STATEMENT BY MR F W DE KLERK, LEADER OF THE NATIONAL PARTY, ON THE WITHDRAWAL OF THE NATIONAL PARTY FROM THE GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL UNITY, 9 MAY 1996
The National Party decided at a meeting of its Federal Executive Committee this morning
to withdraw from the Government of National Unity with effect from 30 June 1996. It
reached this decision, after careful consideration, for the following reasons:
• Our decision should be seen as an important step in the growing maturity and normalisation of our young democracy. We believe that the development of a strong and vigilant opposition is essential for the maintenance and promotion of a genuine multi-party democracy. Since the new Constitution does not provide for the continuation of any form of joint decision-making in the Executive Branch of Government, we have decided that the time has come for us to play our full role as the main opposition party.
• Continued participation in the Government of National Unity would complicate and
impede our ability to work toward the realisation of the vision that our Party adopted on 2
• The National Party has, since the inception of the negotiating process, attached the greatest importance to power-sharing. The new constitution contains no provision for the continuation of any form of joint decision-making in the executive branch of government. I told President Mandela during the negotiating process that the failure to include any such provision in the new constitution could lead to our withdrawal from the Government. Mr Roelf Meyer also conveyed the same message on a number of occasions to Mr Ramaphosa. Now that the ANC has opted for a simple form of majority rule – despite the complexities of our society – we have reached a natural watershed in the transformation of our society. It would be unnatural to continue in the GNU while everybody knows that the principles on which it rests have already been discarded in the new Constitution.
• The National Party has felt for some time now that our influence within the
Government of National Unity has been declining. The ANC is acting more and
more as if they no longer need multy-party government.
• Although we reached broad agreement on the new constitution, it nonetheless failed to bridge the fundamental differences that exist between us and the ANC/SACP/Cosatu alliance on a number of important questions. These questions include the role of the trade unions, abortion and the death penalty; and the unqualified protection of private property.
• The National Party’s dual role as partner in the Government of National Unity and as the main opposition party has been difficult to sustain. We have done so thusfar in the interest of the country. We feel that the stage has now been reached where we will be able to serve the national interest more effectively by concentrating fully on a responsible opposition role, untramelled by coresponsibility within the Government of National Unity.
I should like to make the following comments regarding the timing of the National Party’s decision:
• We are proud of the role we have played in facilitating the transition and promoting
reconciliation. We remain as dedicated to that and nation-building as ever. The time has
however come for us to reassert our own identity as a strong and vigorous party in our
• We do not intend to leave the Government precipitately. We have decided that our withdrawal should take effect at midnight on 30 June. This will provide President Mandela with adequate time to appoint successors and for our ministers to hand over their portfolios in good order. It will also allow us to deal with our budget votes in Parliament before the winter recess and to make the necessary arrangements for theclosure of our offices and the redeployment of our personnel.
• I am distressed that rumours of our withdrawal have had such a negative effect
on the value of the Rand. I should like to give the international and domestic
business and banking communities the following assurances:
The basic economic policies of the Government of National Unity are sound. We have
no reason to believe that the ANC has any intention of deviating from the course that they
themselves have been co-instrumental in charting.
• We have reached the point where we will be able to exercise greater influence on the economic policies of the Government by publicly adopting a vigilant and critical role than by exercising our diminishing influence behind the scenes within the Government of National Unity.I am accordingly confident that a more realistic view of our economic prospects and the basic stability of our economy will soon be restored.
Although we intend to play a vigorous opposition role on issues where we disagree with the Government, it will be a responsible role. In particular, we will continue to give our whole-hearted support to the Government’s efforts to promote economic growth; to alleviate the plight of the poor, the deprived and the unemployed; and to build a strongand united nation.
I should also like to take this opportunity to thank President Mandela and our ANC and IFP colleagues within the Government of National Unity for the manner in which we were able to co-operate in the decision-making process. This was a positive approach and served the best interests of South Africa.
We need a strong and confident opposition. We intend to supply it – and we intend to work toward the vision that I sketched for our Party on 2 February this year. We will further consolidate our position as a party based on values rather than ethnic affiliation; we will expand our support among all South Africans and particularly among black South Africans; and we will eventually become the largest party in South Africa.