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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements


9 June 1995

COSATU has consistently argued that the powers given to provinces under the interim constitution undermine the ability of the central government to implement the RDP, and tend towards fragmentation of the country, where we need national unity. It was in this context that I stated that the provinces in the form contained in the interim constitution should no longer obtain when the final constitution is adopted.

In our march on the World Trade Centre at the end of 1993, we warned the country of the dangers to the new democracy if we allowed regionalism and fragmentation to be entrenched in the interim constitution. Despite this, constitutional principles were adopted, which are now binding on the new constitution, entrenching the existence of provincial governments. While COSATU remains opposed to this aspect of the settlement, the country has been saddled with this legacy which was the product of compromise with unrepresentative and undemocratic apartheid forces. We therefore have no choice but to live with a formula which we disapprove of.

Having said this, we still believe that the current relationship of provinces to central government, and the way in which they exercise their powers, should not be maintained in the final constitution. In our submissions to the Constitutional Assembly several days ago, we clearly outlined the need for National government to exercise authority over key strategic areas which are critical to the success of the RDP. We also remain convinced that it is not in the country's interests to have nine regional fiefdoms, draining our resources, and fragmenting national policies.

Careful attention needs to be given to ensuring that, within the constitutional framework, provinces are lean structures, with minimum bureaucracy, and that they facilitate implementation of national solutions to the national problems we have inherited. "Bringing government closer to the people" does not mean having large provincial governments and bureaucracies. The key to deepening democracy is ensuring that national democratic institutions are made accountable, and that third tier, or local government, operates effectively. Overbloated provincial government could threaten both of these critical levels of democracy. While provinces can play a useful role therefore, COSATU is determined to ensure that their role is strictly circumscribed within the limits required by effective national government, a precondition for the success of the RDP.

Issued by COSATU President John Gomomo