South Africa

* Thami Mazwai makes a number of serious errors in “A Pause Might Salvage Democracy” (Commentary, Sept. 16) when referring to the planned non-racial elections to be held in South Africa next April.

Mazwai asserts that, because of the continuing spiral of political violence,the structure of the ballot should be changed so that these elections would simply be a national referendum showing party support (rather than a vote for individuals), to produce a parliament which will act as an interim “Government of National Unity.” But that is exactly the balloting structure that has been planned! South Africans are not going to be able to choose between candidates, only parties, and this is in fact one of the most serious shortcomings of the currently proposed electoral system.

Mazwai also recommends that the parliamentary seats should be apportioned on a proportional representation basis and that the executive cabinet should include all parties with demonstrable support. Again, these are issues that were decided and agreed upon long ago.

He is correct in asserting that the Constituent Assembly will be vested with the task of drawing up the new constitution, but he argues that this work should be delayed in an effort to reduce violence in the country.


However, it is precisely the lack of a democratic and legitimate constitutionthat has been the breeding ground of political violence in South Africa. The horrifying murders and maimings that are constantly being faced in South Africa will only be curtailed once all the people have been given the chance to vote and that vote is quickly translated into a just, democratic and inclusive constitutional dispensation.


Department of Political Science

UC San Diego, La Jolla

The writer is author of “Voting for a New South Africa” (Cape Town: Longman, 1993).