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Plan to change Constitution disappoints S. Africa blacks

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In a move akin to launching a trial balloon that immediately turns leaden, the South African government has released proposals for changes in this country's Constitution that have met immediate condemnation.

Criticism, moreover, has come not only from the white opposition in Parliament, but also from even the most moderate black spokesmen.

A government commission has recommended that South Africa -- a country in which 84 percent of the population is not white -- should continue to be governed primarily by its white minority. The black majority, along with Indians, Coloreds (people of mixed race), and Chinese, would be represented through purely advisory committees. The South African Parliament, meanwhile, would continue as an all-white body.

"Instead of abolishing apartheid, they are entrenching it even further," declared Cedric Phatudi, head of the Lebowa "homeland" (tribal reserve) and one of the most moderate of black political figures here.

Apartheid, this country's complex system of political, economic, and social segregation, undoubtedly will be furthered in some respects by the proposals mooted by the Commission of Inquiry on the Constitution.

In its interim report, the commission, headed by Interior Minister Alwyn Schlebusch, recommends:

* Abolition of South Africa's 20-member Senate, an appointed body.

* Expansion of the House of Assembly -- at present an elected chamber -- by an additional 20 members, to be nominated by leaders of political parties.

* Creation of a state president's council, to include whites, Coloreds, Indians, and Chinese, to "advise the state president on any matter."

* Establishment of a council consisting of black South African citizens to "consult" with the state president's council.

The proposals are a slight deviation from past policies of the ruling National Party, in that they concede the need for consultation with other racial groups in the running of the country.


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