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South Africa: 1) Treatment of East Indians by the government; 2) Do they have the right to vote? 3) Do they have representation in Parliament? 4) Information on the tri-cameral parliament

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 January 1990
Citation / Document Symbol ZAF3607
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, South Africa: 1) Treatment of East Indians by the government; 2) Do they have the right to vote? 3) Do they have representation in Parliament? 4) Information on the tri-cameral parliament, 1 January 1990, ZAF3607, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


1) Please find attached a previous response dated 3 August 1989 and its attachments dealing with racial segregation and representation in South Africa. Also attached, please find a copy of For their triumphs & for their tears, (London: International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa, 1985), pp. 124-127, which describes the racial classification and its general legal implications in South Africa.

A recent change affecting the contents of the attached response concerns residence, which until November 1989 was restricted to different areas according to racial classification. In late November 1989 the South African government reportedly designated four integrated suburbs where "all races would be able to live together legally ... for the first time in almost 40 years of residential apartheid". [ "Pretoria announces integrated suburbs", in The Globe and Mail, 25 November 1989, p. A21.] The quoted report also mentions the desegregation of the country's beaches and the opening of certain towns' streets to traders of different races.

2 & 3) As stated in the attachments, East Indians (who are considered Asians under the racial classification system of South Africa) do have a right to vote and legal representation in the House of Delegates, which forms part of the tri-cameral parliament. See answer 4 for more details.

4) Please find attached a copy of the central sections of pages 2578-2579 of The Europa Year Book 1989, (London: Europa Publications, 1989), which describes the composition of the tri-cameral parliament of South Africa. The document also names the ministers' councils separated by house of parliament and area of responsibility of each council. Please refer also to the attached pages of Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988, (Washington: U.S. Department of State, 1989), which describe the responsibilities and limitations of parliament and each of its houses. As described in that document, the House of Assembly is reserved for "Whites" and their affairs, the House of Representatives is composed of "Coloured" representatives and deals mostly with legislation affecting its racial community, while the House of Delegates belongs to the "Asian" community and is responsible for its racial group's affairs. However, some issues may be presented for discussion and decision to each or all houses of parliament.

Parliamentary elections for the three houses were held on 6 September 1989. In the predominant House of Assembly the National Party continued to hold a majority, although the anti-apartheid Democratic Party and the Conservative Party reportedly made significant gains in the number of seats in comparison with the previous election. [ "Ruling party's majority slashed in S. African vote", in The Globe and Mail, 7 September 1989, p. A1.] No political party-breakdown of the results for the other houses could be found among the sources currently available to the IRBDC. According to one report, [ Ibid.] in some "Coloured" and "Asian" areas only a small percentage of voters participated in the elections. The same source adds that election-day conflicts occurred at the "Coloured" and "Asian" voting stations as black leaders called for a boycott of these racial denominations' elections.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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