The Postscript

“This Constitution builds a historical bridge between the past and a deeply divided society that was characterised by discord, conflict, unprecedented suffering and injustice, and a future which is established on the acknowledgement of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence as well as development opportunities for all South Africans, regardless of colour, race, creed or sex.

The aim for national unity, the welfare of all South African citizens, and peace requires reconciliation between the people of South Africa and the social restructuring of society.

The acceptance of this Constitution creates a solid foundation for the people of South Africa to bridge the divisions and discord of the past that had led to severe violations of human rights, the breaking of the principles of humaneness during violent conflict and a legacy of hate, fear, guilt and revenge. The opportunity now presents itself to put it right on the basis that there is a need for understanding and not for a thirst for revenge, a need for recovery and not for retribution, a need for ubuntu and not for victimisation.

In order to promote this reconciliation and restructuring, amnesty has to be granted with regard to acts, omissions and misdemeanours connected to political aims and that was perpetrated in the course of the conflict of the past. To this end, Parliament must adopt a law in terms of this Constitution which will determine a firm cut-off date, being a date after 8 October 1990 and prior to 6 December 1993, in which provision is made for mechanisms, measures and procedures, including tribunals, if necessary, through which such amnesty should be dealt with at any time after the passing of the law. With this Constitution, and the associated obligations, we, the people of South Africa come to meet a new chapter in the history of our country. [Own highlighting]”

Postscript of the Interim

During negotiations, the question had to be answered: How would South Africa deal with its past? Would it be talked about, or would we try and ignore it and just push ahead? It was clear that it could not be ignored. However, you also could not deal with it in a spirit of revenge.

When the Epilogue to the Interim Constitution was accepted in a late stage of the negotiations in 1993, many breathed a sigh of relief. The relief was that the truth now would come to the fore in an orderly way and not in a spirit of revenge. The Postscript made it possible for many to support the 1994 democratic elections as well as the subsequent handing over of power.

A country has to know its history. We have wounded one another and the time has come to settle old divisions. It was the beginning of a path through the past South Africa had to take in order to arrive at the future.

The originators of the Interim Constitution realised that the transition to a democratic order would only be possible if there was a commitment to truth, justice, reconciliation and national unity. It was realised, too, that certain aspects of the past could not be put right, and that sometimes if would be necessary just to keep on walking on the new road ahead. This is the reason why the Epilogue in the Transitional Constitution was accepted under the headline: National Unity and Reconciliation after the NP government and the ANC had come to an agreement about it.

This paved the way for Parliament to pass the necessary legislation in terms of which the TRC was brought about. The instruction was to paint as complete a picture as possible of the gross human rights violations that had taken place since the Sharpeville tragedy on 21 March 1960 when protestors were shot at and 69 people had died tragically.

Leon Wessels

then Cabinet Minister and NP negotiator at the MPNP


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