South Africa ends white rule: Approval of interim constitution prepares way for multi-racial democracy

THREE centuries of white rule in South Africa ended yesterday as parliament approved a new interim constitution that will usher in a multi-racial democracy in April.

Cries of amandla (power) from five white African National Congress MPs greeted passage of the 223-page Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Bill in the segregated tri-cameral parliament, while Conservative Party MPs shouted 'traitor' towards the government benches and rose to sing the Afrikaner national anthem, Die Stem (The Call).

By approving the measure, the fruit of two years of negotiations between President F W de Klerk's National Party government and the ANC and 19 smaller parties, parliament effectively voted itself out of 83 years of existence. But its future remained unclear, since it was likely to be recalled into session late next month to consider new amendments to appease conservative critics of the transition to democracy.

The new constitution represented a personal victory for the ANC president, Nelson Mandela who, together with the late Oliver Tambo, led the 81-year-old Congress, Africa's oldest liberation movement, into a largely unsuccessful armed struggle in 1961 and spent a quarter of a century in jail for his anti-apartheid activities before President de Klerk freed him on 11 February 1990. The two former adversaries jointly received this year's Nobel Peace prize.

'Now, for the first time, the future holds the promise of a brighter tomorrow,' Mr Mandela, who was en route to a Christmas vacation in the Bahamas, said in a statement issued by ANC headquarters in Johannesburg. '1994 must . . . be the year in which all South Africans, regardless of race, creed or gender, must take hands and work together to bring an end to the terrible violence that is tearing our country apart.'

The new constitution, which contains a bill of rights and a separation of executive, judicial and legislative powers, will give the black majority an equal share in government for the first time since Europeans began arriving on South Africa's shores 400 years ago.

Parliament's vote yesterday was somewhat anti-climatic after Tuesday night's decision by the government and the ANC to push back by one month the deadline for the conservative Freedom Alliance to accept the constitution and agree to participate in general elections on 27 April. 'The process never stops - that you must remember,' said the government's top negotiator, Roelf Meyer.

Approval of the constitution did not remove the Alliance's threat to a smooth transition to multi-racial government. The Alliance, an uneasy coalition of far-right Afrikaner groups, including the armed neo-Nazi Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging movement, and black leaders of South Africa's semi- autonomous 'homelands', has criticised the interim constitution for its alleged failure to devolve power to the provinces.

One of the chief components of the Alliance, the Afrikaner Volksfront, has held parallel negotiations with the ANC, which is widely expected to win the April polls, on a proposal to set up a white Afrikaner homeland known as the volkstaat.

A 'strategic interim agreement' on the issue drawn up by the ANC and the Volksfront was left unsigned on Tuesday after talks between the government, the ANC and the Alliance negotiators in Cape Town failed to reach agreement on proposed amendments to the constitution. Another important Alliance player, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's mainly Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party, has accused the government and the ANC of planning to destroy his KwaZulu government centred in the eastern province of Natal.

Both Inkatha and the Volksfront have threatened to resort to armed violence if their demands are not met. The government and the ANC, the prime movers of the new constitution, have demanded that the Alliance commit itself to rejoining the democratic process and agree to contest the April elections once agreement is reached on their amendments.

The Alliance's proposals include the scrapping of the proposed one-ballot system for the polls in favour of two ballots - one for regional and one for national governments - as well as greater powers for provincial governments.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Two christmas trees ,Moonbeam (2L), Moonchester (2R) and Santa Claus outside the Etihad Stadium
footballAll the action from today's games
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas