The year 1996 will become known as the year of the constitution. History and our children will one day judge 1996 as the year in which the foundation for a new constitutional dispensation was laid.

In 1919, after the First World War, the Peace Treaty of Versailles was negotiated and signed in France. Today history looks back on 1919 and the Treaty of Versailles as the foundation that did not bring peace and prosperity, but paved the way for a much bigger and more devastating war, namely the Second World War. This may never happen here. The Freedom Front is committed to ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.

The Freedom Front was neither satisfied nor part of the constitutional deal in December 1993. The Freedom Front leadership entered into negotiations with the leadership of the ANC during the last part of 1993. The mandate and instructions of the Freedom Front leaders was to negotiate the establishment of a Volkstaat before the election of 27 April 1994. This was given at a big volksvergadering. ANC negotiators argued that it was politically not possible at that stage. It was argued that the Freedom Front should buy into a process. The amendment of the Constitution, with the inclusion of Constitutional Principle XXXIV and the adding of chapter 11A dealing with the Volkstaat Council, became vital elements in the Freedom Fronts decision to take part in the process. The further provisions of the accord on Afrikaner self-determination between the ANC and Freedom Front made it possible to give the Afrikaner a new vision of hope and constructive engagement which paved the way for the Freedom Front to participate in the general election of 27 April 1994.

From the 17 parties that took part in the election of 27 April 1994, only 7 made it to Parliament. The Freedom Front, being barely one month old at that stage, came fourth after the ANC, the NP and the IFP. The Freedom Front fought the 1994 election asking a mandate for Afrikaner selfdetermination and a Volkstaat. By voting for us 640 000 people instructed us to achieve this. As far as comparisons are possible the Freedom Front doubled its support in the local elections in Nov 1995.

In his opening address to Parliament a year ago president Mandela referred to the constitutional process and said that we must “… conduct ourselves in a manner that ensures that we have as inclusive a process as possible”. (17 Feb 1995) We agree with this.

The constitution at present strongly emphasises South Africa as one country and one nation. This is only one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is the cultural and language diversity in South Africa. A balance between the two is the final answer for South Africa. It seems that because of South Africa’s Apartheid past, we keep avoiding these issues. By addressing these realities in a commission as was done is therefor important. The ANC gave one step towards facing these realities. That is positive.

But we still need to add grouprights and selfdetermination to the Bill of Rights to ensure a balance between these realities in SA.

Last week I addressed a few public meetings. The overwhelming reaction of Afrikaans speaking voters were that they are disillusioned by referendum and election promises that the Afrikaans language would be protected and that Afrikaans state schools would be recognised. ( Nothing came from it.) The Freedom Front will always be fighting for the universal right to educate children in their mother tongue and in their culture. Do not confuse learning a child to be bilingual or multi-lingual with Anglicising the child. Look at our history of conflict with the British and make a study of these issues in Quebec, Belgium or Erithrea to discover that the emotions around these issues must not be underestimated. This has nothing to do with race or going back to apartheid but has everything to do with the way a community conveys its culture from generation to generation. This is not yet addressed.

In finalising the constitution short term solutions to the problems of South Africa is not good enough. We must have enough courage to tackle the long term problems and solve them in the constitution.

In Nigeria the constitutional debate at present is about democracy and nation building. General Emeka Ojukwe wrote in a recent book “Nigeria remains, in essence, an amorphous mass of individuals busy pretending to be a people”

Akin L Mabogunje worded it as follow: “..the creation of more states and local governments and what may generally be described as Nigeria’s problem of nationalities remain the basic issues in the evolution of a stable political system.”

In Western and Eastern Europe the constitutional debate is about  the protection of minorities and the granting of cultural autonomy and selfdetermination to groups without disturbing the ideal of a bigger national and European unity.

In a recent article (23/9/96) in the Economist they address this issue as follow: “The trick in a successful society is for minority citizens to be able to feel that they are more than one thing at once: to be able to feel American and black , Scottish and British, an Orthodox Christian and a Bosnian, a Muslim and an Indian”

Many Afrikaners in South Africa do not feel that way. Loyalty and legitimacy will be of the main problems with a new constitution in the future South Africa. An inclusive process and constitution, as pres. Mandela pointed out, is the answer to this.

In Europe governments bend backwards to accommodate the problems of 68 000 German speakers in Belgium or 65 000 French speakers in the new Swiss Canton Jura. Is long term solutions and stability in South Africa possible by ignoring the aspirations of 640 000 Freedom Front supporters or more than a million Afrikaners that feel strongly about selfdetermination? These are the questions the government of the day and the constitution will have to answer in the future.

The question for the Freedom Front is not whether we realise our goals or change our goals. Our goals are fixed. The big question is whether we are going to take the long or the short route to reach them. The short route is to use wisdom and statesmanship in negotiating solutions. The long route means you only get there after many years of strife and conflict. The Freedom front are working and trying for the short route.