Many people and organisations were making their voices heard on the streets of South Africa at this time, marching to Parliament to present their petitions to the Constitutional Assembly. The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) and the Christian Voice organised a protest march in a campaign to give the Constitution an overtly Christian character. Bearing placards decrying a godless state, thousands of fervent Christians shouted, ‘Don’t forget Jesus,’ as they delivered their memorandum. Without God’s authority, Ramaphosa was told, the Constitution would not have any legitimacy. Church leaders said they feared that the government was prejudiced against Christianity because of the bias towards the religion during the apartheid era. They criticised the ‘flood of pornography’ entering the country, the repeal of censorship laws and the possibility of abortion on demand being legalised.

Holding a Bible in his hand, Ramaphosa responded that he was a Christian himself, as were many of the elected representatives then drafting the Constitution. He denied there was any move to ban religion or ‘do away with God’, saying the Constitution being drafted went further than many others in protecting freedom of religious belief and the right to worship. However, in a democracy these rights had to be afforded equally to other religions such as the Islamic and Jewish faiths. He assured the marchers that the CA would pay serious attention to their concerns. 

The ACDP would like to see a Constitution that is the supreme law of the land, a Constitution that protects not only the rights of individuals but also those of unborn children. The ACDP wishes to see a Constitution that will be legitimate, enduring and that upholds biblical, family and traditional values.

Rev K.R Meshoe

then African Christian Democratic Party member of the Constitutional Assembly

The Equality Foundation, a national coalition of gay and lesbian organisations, also reacted strongly to a perceived attack from the ACDP.

The (Interim) Constitution promises to discard the past of exclusion and irrational prejudice and to build a future based on freedom and equality for all … nobody was excluded from that vision. The rich, the poor, men and women, black and white, people of differing social and ethnic backgrounds, the young and the old, heterosexuals, gays and lesbians – we all joined hands in solemnly promising to rid ourselves of intolerance, hatred and disrespect for each other. It would be a travesty if apartheid in any form resurfaced in the formative years of the new South Africa.

Kevin Botha

Then spokesperson for The Equality Foundation


Audio Visual

President Mandela gives his State of the Nation address in Parliament. Mandela ends his address with the words, “Let us all get down to work”.

“We must construct that people-centred society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political and the human rights of all our citizens.”– President Mandela, extract from State of the Nation Address, 24 May 1994

President Nelson Mandela announces his cabinet. It includes members of the African National Congress, National Party and Inkatha Freedom Party.

“There was pride in serving in the first democratic government in South Africa, and then the additional pride of serving under the iconic leadership of Nelson Mandela … [He] represented the hopes of not just our country, but of oppressed, marginalised and the poor in the world.”– Jay Naidoo, then Minister of RDP housing
“We place our vision of a new constitutional order for South Africa on the table not as conquerors, prescribing to the conquered. We speak as fellow citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on justice for all.”– President Nelson Mandela, 10 May 1994