province. If they disagree with this contention, participation in the election would be the best way of proving their real support.

* The Afrikaner Volksfront has no right to claim to speak on behalf of the Afrikaans people. The represent only a faction, and as it is, a divided faction. The vast majority of Afrikaners are decent, peace-loving and sensible people who dearly with to find a peaceful and workable modus vivendi with the other peoples of South Africa. They have no wish to become involved in a futile and meaningless war against their brother Afrikaners. They have no interest in losing their jobs, their homes and everything they own in pursuit of a hopeless illusion.

* They should have no illusions that they will receive any international support.

There is no way that the international community ever would, or ever could, accept a state based once again on minority racial domination and racial discrimination. There can be no return to apartheid. And any effort in that direction will end in conflict, total isolation and utter and complete economic ruin.

* Neither should he parties involved have any illusion with regard to the role of the security forces. The South African Defence Force and the South African Police are highly professional and dedicated forces. They have a long and proud tradition of loyal service to the Government of the day. They have a key role to play in upholding the integrity of the new state and of our constitution and they will play that role.

There is simply no future on the road of unconstitutional and violent activity. I appeal to any of those who might be considering this road to turn back before it is too late.

I have a deep understanding for the concerns of the Zulu King and his people in respect of the future of the Zulu monarchy. We have been involved in serious and in-depth discussions about he issue.

Unfortunately we have not been able,as yet, to each specific agreements on how to address these concerns. As far as I am concerned, negotiation must continue until agreement is achieved.

There should, however, be no doubts as to where I, the Government and the Party which I lead, stand in this regard.

* The Zulu Kingdom is recognised by us as a unique reality. It has a proud history and it plays an important role in the life of the Zulu nation.

* We support the principle that the Zulu Kingdom must receive constitutional recognition, also through effective Constitutional Safeguards your voice heard. The best defence against the abuse of your rights will be ensure that the new Parliament as is balanced as possible - that no party emerges with too much power.

* If you wish to oppose those with whom you strongly disagree, do so within the framework provided by the Transitional Constitution - and not through self-destructive involvement in violent and unconstitutional actions.

* If you have concerns, or if you feel threatened, seek protection from the institutions which the new constitution creates.

Remember that the process of constitutional development will not end with the election of the new Parliament. One of its most important tasks will be to draw up a final Constitution. Constitutional negotiations will accordingly continue within the new Parliament and all parties in the National Assembly will be able to promote their interests and objectives in the ongoing constitutional debate.

It is critically important that all significant South African political parties should be part of this process.

During the past four years we have succeeded in bringing South Africa from the brink of catastrophe:

Our society was deeply divided;

We were on the brink of conflict;

Our country was ostracised and isolated;

Our economy was in a hopeless, downward spiral.

During the past four years we have succeeded in breaking out of this hopeless situation. We have succeeded in negotiating a Transitional Constitution which can provide the basis for a prosperous and peaceful society - which guarantees greater rights and freedom, not only for those who previously did not have the vote, but for all South Africans.

When we awake on 29 April we will be freer than we have ever been before. Let us therefore now move forward.

Source: www.gov.za

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