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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

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National People's Party (NPP)

Pro-system politics is a relatively new development in Indian politics. Anti-apartheid organisations such as the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) and the Natal Indian Congress (NIC), which were affiliated to the UDF, have a long history of resistance against the government. The National People's Party, which emerged from the remains of the South African Indian Council, was established in August 1981, and, in contrast to the TIC and NIC, takes a more positive attitude towards the South African government. The small support base of the NPP, and Indian parties in general, has led to their legitimacy being questioned by a large section of the Indian community.

In the 1984 election for the House of Delegates, the NPP won 18 of the 40 seats. Twenty per cent of the registered voters participated in the election, and it was calculated that the NPP became the governing party in the House of Delegates with the support of approximately 7 per cent of the potential Indian electorate. Amichand Rajbansi, leader of the NPP, was appointed chairman of the Ministers' Council and also minister without portfolio in the Cabinet. The party supports the non-violent abolition of all racial, cultural and sexual discrimination. Its view on the right to vote is that all groups should participate in the government.

Like its counterparts in the House of Representatives, the NPP saw the abolition of the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, Article 16 of the Immorality Act and the Prohibition of Political Interference Act as the result of pressure it had put on the government. The NPP also refused to approve legislation on two occasions (a bill must be approved by all three Houses before it can be passed). In both these cases P W Botha referred the bills to the President's Council for approval.

Important legislation is mostly amended by the standing committees. These committees have been de-scribed by Rajbansi on occasion as "mini single-house parliaments". In fact, he used the amendments which his party was able to enforce in the standing committees as justification for the party's continued participation in the tricameral parliament. In most cases, as with legislation concerning a National Council pre-pared in 1986, the NPP assured the government of its qualified support. Rajbansi also referred to P W Botha as South Africa's "greatest ally for reform".

After a short-lived alliance between the National People's Party and Solidarity in 1987, after which Dr J N Reddy was appointed to the Ministers' Council, the latter withdrew his party from the alliance because of differences with Rajbansi. This alliance followed the PFP's rejection of Solidarity's overtures.

Two breakaways, the first led by Pat Poovalingam, who later formed the Progressive Reform Party, and the second by a group under the leadership of Baldeo Dookic and Somaroo Pachai, cost the NPP its majority in the House of Delegates in 1988. In the case of the latter breakaway, Rajbansi's "dictatorial" leader-ship style was given as the reason for the renegades' resignation from the NPP. In this period the NPP lost two votes in the House, and was able to gain a majority only after "persuading" three of the renegades to rejoin the party. Allegations of abduction, blackmail and even threats of suicide were made. Under these circumstances the House of Delegates became an embarrassment to itself and the government. Rajbansi was sharply criticized by the James commission of inquiry. Accordingly he was asked to resign as Cabinet minister and also temporarily re-signed as parliamentary leader of the NPP.

In the 1989 election, 23,2 per cent of the registered Indian voters went to the polls. Of the total number of registered voters, the NPP drew 5,8 per cent, winning eight seats altogether. Since no party achieved an outright majority in the election, in-dependent leaders as well as smaller parties were once again pressurized into joining the NPP or Solidarity. Following the election, Rajbansi be-came the opposition leader in the House of Delegates after Reddy had gained the support of the majority of members. Early in 1991 Rajbansi once again gained a majority vote in the House of Delegates after a motion of no-confidence against the chairman of the House, Reddy, was introduced. Rajbansi, however, again lost majority support shortly after-wards and Reddy remained as leader of the House.

Like other parties the NPP welcomed the lifting on 2 February 1990 of restrictions on resistance organisations. Rajbansi declared himself willing to cooperate with the ANC, Inkatha and any other organisation in establishing a new non-racial South Africa. He added that all parties based on group membership had to disappear from the South African scene; by implication, this included the NPP as well. He said, however, that the existence of such parties was essential during the negotiation period.

During its short history this House displayed considerable instability. It is likely that the leadership in the House of Delegates may undergo yet another change before the tricameral system is finally scrapped.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.