Commonwealth Election Reports

2310-1512 (online)
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Commonwealth Election Reports, the reports of Commonwealth Observer Groups, Missions or Expert Teams, are independently prepared by the team members as a contribution to the democracy and consensus-building in Commonwealth countries.

The End of Apartheid

The End of Apartheid

The Report of the Commonwealth Observer Group to the South Africa Elections, 26–29 April 1994 You do not have access to this content

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Commonwealth Observer Group
01 June 1994
9781848595170 (PDF)
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  • Introduction

    At their last meeting in Cyprus in October 1993, Commonwealth Heads of Government recognised the historic significance of these National and Provincial Elections in South Africa, and agreed that a ‘sizeable international observer presence would be indispensable if confidence in the process was to be assured and the people of South Africa enabled to cast a valid ballot’. They saw a Commonwealth election observer mission as an important component of this wider international presence. The Commonwealth Observer Group to South Africa (COGSA) was consequently established by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, following an invitation from the Transitional Executive Council (TEC) of South Africa.

  • Political Background

    South Africa's first non-racial elections were the culmination of a long and bitter political struggle for freedom within South Africa, and a sustained campaign against apartheid internationally. This struggle moved into a decisive phase in February 1990 with the release of African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela and the lifting of the ban on key political organisations by State President F W de Klerk.

  • Legal Framework

    The constitution and other legal structures supporting the apartheid regime in South Africa prohibited free political association by the majority of South Africans and denied them the franchise. Free and fair multi-party, non-racial elections were impossible under such conditions and so an entirely new legal environment had to be created.

  • Preparations for the Elections

    The preparations for South Africa's first non-racial multi-party elections were governed by the highly complex legal structures and electoral regulations put in place to deliver free and fair elections. These complexities reflected decades of deep suspicion emanating from South Africa's traumatised political history, including the development of parallel traditional loyalties and systems of government especially in KwaZulu/Natal. Other factors, such as violence and intimidation and the fear among minority ethnic groups of majority domination hindered the timely preparation of some significant aspects of the election process.

  • Watching the Watchers: The Role of the Media

    We quickly became aware that the South African media, and particularly the huge state-owned broadcast media, had undergone considerable change. During the election period, not only was it subject to an unprecedented degree of scrutiny and regulation, but it undertook with enthusiasm a creative and highly constructive role in facilitating free political debate, promoting voter education, and encouraging democratic freedoms, including a sense of fair play among the various parties.

  • On the Road to a New Future: The Campaign

    The campaign period began in January 1994 when the major political parties launched their manifestos. Against the historical background of the conflict in South Africa, the political campaign, particularly in its early days, was often marred by violence and intimidation stemming from political intolerance. A Report of the Goldstone Commission also confirmed earlier allegations by the press and other quarters that part of the violence was orchestrated by a ‘third force’ consisting of elements of the right-wing of South Africa's political spectrum.

  • A Celebration of Freedom: The Poll and the counts

    It seemed less an election and more a celebration of freedom as millions of South Africans of all races patiently stood in line, many for long hours, on the first day of general voting on 27 April 1994. From before dawn huge crowds, determined and disciplined, formed outside many voting stations. The expectancy was palpable, as people waited for the daybreak which was to usher in freedom and the final demise of apartheid.

  • A Liberation Election: Summary of Conclusions

    The Commonwealth Observer Group wholeheartedly congratulates the people of South Africa on their achievement in bringing about a fully democratic and non-racial Government.

  • Acknowledgements and Annexes
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