The council was divided, with verligtes and verkramptes pulling in different directions. It was subsequently also schizophrenic in its approach to reforms, abolishing laws that made life for Black, Coloured and Indian people difficult, but at the same time tightening aspects of Apartheid structures (such as influx control).

The Council noted that the arrest of Black people for not having passes saw them humiliated and degraded, which created contempt for the law, and added to growing revolutionary fervour. It recognised that the Pass Laws ‘were not working and that they were the biggest single cause of grievance among Africans’ (Welsh). By 1986 the influx control system was abolished by Botha.

But the government was at the same time taking steps to stem the tide of Africans moving to urban areas. This was particularly the case in the Cape, where the Crossroads informal settlement was constantly growing, and government planned to forcibly remove the settlers. The government introduced what became known as the Koornhof Bills, after the minister driving the legislation, Piet Koornhof.  Formally known as the Orderly Movement and Settlement of Black Persons Bill, the laws provoked intense resistance, and Crossroads became a cause that many rallied to.

According to JE Spence, writing in 1981, ‘There is speculation that the (President’s) Council will in due course advance major proposals such as the abolition of Section 16 of the Immorality Act, the Mixed Marriages Act and drastic modification of the Group Areas Act.’ However, the council's constitutional committee spent two years reviewing Group Areas legislation, only for the government majority to refer the report back to the committee for 'further investigation', effectively voting to keep the legislation intact.

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