Mario Gaspare Oriani-Ambrosini

Member of Parliament
South Africa
Focus Area(s): 
Balancing the Central and Local
Daniel Scher
Country of Reform: 
South Africa
Cape Town
Place (Building/Street): 
South Africa
Date of Interview: 
Monday, February 15, 2010
Mario Gaspare Oriani-Ambrosini, a South African member of Parliament in the Inkatha Freedom Party, describes his role during the negotiation process among the different political parties to end apartheid and to form a new democratic state. Oriani-Ambrosini’s main task was to create his party’s constitution. The chief players at the negotiating table were the National Party and the African National Congress. While the Inkatha party’s key interest was to build a federal state, one with a robust system of checks and balances, Oriani-Ambrosini says the other two parties had collectively opted for a strong unitary state. But after the negotiations, the Inkatha party succeeded in its call for decentralization through the establishment of autonomous provinces, ensuring that its existence, functions and powers were secured within the constitutional principle. Despite this achievement, Oriani-Ambrosini laments that through the provincial legislation, provinces have become implementers of the national government’s policies. He says they lack self-empowerment and depend heavily on the national level.
Full Interview: 
Mario Gaspare Oriani-Ambrosinii Interview

At the time of this interview, Mario Gaspare Oriani-Ambrosini was a member of the South African Parliament in the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). He served on committees that dealt with public enterprises, economic development, trade and industry, and justice and constitutional development.  He was also a part of the Finance and Rules, Private Member Bills and the Constitutional Review Joint Committee. The Italian-born lawyer was trained at the Georgetown University Law Center in the U.S. He worked with the Philadelphia Constitution Foundation and Human Rights Advocates International in negotiating, drafting and formulating constitutions for a wide range of clients that included the Boris Yeltsin Commission in Russia. In 1991, he started working for Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his political party, the IFP. He became Buthelezi’s adviser from 1994 to 2004, the period when the prince was the minister of home affairs. Oriani-Ambrosini was also an adviser to the leader of the minority political party in Nelson Mandela's Government of National Unity. He was involved in reformulating the South African immigration system, formulating the second constitution that was produced by the Constitutional Assembly and drafting the constitution of KwaZulu-Natal in 1995. He retired from politics in 2004, but in 2009 he returned. Besides engaging in politics and constitutional law, Oriani-Ambrosini also worked as a commercial lawyer and businessman. In 2004, he reopened Ambrosini & Associates, a legal and business consultancy in the U.S.

Mario Gaspare Oriani-Ambrosini
customary law