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Asymmetry in the Federal Systems – Constitutional Arrangements in South Africa

Author(s): Dirk J. Brand

Journal: European Diversity and Autonomy Papers - EDAP
ISSN 1827-8361

Issue: 01;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2008;
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Keywords: Asymmetry | Diversity | Languages | Provincial constitution | Zulu King | Constitutional asymmetry | Constitutional principles

Asymmetry is characteristic of federal systems of government in the world, although the nature and extent of the asymmetry differs from one system to another. A distinction could be made between political asymmetry and constitutional asymmetry, which could be structured in different ways. The notion of asymmetry featured in the constitutional negotiation process in the nineties in South Africa. During the final stage of negotiations a political compromise was reached to have a more inclusive process, which opened the door for some form of constitutional asymmetry. The accommodation of cultural and regional diversity influenced the particular form and scope of asymmetry created by the Constitution. Two examples of how the constitutional asymmetry is utilised in practice is the adoption of the Western Cape Constitution, which also created own institutions particular to the Western Cape; and the recognition of the Zulu Monarch by the KwaZulu–Natal Provincial Government. This is done by way of legislation, specific budget allocations and special functions such as the opening of the KwaZulu–Natal Provincial Legislature. In a country with much diversity, such as South Africa, it is appropriate to accommodate diversity by way of some form of constitutional asymmetry.
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