A ‘total Onslaught’ A Precious Unity Lost ‘Healthy Power-sharing’

The National Party (NP) presented the new more inclusive constitution as a form of ‘healthy power-sharing’, one in which the NP could never be outvoted by a coalition of the white opposition, coloureds and Indians. There was now a Parliament with a white, a coloured and an Indian chamber elected on separate rolls according to a fixed 4:2:1 ratio that corresponded with population size. An electoral college drawn from all three houses elected an executive state president.

Each house had its own cabinet and budget to deal with the ‘own’ affairs of its community, mainly education, housing and social welfare. There were also ‘general’ affairs – defence, security, and economic policy. Bills were discussed and passed separately by each house. The ‘power-sharing’ element was introduced by the requirement that all houses had to approve a bill and that coloured and Indian ministers could serve in the general affairs cabinet (Botha appointed the leaders of the coloured and Indian chambers to his cabinet).

But the lever of white control was retained; the NP as the largest party in the white chamber effectively elected the state president, who could use a President’s Council, a multiracial advisory body of experts mostly supportive of him, to break any deadlocks if a house refused to pass a bill. It was, as the saying of the time went, a form of ‘sharing power without losing control’.

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