South Africa: Five years to build for the future: Blacks and women prepare for the dawn of democracy and a fairer society

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THE coalition government of national unity will run for five years from the elections on 27 April next year. The constitution - 'interim' officially - ratified today will run for that period, too. It will be formally passed into law next month by the existing parliament (which will effectively dissolve itself) where the government has an inbuilt majority.

'A final constitution' - not likely dramatically to alter from the first one - will be adopted by the new government.

Under the first constitution, there will be a president and up to two vice-presidents - any party that obtains 20 per cent of the vote qualifies for a vice-president, which means the African National Congress and the National Party might be able to appoint one each. As for the cabinet, parties can appoint members in proportions of five per cent of the vote - for instance, if a party gets 25 per cent it appoints five ministers to a cabinet which will have a maximum of 27 members.

The system of government will be proportional representation. There will be a 400-seat National Assembly which, together with a 90-member Senate (upper house), will be the parliament. The parliament will not only pass laws, it will draft and adopt the final constitution. It will be based, at least for the first year, in Cape Town, where parliament is now. (The administration of government will continue largely from Pretoria.)

The nine newly demarcated provinces - Eastern Cape; Eastern Transvaal; KwaZulu/Natal; Northern Cape; Northern Transvaal; Orange Free State; Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging; Western Cape - will each have a provincial legislature, the number of seats reached by dividing the total votes cast in the province by 50,000. No province will have fewer that 30 or more than 100 seats.

A constitutional court, democracy's referee, will be appointed to resolve potential disputes between the centre and the provinces. The court will also safeguard the rights of individuals under the terms of the new Bill of Rights - a document according to which all are equal and safe from discrimination of any kind.

As for the period up to the elections, a Transitional Executive Council representing all parties involved in the negotiations will be appointed before the end of the year. Its task will be to work with government - power-sharing, effectively - on all areas such as defence, police and finance that will have an impact on whether the elections are free and fair. The TEC will be based in a building already allocated in Pretoria.

(Photograph omitted)