A framework for constitutional settlements : an analysis of diverging interpretations of the South African Constitution

Teuteberg, Salome Marjanne (2015-04)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: South Africa’s transition to democracy has been hailed as exemplary in the field of conflict resolution and constitution-making. The negotiated settlement was expected to serve as a consensual constitutional framework boding well for the newly democratic regime, but by 2014 evidence was accumulating of an emerging dissensus on the South African Constitution. The literature on the South African transition does not anticipate this emerging constitutional dissensus, or address the possibility that the constitution meant different things to different stakeholders. While there was widespread endorsement of the ratification of the constitution, an apparent divergence has emerged about its meaning and what is stands for. Many studies addressed the process of constitutional negotiations and the outcome thereof, but few examine the meaning that the original negotiators invested into this outcome. The study aimed to address whether this dissensus was present during the negotiating process (1990 - 1996), and whether the negotiators’ agreement on the formal text of the constitution obscures fundamentally diverging interpretations. The study is in the form of a qualitative, descriptive case study. This study created a novel conceptual framework within which to classify diverse interpretations. Perceptions of negotiated compromises in deeply divided societies were conceptualised in the form of Constitutional Contracts, Social Contracts and Benchmark Agreements. Original negotiators’ views and opinions were analysed in order to identify dispositions reconcilable with each of the concepts identified. This framework proved significantly helpful in identifying whether the views of the negotiators were divergent – on several levels, differences between negotiators during the negotiating period came to the fore. It became evident from the findings that there were indeed present among the ranks of the negotiators of the South African Constitution diverging interpretations of this outcome. It became clear that certain interpretations were more easily categorised than others: while being able to locate the views of some negotiators within the concepts of Constitutional Contract or Social Contract, identifying those views congruent with the Benchmark Agreement proved more difficult. Also, some negotiators’ views can be located within one, two or all of the categories. It became evident that while negotiators may be categorised within all three concepts of the framework, their opinions are not necessarily specific to the indicators of one single concept. This study brought significant insight into several concepts, including the Social Contract in a changing society. The Social Contract is identifiable within a system that fosters process over institutions, with specific focus on the working of the electoral system. The Social Contract is vested in the political culture as opposed to in the written text, but the written text does facilitate these types of processes by entrenching mechanisms for ongoing negotiation and revision. However, while some of these mechanisms exist within the Constitution, it does not mean that they are effectively used. Characteristics associated with the Social Contract, such as flexibility and an inclusive process, tend to be associated with longer lasting constitutions. The question remains whether South Africans should be actively seeking to build a Social Contract, and whether a Constitutional Contract can evolve into a Social Contract.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Suid-Afrika se oorgang na demokrasie word beskou as ‘n uitnemende voorbeeld in die veld van konflikoplossing en die skryf van grondwette. Daar is verwag dat die onderhandelde skikking sal dien as ‘n ooreengekome grondwetlike raamwerk vir die nuwe demokratiese regime, maar teen 2014 het bewyse begin akkumuleer van ‘n opkomende dissensus oor die grondwet. Die literatuur oor die Suid-Afrikaanse oorgang antisipeer nie hierdie ontluikende grondwetlike dissensus nie, en spreek nie die moontlikheid aan dat die grondwet verskillende dinge vir verskillende rolspelers beteken nie. Alhoewel daar wydverspreide onderskrywing van die bekragtiging van die grondwet was, het daar ‘n klaarblyklike verdeeldheid na vore gekom oor wat die grondwet beteken, en waarvoor dit staan. Die proses van onderhandeling, sowel as die uitkoms in die formaat van die grondwet, is deur baie studies aangespreek, maar min ondersoek die betekenis wat die oorspronklike onderhandelaars in die uitkoms belê het. Dié studie is daarop gerig om ondersoek of hierdie onderliggende dissensus reeds tydens die onderhandelingsproses (1990 – 1996) teenwoordig was, en of die onderhandelaars se ooreenkoms oor die formele teks fundamenteel uiteenlopende interpretasies daarvan verberg. Die studie is in die vorm van 'n kwalitatiewe, beskrywende gevallestudie. ‘n Nuwe konseptuele raamwerk is ontwikkel waarbinne die diversiteit van opinie hieroor geklassifiseer kan word. Persepsies van onderhandelde kompromieë in diep verdeelde samelewings is gekonseptualiseer in die vorm van Grondwetlike Kontrakte, Sosiale Kontrakte en Maatstaf Ooreenkomste. Oorpsronklike onderhandelaars se standpunte en opinies is geanaliseer om gesindhede versoenbaar met elk van die konsepte te identifiseer. Hierdie raamwerk was nuttig om te identifiseer of die menings van die onderhandelaars uiteenlopend was. Verskille op verskeie vlakke het tussen die onderhandelaars tydens die onderhandelingstydperk na vore gekom. Dit is duidelik dat daar wel uiteenlopende interpretasies van hierdie uitkoms teenwoordig was binne die geledere van die onderhandelaars. Sekere interpretasies is makliker geklassifiseer as ander: die menings van sommige onderhandelaars kan as kongruent met die Grondwetlike Kontrak of die Sosiale Kontrak geidentifiseer word, maar dit was moeiliker om sienings ooreenstemmend met die Maatstaf Ooreenkoms te identifiseer. Sekere onderhandelaars se standpunte kan ook in een, twee of al drie kategorieë geplaas word. Dit het duidelik geword dat terwyl sekere onderhandelaars se opvattings binne al drie konsepte van die raamwerk geklassifiseer kan word, hul menings nie noodwendig spesifiek binne die aanwysers van 'n enkele konsep val nie. Hierdie studie het beduidende insig in verskeie konsepte gebied, insluitend die Sosiale Kontrak in 'n veranderende samelewing. Die Sosiale Kontrak is identifiseerbaar binne 'n stelsel wat die belangrikheid van proses oor instellings beklemtoon. Die Sosiale Kontrak berus in politieke kultuur, maar die geskrewe gondwetlike reëls fasiliteer hierdie tipe van prosesse deur die vestiging van meganismes vir voortgesette onderhandeling en hersiening. Hierdie verskynsel is tipies meer duidelik sienbaar in die werking van verskillende kiesstelsels. Alhoewel hierdie meganismes kan bestaan binne ‘n grondwet, beteken dit nie dat hulle doeltreffend gebruik word nie. Eienskappe wat verband hou met die Sosiale Kontrak, soos buigsaamheid en 'n inklusiewe proses, is geneig om verband te hou met 'n duursame en standhoudende grondwet. Die vraag bly staan of Suid-Afrikaners aktief op soek moet wees na die bou van ‘n Sosiale Kontrak, en of 'n Konstitusionele Kontrak kan ontwikkel om ‘n Sosiale Kontrak te vorm.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/96706
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