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The P.C. constitution

Conservatives decry new pact's hostility to moral values

Whites in South Africa have known for two years they would never have majority status in the government again. But when National Party leader F.W. de Klerk pulled out of the Mandela government two weeks ago, they officially-and perhaps permanently-lost their place at the cabinet table.

The move by Mr. de Klerk came one day after passage of a permanent post-apartheid constitution by South Africa's Parliament. Mr. de Klerk was one of two deputy presidents in an interim unity government brought together after April 1994 elections swept Mr. Mandela and his African National Congress into power. The new constitution calls for unrestricted majority rule after 1999, and Mr. de Klerk, the last president under the apartheid system, called it "unnatural" to remain in a cabinet due in just a few years to become obsolete. He and six other National Party members will quit June 30, but his party will retain 99 seats in the 490-member parliament.

"We believe that the development of a strong and vigilant opposition is essential for the maintenance of promotion of genuine multi-party democracy," Mr. de Klerk said. "We have reached a natural watershed in the transformation of our society."

Once he has taken his place on the other side of the aisle, Mr. de Klerk and opposition party members will have ample work to resolve contentious issues raised by the adoption of the constitution. They are concerned about the failure to gain constitutional protection for single-language schools in which Afrikaner students, descendants of early Dutch settlers, could continue to study in their own language. But that is just the thin edge of a larger debate growing out of the Constitutional Assembly's effort to balance the preservation of democratic freedoms with correction for the mistakes in the country's race-ridden past.

The constitution's 140 pages echo at times the sensitivity and diversity movement, not the American Founding Fathers. "Everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice," the document reads. And the state "may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, color, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language, and birth."

The right to life is included in the constitution's key provisions, but so is "women's right to control reproduction."

Christian denominations in South Africa comprise three-fourths of the population. But efforts to accommodate African native religions with Eastern worship practices of the country's Asian immigrants give the constitution a decidedly humanistic bent. Teachings in the mainline Protestant denominations, particularly the liberal influence of Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, are also evident.

Mr. Tutu penned the foreword of a book of liturgies for homosexuals published last month. In it he blasted Christians who "shun" baptized homosexuals or call for them to remain celibate. In February he became the highest-ranking Anglican to call for the ordination of practicing homosexuals.

Last week Mr. de Klerk warned Mr. Mandela that the post-apartheid constitution lacked commitment both to fiscal discipline and moral values.

"It does not show enough appreciation that fiscal discipline and macro-economic stability are the keys to strong capital-account investment [and] sustained growth," he told an American Chamber of Commerce audience. "On issues which affect all South Africans, such as our moral and ethical basis, we are also deeply disturbed by some aspects of the new constitution," he said.

He said his party also would oppose the right to abortion and the abolition of the death penalty, adding, "We feel that if you look at the right to life, the emphasis should be on the protection of lives of unborn children as opposed to the ... lives of hardline criminals and murderers."

Mindy Belz

Mindy Belz

Mindy wrote WORLD Magazine's first cover story in 1986 and went on to serve as international editor, editor, and now senior editor. She has covered wars in Syria, Afganistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C. Follow her on Twitter @mcbelz.