oa Africa Insight - Confederal Association of States or Federation? A future political dispensation for South and Southern Africa: Theoretical perspectives for South African party politics *

Volume 6, Issue 1-2
  • ISSN : 0256-2804



Although federal forms of government have become particularly popular in the past century and a half, the federal political systems which have developed since the Second World War, particularly in the developing countries, have shown little stability and functionality. In most cases federation has been little more than a transitionary phase to a unitary structure. The constitutional guarantees upon which federal structures were based, have thus often been of only secondary importance. This article attempts to isolate a precis of the theory underlying con federal associations of states and federal forms of government; to elucidate the policy standpoints of the more important South African political parties in this respect including opinions expressed in reports in the South African press and enunciated by Black homeland leaders; and finally to make an evaluation of the applicability of a federal formula in the plural South African context. It is argued that federation calculated to reconcile unity and diversity, can only succeed if the most important diversities find territorial expression. The type of value framework in which tolerance and diversity flourish as 'well as the necessary complementary factors and political sophistication which is needed to support a federal system, just do not exist in plural societies like South Africa. When a federal formula is thus used only as an ingenious apparatus to try to solve antagonism and potential conflict between groups, it is doomed to failure.

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