The referendum in F.W. de Klerk's war of manoeuvre : an historical institutionalist account of the 1992 referendum
This study presents an original effort to explain referendum use through political science institutionalism and contributes to both the comparative referendum and institutionalist literatures, and to the political history of South Africa. Its source materials are numerous archival collections, newspapers and over 40 personal interviews. This study addresses two questions relating to F.W. de Klerk's use of the referendum mechanism in 1992. The first is why he used the mechanism, highlighting its role in the context of the early stages of his quest for a managed transition. Beyond the politics of the transition, the second question addressed is where he acquired the idea. The main argument is that de Klerk used the referendum to manage white public opinion to execute a swift transition. His intentions were challenged by a series of unplanned by-elections, which enabled the White conservative opposition to undermine his legitimacy to lead the transition. In sharp contrast to what the existing literature on referendums suggests, de Klerk's referendum pledge did not follow internal divisions in his National Party over the reform process. He in fact anticipated a right wing demand for a new general election, which he could not win, and used a referendum pledge to preclude this vote. The reason he was able to do so is that he was a key player in earlier efforts to reform Apartheid, under the leadership of P.W. Botha, his predecessor. As a result, he brought with him an experience and template that he applied to his reform process. Understanding where de Klerk got the idea from, therefore, requires that we appreciate Botha's earlier use of the referendum. Grasping Botha, in turn, demands that we analyse the decision, in 1960, to deploy a referendum on South Africa's declaration of a republic. This referendum was the outcome of intense historical struggles within the party over the republican issue. The second part of this study traces those struggles.