The Accommodation of Religious Diversity in South Africa Against the Background of the Centrality of the Equality Principle in the New Constitutional Dispensation
Journal of African Law, Vol. 45, No. 1, pp. 51-72, 2001
22 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2011
Date Written: December 15, 2011
South Africa is often characterized as a highly religious country since many South Africans consider their religious beliefs to be central to their lives. Although religion is widely believed to be a “non-issue”, these strong religious identifications might, however, play a role in the apparent ethnic resurgence. Consequently, the religious diversity of South Africa should be appropriately accommodated in the post-apartheid regime so as to prevent religion-based conflict.
It is generally known that the great majority of South Africans are Christian, but that Christian majority can be further subdivided, giving rise to many religious minorities. The Christian affiliations that one can distinguish are the African Independent Churches, the Dutch Reformed Church, the Roman-Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, the Zion Christian Church, the Anglican Church, the Apostolic Church, the Lutheran Church and the Presbyterian Church. Also the other world religions, like Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, are present (in relatively small numbers). The extensive religious diversity thus revealed underscores further the need for a proper accommodation of that diversity as part of the wider democratization-transformation process after apartheid.
This article is structured as follows. A brief review of relevant apartheid practices is followed by an assessment of the constitutional negotiations and the ensuing constitution (1996) in terms of the accommodation of religious diversity and its relation to the equality principle. Some attention is also given to the more or less explicit minority rights provisions. An overview and evaluation of the implementation of the various relevant constitutional provisions finally culminates in a conclusion.
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