The Tricameral Parliament, a three-tiered assembly that presided over the last decade of Apartheid, was inaugurated to allow for parliamentary representation for Coloureds and Indians in one of three separate chambers, a supposed reform and improvement of Apartheid-era Whites-only representation. However, this attempt to apparently broaden political representation excluded Black Africans – far from being a movement towards a more just political order, the process represented Indians and Coloureds in an inadequate and racialised manner, and was meant to dislodge the two groups from an alliance with African nationalists and other anti-Apartheid forces that were demanding authentic democracy and equal rights for all. Analysts have seen the ‘reform’ process as a move from the politics of control to a politics of co-option.
The Tricameral Parliament was a reform imposed from above, and existed for about 11 years, in a manner many characterised as farcical. It was dissolved when a new interim constitution came into effect which abolished Apartheid legislation. Although it lasted only a decade or so, it had been planned for from the 1976/7 provincial congress of the National Party (NP), and once it became a reality in 1984, it unwittingly paved the way for the dissolution of Apartheid.