20 YEARS AFTER THE 1992 REFERENDUM
At the end of 1991 the National Party lost a key bye-election in Virginia to the Conservative Party. The Conservatives crowed that we had also lost our mandate to continue with the constitutional negotiations and demanded a whites-only election. Their claims were greatly amplified on 19 February 1992 when the National Party lost another key bye-election - in Potchefstroom. Its majority of 2 000 in the 1989 election was wiped out and replaced by a CP majority of 2 140 votes. The CP's claim that we had lost our mandate to negotiate seemed to have been vindicated.
We had for some time promised that we would hold a referendum at some time to enable the white electorate to express its views on the negotiation process. Our defeat in Potchefstroom convinced me to do so as soon as possible. I accordingly announced my decision to hold a referendum to the NP leadership and caucus the next morning. I did not put the question to a vote - which I might well have lost - but decided to use my powers as party leader to decide on the issue myself. I was determined to resign if we lost the referendum.
The question we put to the electorate on 17 March 1992 was "Do you support the continuation of the reform process that the State President started on 2 February 1990 and which is aimed at a new constitution through negotiations?"
In the run-up to the referendum I told audiences that I was not asking for a blank cheque. I said that we had already reached broad consensus in the negotiations on a number of key points regarding the future constitution. These included a multi-party democratic system; a parliament comprising an upper and lower house; the necessity for a Bill of Rights; the separation of powers; the independence of the judiciary; proportional representation; a strong regional basis for the future dispensation; the maintenance of language and cultural rights; and community-based education for those who want it.
I said that there were a number of issues on which we were still seeking consensus. They included the prevention of domination and the abuse of power; effective protection of minorities; the protection of property rights; career security for public servants; a market-based free enterprise economy; maximum constitutional protection for regional and municipal government; and the dispersal of the powers that were then concentrated in the hands of the State President.