2 MONTHS AWAY
In mid-March 1996, the Management Committee evaluated progress after considering the fourth edition of the Working Draft. Roelf Meyer observed:
The more difficult issues had been fairly easily resolved while some of the issues that were originally thought to be of lesser importance became the final stumbling blocks.
These stumbling blocks were:
- Death penalty: what form should the ‘right to life’ clause take?
- Property clause: to what extent should property have constitutional protection?
- Lock–out: should employers be entitled to enforce lock-outs during strikes?
- Language: what would be the official language or languages?
- Education: should the Constitution allow single-medium schools?
- Socio-economic legislation: should the Bill of Rights include these second-tier rights?
Ramaphosa was not surprised that these issues had become sticking points, because of their deep historical associations with apartheid:
The question of single-medium instruction in schools, property rights and the employer’s right to lock out, all represented in some ways the NP’s desire to maintain through the Constitution some of the privileges and inequalities that had characterised apartheid. These were not the matters on which the ANC was prepared to compromise, as it had been on other, less substantive matters.
Smaller parties felt equally reluctant to compromise. Henno Cronje, then of the Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurvereniginge (FAK) said of his organisation’s advocacy of monolingual Afrikaans schools: ‘If this demand doesn’t come right, it has serious consequences for reconciliation.’
The major issue for us is of course the property clause. We will be insisting that it must be there to provide access to land rather than protection to private property.
The pace of negotiations picked up as the deadline of 8 May approached. Besides the deadlocked issues, a further 54 issues still needed political attention and 25 technical issues needed to be resolved. There was now a serious concern that the final Constitution would not be completed in time. The negotiators accepted a proposal mooted by the administration that a multilateral meeting should take place in relative isolation over several days to resolve all outstanding issues. All parties agreed: they were keen to meet the deadline and have a final Constitution adopted.