February 28, 2005

Judging by the forceful response from the ruling party to our draft KwaZulu-Natal constitution, I am confident in saying that the IFP got it right. Our draft has been called many things: conservative, reactionary, and backward-looking. Ironically, most of these attributes apply to the draft prepared by a narrow clique in the ANC and sold to the media and the wider public as a people's constitution.

This is not the first time that the ANC has aspired to speak for the people of KwaZulu-Natal. For many years it presumed to represent all our people from exile. Now it entertains the same fallacy from Pretoria. This scenario is all too familiar. For the sake of perceived modernity, the ruling party is determined to dispense with ancient institutions, centralise power and reduce provincial government to a mere administrative and redistributive agency.

In essence, the ANC draft provincial constitution is an off-shoot of the national 1996 Constitution, suggesting next to nothing specific or peculiar about KwaZulu-Natal. It places the Zulu cultural identity, forged in the 1820s, and all other provincial identities, forged at different times, at unprecedented peril. Our traditional institutions have survived the ravages of colonialism and apartheid. It is doubtful whether they would survive the ANC draft KwaZulu-Natal constitution.

The IFP draft constitution, on the contrary, seeks wide consensus. We do not deny diversity. We embrace it. Not only does our draft accommodate social, cultural, linguistic and economic diversity within our province, it also incorporates, while expanding and improving on, a large portion of the ANC draft constitution introduced by the Premier in his infamous Constitutional Bill.

By making the best of our status as an autonomous province of South Africa, we elevate the identity of the people of KwaZulu-Natal above an illusory pan-South African identity that may only exist in the minds of ANC ideologues and the ruling party's provincial fonctionnaires. In matters such as the Code of Conduct, we naturally call for uniquely provincial rather than nationally imposed measures.

We go even further. Our draft essentially empowers KwaZulu-Natal. It brings the national government closer to our people by creating special entitlement to provincial services and by promoting economic growth and the protection of people as consumers. By way of special protection, our draft makes sweeping provisions for children, especially those orphaned by HIV/Aids, and the disabled.

Through a Bill of Rights and the Privatisation Commission, our draft promotes Black Economic Empowerment while requiring it to be the genuine empowerment of many rather than the blatant enrichment of an elite, well-connected few.

Along with economic power, the IFP draft redistributes political power across the province and its political spectrum in a truly revolutionary fashion. In this, we have drawn on the experience of co-existing with the ANC in a creeping one party state and our draft constitution therefore bolsters the notion of separation of powers between the provincial executive and KwaZulu-Natal parliament.

Firstly, our draft reshapes provincial government by shifting the weight of the executive power from the Premier to the Cabinet as a collegial body. Ultimately, it provides for co-operative governance within the province by promoting the co-operation between traditional leaders and municipalities on an equitable footing.

Secondly, the IFP draft re-establishes the centrality of the existing parliament and, by reconciling democratic institutions with tradition, it introduces a legislature consisting of two chambers, one of which is appointed by municipal councils, traditional leaders, universities, art and cultural associations, trade unions, and interests groups.

In tune with the idea of equal distribution of power, our draft constitutions places the ordinary seat of one House of Parliament in Ulundi, the second in Pietermaritzburg and the Cabinet in Durban.

With far-reaching consequences for democratic accountability, the IFP draft prohibits elected members of the legislature from crossing the floor.

The recent steps taken by the provincial government towards dismantling of the House of Traditional Leaders have vindicated the IFP's concerns about the future of the traditional institutions. The amakhosi, it would appear, have been all but earmarked for ultimate oblivion. To the Zulu monarchy, similarly, the ANC draft constitution pays insufficient attention.

The IFP draft therefore expands and improves upon the provisions for a Zulu monarch in the Constitutional Bill introduced by the Premier in line with the body of ancient customs and conventions. On a related note, our draft makes provision for the Traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch.

In all this, the IFP has looked further than the ANC's political expediency. We have proved considerably more progressive than the self-styled progressives in the ruling party in safeguarding the status, the rights and the privileges of the people of KwaZulu-Natal. Unlike the ANC, we have drafted a genuine people's constitution.

Contact: Dr Lionel Mtshali, 083 256 4902