The government offered a model for a new political system Wednesday, proposing a two-chamber parliament that would allow some black rule but preserve substantial power for whites. The report by the President's Council, a body controlled by the governing National Party, could serve as the basis for the white-led government's bargaining position in planned negotiations on a new constitution.
President Fredrik de Klerk has called for negotiations with black and white opposition groups on a new constitution that would end apartheid and give the black majority national voting rights.
He also has spoken of a system of "checks and balances" in which all citizens have equal voting rights but the different branches of government hold power over each other to prevent domination by individuals or groups.
Under the model presented Wednesday, the two chambers of Parliament would have equal power, and major legislation would require approval from both.
One chamber would be elected by voters throughout the country with all citizens having an equal vote.
At present, most observers believe the African National Congress would get the most votes under such a system.
The second chamber would be set up on an ethnic or regional basis, the report said. Whites and other minorities would be assured a certain number of seats and would be able to exercise veto power on any major policy issue.
There was no immediate reaction from the ANC or other anti-apartheid organizations. However, they are certain to oppose a second chamber based on race. Most anti-apartheid groups demand a simple one-man, one-vote system with no special concessions to any minority group.
The President's Council's report also recommended a bill of rights and the establishment of a National Conflict Management System to resolve disputes.
The council is a presidential advisory commission.
Since May, the government and the ANC, the largest black opposition group, have been meeting to try to clear the way for full-scale constitutional negotiations.
De Klerk has promised to dismantle the apartheid system of segregation and white dominance. But he opposes a straight one-person, one-vote system, saying that would merely replace white domination with black domination.
During a visit to the Netherlands, de Klerk said Tuesday he would be willing to serve in a government headed by ANC leader Nelson Mandela.
"I'll serve under any president elected under the new constitution," de Klerk said.
However, he said any coalition between his National Party and the ANC was unlikely.
De Klerk has until 1994 to draw up a new constitution or face another election under the current constitution, which bars the 30-million blacks from voting.
Under apartheid, the 5-million whites dominate politics and the economy. The main institutions still segregated are neighborhoods, public schools and the politics. Many other facilities have been integrated in recent years.
Wednesday's report said partitioning South Africa into separate black and white countries was a "last resort, only to be contemplated when all other options have failed."
The report acknowledged problems with the government's decades-old plans to establish 10 "independent" black homelands. It said only one of the 10 was "economically viable," and none of the four that accepted nominal independence had established "legitimacy."
The homelands, which comprise 13 percent of South African territory, were designed to give blacks political rights in tribal territory but prevent their participation in national South African politics. Four have been declared independent, but only South Africa recognizes their sovereignty.