Constitutional Reform: Interim Constitution Accord

Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 200 of 1993, Chapter 6, Section 68 Constitution-making Body:

(1) The National Assembly and the Senate, sitting jointly for the purposes of this Chapter, shall be the Constitutional Assembly.

(2) The Constitutional Assembly shall draft and adopt a new constitutional text in accordance with this Chapter.

(3) (a) The first sitting of the Constitutional Assembly shall be convened by the President of the Senate not later than seven days as from the first sitting of the Senate under this Constitution.

(b) Any subsequent sittings of the Constitutional Assembly shall be convened by the Chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly after consultation with the Speaker and the President of the Senate.

(4) Subject to the rules and orders contemplated in section 70 and save where clearly inappropriate, sections 55 and 56 and the provisions of this Constitution with regard to joint sittings of the National Assembly and the Senate shall apply mutatis mutandis in respect of the Constitutional Assembly.

Implementation History

1993

Minimum Implementation

On March 30, 1992, the South African government and the National Party (NP) submitted a proposal on a constitution-making body to the CODESA (Convention for a Democratic South Africa) Working Group Two.1

On March 31, 1992, the ANC at CODESA proposed that an elected constitution-making body be given four months to complete its work. The ANC proposed that the failure to make a constitution within the stipulated time should compel the assembly “to dissolve itself so that new elections could be held''. The proposals were tabled at a meeting of Codesa's Working Group Two.2 The ANC rejected holding a referendum to ratify a new South African constitution.3

On May 11, 1992, at CODESA, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) agreed to an elected constitution-making body. In addition, the ANC agreed to an interim constitution during the first phase of an interim government.4

Despite the initiatives, CODESA failed to reach an agreement on the major issue of a constitution-making body in its second plenary session on May 14, 1992. “The key Working Group Two adjourned without finding a compromise on the voting majorities required to pass a final constitution for a democratic South Africa. The National Party government bloc wanted main issues, such as the powers and duties of regional governments, to be passed by a 75% majority instead of the overall 66.7% proposed by the ANC. The government and ANC blocs had also disagreed over the issue of a second chamber of the legislature, or senate, which the government had insisted should approve the new constitution."5 On May 19, 1992, the ANC withdrew its proposal compromise, making reaching a consensus difficult.6

In March of 1993, after 10 months of bloodshed, South Africa's constitutional negotiations began. The hope was that country’s first nonracial election could take place within one year.7

A “constitutional deal” was struck on June 30, 1993 “at the multi-party negotiations in Johannesburg. According to the agency, the deal involved a compromise between the position of the government and the ANC - that the country's future constitution should be drawn up by an elected body - and that of the Concerned South Africans' Group (Cosag), led by the Inkatha Freedom Party - that the final constitution should be drawn up by the negotiations council. The compromise meant that while the negotiators would decide on binding constitutional principles and the country's regional administrative structure, the constitution itself would be drawn up by an elected constitution-making body."8

A draft constitution providing for a South African transitional government of national unity was published on 26th July 1993.9 The Conservative Party (CP) and Inkatha Freedome Party (IFP) withdrew from talks after the publication of the constitution. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party (DP) said that the “draft constitution provided a good basis for further negotiations."10

On November 17, 1993, 21 parties represented at the Negotiating Council ratified the country’s first democratic constitution. The key points of the agreement were:
- Elections next year for a coalition government to run for five years
- Interim constitution in force for same period
- President and two vice-presidents appointed by parties getting more than 20 per cent of vote
- Cabinet appointed by parties with more than 5 per cent of vote
- 400-seat national assembly and 90-seat senate elected by proportional representation will adopt final constitution
- Nine new provinces with own legislatures
- A constitutional court will mediate between centre and provinces
- Bill of Rights to protect individuals from any discrimination

The white-dominated parliament voted to approve a new democratic constitution on December 22, 1993. The vote tally was 247 to 45.11

  • 1. "SOUTH AFRICA GOVERNMENT PROPOSALS ON CONSTITUTION-DRAFTING BODY; ANC REACTION," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, April 1, 1992.
  • 2. "SOUTH AFRICA ANC MAKES DETAILED PROPOSALS FOR CONSTITUTION-MAKING BODY," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, April 2, 1992.
  • 3. "SOUTH AFRICA IN BRIEF; ANC rejects referendum to ratify new constitution," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, April 2, 1992.
  • 4. "SOUTH AFRICA ANC AND INKATHA MAKE CONCESSIONS AT CODESA ON CONSTITUTION," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, May 13, 1992.
  • 5. "South Africa no consensus so far in Codesa talks on constitution-making body," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts/The Monitoring Report, May 16, 1992.
  • 6. "SOUTH AFRICA IN BRIEF; ANC withdraws compromise proposals on constitution-making body," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, May 21, 1992.
  • 7. "CONSTITUTION TALKS RESUME IN SOUTH AFRICA," PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, March 6, 1993.
  • 8. "South Africa: multi-party negotiators agree deal on drawing up of constitution," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts/The Monitoring Report, July 2, 1993.
  • 9. "Draft constitution for South Africa unveiled," The Irish Times, July 27, 1993.
  • 10. "South Africa: CP, IFP withdrawing from talks after publication of constitution," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts/The Monitoring Report, July 28, 1993.
  • 11. "South Africa gets democratic constitution Parliamentarians of all races approve non-racial law while Afrikaners hold out for whites-only concessions," The Globe and Mail (Canada), December 23, 1993.
1994

Minimum Implementation

Elections for a National Assembly and a Constituent Assembly were held on April 26-29, 1994. The ANC received approximately 62.65% of the votes, or 252 seats, the NP received 20.39% of the votes, or 82 seats, and the IFP received 10.54% of the votes, or 43 seats.12

South Africa's Constitutional Assembly held its first formal session in Cape Town on August 15, 1994 and began the start of a two-year process to draft a constitution. The two houses of Parliament elected by proportional representation in April 1994 would sit together to form the Constitutional Assembly, which was charged with drafting a constitution in terms of guidelines laid down at multi-party talks in November 1993.

1995

Minimum Implementation

South Africa’s Constitutional Assembly chairman, Cyril Ramaphosa, disclosed on September 25, 1995 that a working draft of South Africa’s new constitution was to be completed by November 1995. Ramaphosa said that the draft would be made available for public comment at that stage, and the final constitution should be approved by May next year.13 On September 7, 1995, the Constitutional Assembly management committee decided that the May 9, 1996 deadline for South Africa's new constitution would stand, with a possible extension to the end of June.14 The interim constitution stipulates that the final constitution has to be adopted by May 9, 1996. The draft constitution was released on November 22, 1995. The ANC welcomed the launch of draft constitution.15

  • 13. "South Africa Draft of New Constitution Due by November," Africa News, September 25, 1995.
  • 14. "SOUTH AFRICA; Constitutional Assembly committee retain 9th May as date for new constitution," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, September 9, 1995.
  • 15. "SOUTH AFRICA; ANC statement welcomes launch of draft constitution," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, November 23, 1995.
1996

Full Implementation

On April 3, 1996, constitutional negotiators resolved the bulk of outstanding issues.16

“The Constitution Bill, providing for a new constitution for South Africa, was read a first time on Wednesday 24th April evening and will now be referred to the Constitutional Committee for amendments to be considered. At the end of the debate, CA Constitutional Assembly chairman Cyril Ramaphosa said he was confident that the outstanding issues would be resolved."17

The National Assembly adopted the final constitution on May 8, 1996. There were 421 votes in favor. Only two members of the Constituent Assembly voted against the constitution, the two members of the African Christian Democratic Party.18 The Constitutional Court approved the final constitution on December 4,1996. On December 11, 1996, president Mandela sign into law his country's long-awaited post-apartheid constitution.19

  • 16. "SOUTH AFRICA; Mandela "pleased" majority of constitution issues resolved," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, April 4, 1996.
  • 17. "SOUTH AFRICA; Constitution Bill receives first reading," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, April 25, 1996.
  • 18. "SOUTH AFRICA; South African Constitutional Assembly adopts new constitution," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, May 8, 1996.
  • 19. "SOUTH AFRICA SIGNS NEW CONSTITUTION," Courier Mail (Queensland, Australia), December 11, 1996.
1997

Full Implementation

The New Constitution of the Republic of South Africa took effect on February 4, 1997.20

  • 20. "South Africa; South Africa's New Constitution Takes Effect Today," Africa News, February 4, 1997.
1998

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

1999

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2000

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2001

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2002

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.