Die Erika Theron-Kommissie, 1973-1976 : n historiese studie

Barnard, J. M. M. (Jolene) (2000-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2000.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In the early 1970s the National Party government under B.l Vorster experienced serious problems due to its policy on the Coloured population. Issues concerning the mutual relations between the population groups came strongly to the fore and the government's policy of separate development was subject to widespread and severe criticism. The period 1970-1974 is generally regarded as a time of change in South Afiica due to international and foreign pressures. South Afiica's position in the international community deteriorated dramatically and attitudes towards the Republic became increasingly hostile in the rest of the world. Furthermore, the Vorster government was confronted with two opposing schools of thought within the party itself, the so-called verligtes and the verkramptes. During the 1970s the political decision-making processes became entangled in a continuous struggle between the enlightened wing of the National Party, the so-called Cape Liberals, and a more conservative element, the verkramptes of the Transvaal. Race relations issues and the government's Coloured policy in particular were often the source of contention. In March 1973 Vorster appointed a Commission of Enquiry into Matters Relating to the Coloured Population Group. It was chaired by prof Erika Theron, formerly professor in Social Work at the University of Stellenbosch. The Theron Commission, as it became known generally, consisted of twenty members, six of whom were Coloureds. The Commission had to investigate the following: the progress made by the Coloured population group since 1960 in the social, economic and constitutional spheres as well as in the fields of local management, culture and sport; constraining factors in the various fields that could be identified as sources of contention; and any other related matters. The Theron Commission's report was tabled in parliament three years later on 18 June 1976. The Soweto riots that broke out two days before, however, forced news of the report out of the newspapers and caused its influence to be largely dissipated. The Theron report contained a number of recommendations that were directly in conflict with the government's apartheid policy and were hence not acceptable to the government. Consequently, the government - by way of an interim memorandum and a later white paper - rejected those recommendations that affected the core of its apartheid policy. The recommendations included the repeal of the Mixed Marriages Act (Act 55 of 1949) and Section 16 of the Immorality Act (Act 23 of 1957), two of the cornerstones of the policy of apartheid. Recommendation No. 178, in which the commission recommended direct representation for Coloureds at the various levels of government, was also rejected by the government. The potential influence of the Theron Commission's report to influence change was thus firmly nipped in the bud. The government's reaction caused bitter disappointment among the Coloured population as well as enlightened Whites and at the same time fuelled the conflict between the verligtes and the verkramptes. It also ensured intensified criticism from the opposition parties, especially the United Party. Yet the recommendations of the Theron Commision's report played a prominent role in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the wheels of political change began to tum, and let to the tricameral parliamentary system of 1984 in which the Coloured population group was also represented. The Arbeidersparty of South Africa (APSA) - Ministers' Council, which was in control of the House of Representatives from 1984 to 1992, consistently endeavoured to negotiate a better social, economic and constitutional position for the Coloured population on the basis of the Theron Commission's report.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In die vroeë sewentigerjare van die twintigste eeu het die Nasionale Party-regering, onder die bewind van BJ. Vorster, ernstige probleme ten opsigte van sy Kleurlingbeleid ondervind. Probleme rondom die bevolkingsverhoudingsvraagstuk het sterk op die voorgrond getree en die regering se beleid van afsonderlike ontwikkeling aan wydverspreide en hewige kritiek onderwerp. Die tydperk 1970-1974 word allerweë deur kritici beskou as 'n tydperk van verandering in Suid-Afrika vanweë toenemende binne- en buitelandse druk. Suid-Afrika se posisie binne die internasionale gemeenskap het drasties verswak en die buiteland het 'n vyandige gesindheid jeens die Republiek geopenbaar. Daarbenewens het die Vorster-regering gebuk gegaan onder twee botsende denkrigtings binne die partygeledere, die sogenaamde verligtes en die verkramptes. Die politieke besluitnemingsprosesse van die sewentigerjare was vasgevang tussen die verligte vleuel van die Nasionale Party, die sogenaamde Cape Liberals, en 'n meer konserwatiewe element, die verkramptes van Transvaal tussen wie daar 'n voortdurende stryd gewoed het. Die bevolkingsverhoudingsvraagstuk en die regering se Kleurlingbeleid was gereeld in die spervuur. In Maart 1973 het Vorster 'n Kommissie van Ondersoek na Aangeleenthede rakende die Kleurlingbevolkingsgroep aangestel. Die voorsitter was prof Erika Theron, voormalige hoogleraar in Maatskaplike Werk aan die Universiteit van Stellenbosch. Die Theronkommissie, soos dit algemeen bekend sou staan, is saamgestel uit twintig lede waaronder ses Kleurlinge. Die kommissie moes ondersoek instel na die volgende: die vordering van die Kleurlingbevolkingsgroep sedert 1960 op maatskaplike, ekonomiese en staatkundige gebied asook op die terreine van plaaslike bestuur, kultuur en sport; stremmende faktore op die verskillende terreine wat as knelpunte geïdentifiseer kon word; en enige verdere verwante sake. Die Theron-verslag is drie jaar later op 18 Junie 1976 in die parlement ter tafel gelê. Die Soweto-onluste wat twee dae tevore uitgebreek het, het egter die verslag van die persblaaie verdring en die invloed daarvan grootliks verlore laat gaan. Die Theron-verslag het aanbevelings bevat wat lynreg in stryd was met die apartheidsbeleid en wat nie vir die regering aanneemlik was nie. Gevolglik het die regering by wyse van 'n tussentydse memorandum en 'n latere witskrif daardie aanbevelings wat die kern van sy apartheidsbeleid aangetas het, afgekeur. Onder die aanbevelings was die herroeping van die Wet op die Verbod van Gemengde Huwelike (Wet No. 55 van 1949) en Artikel 16 van die Ontugwet (Wet No. 23 van 1957), twee van die hoekstene van die apartheidsbeleid. Aanbeveling No. 178, waarin die kommissie regstreekse verteenwoordiging vir die Kleurlinge op die verskillende owerheidsvlakke en in besluitnemingsprosesse aanbeveel het, is ook deur die regering afgekeur. Sodoende is die Theron-verslag se potensiële invloed tot verandering in die kiem gesmoor. Die regering se reaksie het bittere teleurstelling onder die Kleurlinge en die verligte blankes veroorsaak en terselfdertyd die fel stryd tussen die verligtes en die verkramptes aangewakker. Dit het ook toenemende kritiek komende van die opposisiepartye, veral die Verenigde Party, op die regering verseker. Die aanbevelings van die Theron-verslag het nietemin 'n prominente rol gespeel in die laat sewentigerjare en vroeë tagtigerjare toe die wiel van politieke veranderinge begin draai het en uitgeloop het op die Driekamerparlementstelsel van 1984 waarbinne die Kleurlinge ook verteenwoordig was. Die Arbeidersparty van Suid-Afrika (APSA) - Ministersraad wat sedert 1984 tot 1992 in beheer van die Raad van Verteenwoordigers binne die Driekamerparlement was, het hom voortdurend beywer om aan die hand van die Theronverslag, 'n beter sosiale, ekonomiese en staatkundige posisie vir die Kleurlinge te beding.

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