Speaking at the event, Motlanthe said the beam of light will be projected into Johannesburg’s sky every night as a visible reminder of the country’s democracy.
He said the lighting of the Eternal Flame of Democracy was done with the intention to dispel the darkness that once imprisoned the nation.
“Experience instructs us to hold dear our democratic achievements because the opposite of democracy is oppression, social conflict and instability, among others.
“All of us should therefore hold on firmly to this Eternal Flame of Democracy as we continue to cultivate conditions that will fertilise democracy, embedding it into our political culture,” said Motlanthe.
The Deputy President then switched focus to the relationship between the executive, judiciary and legislature, and the transformation that has since taken place in these institutions.
“The key challenge that faced us as a new democracy has been the need to transform these arms of the State to accord with the vision of a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and just society. On the other hand, our democracy needed a well-functioning judiciary, executive and legislature to drive societal transformation.”
Also speaking at the event was Constitution Hill Trust Chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa, who said the placement of the flame was a significant and symbolic threshold between the incarceration that was inherent in life under apartheid, and the hard-won freedoms that were the foundation of South African life today.
“When we stood in the sun in front of Parliament 15 years ago to celebrate the adoption of our new democratic Constitution, we were a country united. The writing of the Constitution, which saw a politically diverse body of former enemies come together, has become an international reference point in law making and an example of what participatory democracy should be,” said Ramaphosa.
As part of the commemoration, the Constitution Hill Trust has also commissioned the book ‘One Law, One Nation’.
The book charts the story of the long fight for constitutional rights in South Africa, and the complexity and obstacles that faced the constitution making process after 1990. Using previously unseen archival, photographic and interview material, including Mandela’s handwritten notes from the negotiation process, the book offers first-hand perspectives of the hidden history of the development of the South African Constitution.
The book is available at bookstores.
The trust has also mounted an exhibition in the foyer of the Constitutional Court from 12 December 2011 to April 2012, which will display for the first time, each of the five constitutions adopted in South Africa’s history.
The final signed copy of the 1996 Constitution, which has never before been on display, will take pride of place directly outside the Constitutional Court chamber.
The second part of the exhibition will be mounted in the Constitutional Court’s art gallery and will lead the viewer along 15 steps in the story of the development of the final Constitution.