About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Statement by Mr F W De Klerk, Leader of the National Party

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 Constitutuion 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 February 1996.

     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 multi-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.

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 own right.

     The Government of National Unity is now functioning effectively. Its ANC members are now established in their portfolios and believe that they have the experience and confidence to continue on their own. The three years that now lie ahead will give us, on the one hand, and the ANC/SACP/Cosatu alliance on the other, the opportunity to develop clear alternative identities and platforms before the elections. It also means that the ANC will have to assume full and sole responsibility for their policies and actions.

     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 the closure of our offices and the redeployment of our personnel.

     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.

     The framework of economic realities within which any Government in South Africa would have to operate will not change as a result of our withdrawal. The "amorphous entity" of the market will continue to make its presence felt. Whether or not we or the ANC Alliance like it, the market will continue to pass its judgements on our management of the economy. No Government can afford to ignore these judgements.

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.

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.