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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versión On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versión impresa ISSN 0041-4751


CLOETE, Fanie. Policy discrimination, change and entrepreneurship: Political rights for "Coloureds" in South Africa until 1979. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2021, vol.61, n.4-2, pp.1260-1286. ISSN 2224-7912.

This article contextualises and assesses the development of and changes in political rights for "Coloured" South Africans, until 1979. The research was undertaken from the theoretical perspective of policy entrepreneurs who use various personal, professional and other social networks at their disposal to engage in direct lobbying and policy influencing of political decision makers in government from their power bases inside of or close to government, instead ofjust voicing opposition to existing policies from an outside perspective. The article first briefly outlines the theoretical tenets and characteristics of policy entrepreneurship and network influence and then summarises the development of political rights for the "Coloured" community in the country, until PW Botha took over the leadership of the National Party. The article contextualises and focusses especially on the run-up to and the fall-out of the Erika Theron Commission, which played a direct role in the eventual establishment of a fundamentally new constitutional dispensation in the country. The research comprises a case study of attempts during the period 1960-1979 to improve political rights for the "Coloured" community in South Africa. During this period of time a significant attitudinal policy change occurred in the South African government that initiated a gradual erosion of the ideological tenets of apartheid. It created an experiment with restricted power-sharing of whites with two other racial minority communities in the country during the early 1980s. This experiment failed, but ironically created crucial facilitating conditions for the start of political negotiations between the NP government and black liberation movements that eventually led to the current post-apartheid society in South Africa. These changes were largely triggered and facilitated by a number of more "liberal-minded " reform-orientated individual academic policy entrepreneurs and activists within or close to the ranks of the governing NP elites. They used their professional positions and politically legitimate personal and career networks to influence or lobby political decision makers in government from the inside in strategic ways to try to persuade those decision makers to change their minds and to accept the proposals that the policy entrepreneurs tried to sell to them. Many of these policy entrepreneurs were the main drivers behind the Afrikaner Broe-derbond's establishment of the South African Bureau for Racial Affairs (SABRA) as a conservative nationalistic counter to the more liberal South African Institute of Race Relations. These and other academics in Stellenbosch, SABRA, were instrumental in developing, expanding and consolidating the NP government's apartheid policy from 1948 to 1961 through various direct interactions with government decision makers. The efforts of individual Stellenbosch academics, supported by a number of others elsewhere in the country, to try to improve the political rights of "Coloured" South Africans via SABRA in the run-up to the appointment of the Erika Theron Commission are then summarised. Their 1960/61 recommendations to SABRA for direct political integration of "Coloured" voters in existing (white) government decision-making bodies were rejected outright by SABRA and the NP establishment in 1961. This led to the side-lining and eventually the resignation of most of the Stellenbosch SABRA members. The direct policy impact that these events had on the findings and recommendations of the Theron Commission on the future of the "Coloured" community in South Africa 15 years later, and ultimately the establishment of a fundamental new ideological political order in the country, form the core focus of the rest of the article. In 1976, a younger generation of more "liberal" (moderate) Stellenbosch academics resuscitated the 1961SABRA proposals and fed them directly into the NP government's policies via the Erika Theron Commission (1973-1976). The majority of the Theron Commission supported the inclusion of a vaguely worded general recommendation for the extension of direct political participation of "Coloured" voters in mainstream political processes, in the Commission's report in 1976. Although the NP government did not accept this recommendation, the controversy around the issue started a process of open debate about the merits of racial integration in South Africa, which had been explicitly rejected by the NP until that point in time. This debate eventually resulted in the acceptance of restricted political power-sharing with white, "Coloured" and Indian racial communities in the country in the form of the 1979 draft Constitution, as refined in the form of the 1983 Tri-Cameral Parliament. This system, however, still excluded participation by black South African citizens, which led to their rejection of it in principle, as well as by most of the international community. The research illustrates the impact that deliberately targeted policy entrepreneurship and networking, frequently carried out by relatively legitimate insiders, can have on fundamental societal change. The most important finding of this assessment of policy influencing initiatives in South Africa during this period suggests that internal interventions into governmental policy-making processes by a small number of relatively legitimate individual academic policy influencers and entrepreneurs facilitated the undermining of this ideology over time. It weakened the NP's refusal to accept the principle of political power sharing with other racial communities by confronting and pressurising NP decision makers from within the governmental system with the inevitability of limited political power sharing, even if only between two or three racial minorities in the country, in order to try to ensure the future political power base ofwhites. This selective and limited power sharing among racial minorities, however, ultimately failed, because it excluded the overwhelming majority of black South African citizens. Despite this failure, the contributions of these individuals did indirectly contribute in a significant manner to the eventual implosion of apartheid and its replacement with a more acceptable liberal democratic system of government. It further illustrates and substantiates the important cumulative impact that both internal and external political pressure can have on policy change. The political transformation in South Africa during the 1980s and 1990s was not only the result of external pressure on the NP as many critics of apartheid allege, but also a consequence of increasing, direct internal pressure from legitimate intellectual Afrikaner leadership and support groups for change to the prevailing political policy paradigm regarding "Coloured" political rights during the period under assessment. In summary, the findings confirm that direct, internal pressure for change by credible policy influencers and entrepreneurs is an indispensable requirement for the evolutionary constitutional transformation of any democratic society. The findings further illustrate the importance of policy influencing initiatives being exercised by just a few strategically positioned, legitimate individuals, groups and/or networks from inside policy change processes, supported and strengthened by additional external pressures for policy change. This has important implications for current and future democratic policy changes in South Africa and other societies.

Palabras clave : apartheid; general affairs; own affairs; political transformation; power sharing; PW Botha Committee; SABRA; Theron Commission; tri-cameral parliament; Westminster system.

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