the kwazulu/natal indaba: a federalist proposal for south africa

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  • The KwaZulu/Natal Indaba:A Federalist Proposal for South Africa

    Edward A. LynchThe National Forum Foundation

    In Durban, South Africa, delegates from South Africa's political center proposed a federalsolution to apartheid. Called the KwaZulu/Natal "Indaba, " the plan proposes to merge twohitherto segregated jurisdictions and to bring majority rule to at least one province of SouthAfrica. The system envisioned by the plan includes a bicameral legislature, a consociationalcabinet, proportional representation, minority veto over certain legislation, a segmented represen-tative chamber, and enforcement of a comprehensive Bill of Rights. The "KwaNatal" plan alsocalls for a substantial devolution of power, including the right of the provincial legislature torepeal acts of Parliament that invade areas of provincial competence. This determination toextend local, multiracial autonomy put Natal officials on a collision course with the centralgovernment at Pretoria, which is trying to eliminate the elected provincial governments.

    On 3 April 1986, white representatives from the South African provinceof Natal, black representatives from the "homeland" of KwaZulu, anddelegates from thirty-five other racial, business, farming, community, andpolitical groups met in the ornate city hall of Durban. All of South Africa'sracial groups (whites, blacks, Indians, and Coloreds) were represented at themeeting. The representatives opened negotiations aimed at merging theparallel governmental structures of Natal/KwaZulu and creating a single,multiracial entity that would govern all of the inhabitants of that part ofSouth Africa. On 1 December 1986, the delegates presented their consensusproposal to the ruling National Party. Although it was summarily rejectedby Stoffel Botha, a cabinet member and Natal's National Party leader, mostobservers believe that the proposal will remain part of the political debatein South Africa.

    If any of South Africa's four provinces is politically and socially ripe formultiracial government, it is Natal. The 600,000 whites who live in this coastalprovince are, for the most part, English-speaking and proud of their reputa-tion for racial tolerance. Natal is also home to 800,000 Indians, the largestconcentration of Asian-descended South Africans in the country. There arealso 90,000 mixed-race Coloreds in the province.

    The self-governing "homeland" of KwaZulu is home to five million blacks,mostly of the Zulu ethnic group, of which Chief Minister Mongosuthu Gat-sha Buthelezi is both hereditary monarch and elected chief minister. KwaZulu

    AUTHOR'S NOTE: I wish to acknowledge the valuable assistance of National Forum Foun-dation Research Assistant Sandra K. Vanden in the preparation of this article.

    Publius: The Journal of Federalism 17 (Summer 1987)231

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  • 232 Publius/Summer 1987

    MAP 1KwaZulu Homeland in South Africa



    SOURCE: The Washington Post, 29 March 1987, p. A20.

    consists of scattered portions of land separated by white farm land, mostof which is used to raise sugar cane. Under the moribund Grand Apartheidplan, KwaZulu was given substantial autonomy by the central governmentat Pretoria. Chief Buthelezi, however, has consistently resisted the "in-dependence" pressed on him by the central government, or even the con-solidation of the KwaZulu territory. Instead, he has concentrated on buildingInkatha, a grass-roots political structure, and seeking peaceful economic andpolitical integration with Natal.

    The Durban negotiation, called the "KwaZulu/Natal Indaba," a Zulu wordmeaning serious negotiation, sought regional solutions for two national prob-lems: (1) apartheid, South Africa's system of legalized racial segregation,and (2) the loss of autonomy by the provinces to the central government.Besides instituting multiracial rule in KwaZulu and Natal, or "KwaNatal,"the Indaba was aimed at having the region take over some functions now

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  • KwaZulu/Natal Indaba 233

    held by the central government. The negotiators even harbored a more long-term vision of reorganizing South Africa into a federation of autonomousprovinces.1 This determination, in the face of an equally firm commitmentto centralization by the government of South Africa's ruling National Par-ty, makes the existence and progress of the Indaba an important matter forstudents of federalism.

    The principles accepted as "points of departure" by the Indaba at its firstmeeting indicated not only the direction the delegates would take, but theamount of work that preceded the actual conference. These principlesincluded:

    (i) The Indaba accepts that the KwaZulu/Natal region is a single unit and thatits second tier government should reflect this reality in its political structure,(ii) This Indaba, aware of the economic and strategic interdependence betweenthe KwaZulu/Natal region and the rest of South Africa, and aware of thepatriotism of its people to its fatherland, South Africa, has no desire to besovereignly independent of South Africa.(iii) All people of the region should have the right to full political participationand effective representation.(iv) This Indaba accepts the democratic principles of freedom, equality, justice,the Rule of Law and access to the law. Legislation based on racial discrimina-tion must be abolished.(v) Society in Natal/KwaZulu must be founded upon a free economic systemand the provision of equal opportunities for all people. Provision must alsobe made for the protection of the rights of individuals and groups,(vi) Legislative and administrative power should be devolved as much aspossible.2

    In spite of its relatively short life span, and the fact that it has been at-tacked by radicals of both the right and the left, the Indaba made significantprogress toward its goal of a single, multiracial government for KwaNatal.This is all the more remarkable since few decisions were put to a vote. Rather,the Indaba participants sought consensus, a process that would have al-lowed a small minority of delegates to veto key proposals.

    Radical black organizations, including the outlawed African National Con-gress (ANC) and the still legal United Democratic Front (UDF), boycottedthe Indaba, although they were invited to participate.3 Radical white groupsincluding the Conservative Party and other organizations dedicated to preserv-ing white rule, also condemned the negotiation.4

    'Alistar Sparks, "Idea for Black-White Regional Legislature Stirs Emotions in South Africa,"Washington Post, 11 April 1986, p. A22.

    2These basic points of departure were published by the Indaba along with their proposed Billof Rights on 10 July 1986.

    3Michael Sullivan, '"KwaNatal Option' may be idea whose time has come in S. Africa,"Washington Times, 3 April 1986, p. 7A.

    4"Action White Natal Rejects Natal-KwaZulu Common Administration," Die Afrikaner,30 April 1986, p. 16 [quoted in Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Mideast and Africaedition, hereinafter FBIS, 1 July 1986]. Also, Peter Younghusband, "Durban Talks are 'islandof sanity' in troubled S. Africa," Washington Times, 5 August 1986, p. 7A.

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  • 234 Publius/Summer 1987

    The reaction of the central government has been mixed. Originally quitecool to the idea, State President P. W. Botha has warmed to the Indaba con-siderably as increasing violence has forced the government to make a moreserious search for moderate solutions to South Africa's political crisis. Yeteven after very positive signals from the government in the months precedingthe end of the Indaba, the proposal was rejected almost immediately by thelocal National Party leader.


    The KwaZulu/Natal Indaba, like any major political/constitutional develop-ment, did not spring from a vacuum. Much of the theory for multiracialprovincial government came from the Buthelezi Commission, a nongovern-mental body of constitutional scholars, prominent politicians andbusinessmen that met periodically from 1980-1982. The Commission waschartered by the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly at the initiative of ChiefMinister Buthelezi. Like the Lombard Commission, sponsored by the SouthAfrican Sugar Association, an essentially white concern, the Buthelezi Com-mission found that KwaZulu and Natal were in fact one geographic unit.Its recommendations, published in 1982, had a federalist orientation, onethat emphasized the region's special needs by calling for a large degree ofregional autonomy.5

    The Buthelezi Commission also recognized the importance of protectingminority rights, and its proposal included various mechanisms for doing so.Among these were a consociational cabinet,6 a system of proportionalrepresentation for the legislative assembly, and a minority veto.7 At thesame time, significant political power was to remain in the hands of thevarious regions.8

    One of the most striking aspects of the Buthelezi Commission plan is itsrecognition that race must cease to be the sole basis, or even the primarybasis, for group identification in South Africa. The proposed consociationalassembly and cabinet is designed to encourage the creation of multiracialpolitical parties by ensuring that no racial group will automatically receivea dominant majority. This is intended to induce the creation of coalitions,

    5The Progressive Federal Party, South Africa's largest white opposition party, also supportsa federal solution for South Africa. See Report of the Constitutional Committee of the Pro-gressive Fed