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Communiqué arising from a Lawyers` Conference on the Role of Law in a Society in Transition

4 February 1989

The participants unanimously agreed to the following Communiqué:

A conference to discuss the role of law in a society in transition was held in Harare, Zimbabwe from 31 January to 4 February 1989. The conference attracted thirty individual lawyers from South Africa, particularly from the Afrikaans-speaking community, members of the ANC Department of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, leaders of the ANC as well as Zimbabwean lawyers.

The conference was officially opened by the Zimbabwean Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa, who said that it would offer the opportunity for lawyers who are frequently involved in fundamental decision-making to confront, in advance, major problems facing South Africa, such as its transition from apartheid.

The participants agreed that South Africa was in the grip of a multi-faceted crisis, which extends to its legal and constitutional system. It was further agreed that the legal community has a responsibility to participate in bringing about an end to the system of apartheid, which is the fundamental cause of the crisis. The conference recognised that lawyers have an added responsibility to counter the use of the legal system, and in particular the security measures, in order to entrench apartheid.

The conference addressed a wide range of issues pertaining to the role of law before as well as after the beginning of the transition period from apartheid to post-apartheid South Africa. The high point of the conference was the consensus reached on the need for a new constitutional order, a justiciable bill of rights and an independent judiciary.

Recognising that the ANC represents a substantial constituency within South Africa, and must therefore essentially be included in the proceedings for change, the participants commended the ANC for putting forward for discussion its draft Constitutional Guidelines for a democratic South Africa. These Guidelines were indispensable in reaching the consensus reached.

Emphasis was put on the need for the creation of a united, democratic and nonracial state predicated upon a universal franchise and a multi-party system. The question of creation and equitable distribution of wealth as well as the non-racial re-distribution of land was a subject of intense discussion. Consensus was reached that there was a need to create conditions in which all South Africans would enjoy full and equal political, economic, social and cultural rights.

The conference stressed the urgency for a negotiated end to apartheid and recognised as an undeniable fact the stature and vital role of the ANC in this

process. The participants emphasised that the unbanning of the ANC and other political organisations and persons, the release of all political prisoners, the re~urn of all exiles and the simultaneous cessation of all violence by the state and all other parties involved, are essential in this regard.

The participants expressed their profound gratitude to the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for South Africa (Idasa), the Cold Comfort Farm Trust, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the Faculty of Law of the University of Zimbabwe for facilitating the conference.