In all its diversity, Christianity has been a powerful religious force in South African life. Prior to the first democratic election in 1994, for example, campaign advertising suggested the prominence of Christian discourse in South Africa. In the run-up to the election, the African National Congress issued a full-page advertisement, supported by the signatures of Christian clergy, proclaiming the gospel as the only framework for establishing full political inclusion and guaranteeing social justice in South Africa. The National Party, with a campaign based on the testimony of ordinary people, occasionally appealed to Christian sentiment. One advertisement quoted the Reverend Macfarlane Phenethi: "The NP apologised. As a Christian I accept that. The NP is now the party for me." While the ANC called for Christian justice, therefore, the National Party appealed for Christian mercy that would forgive its implication in the brutal history of apartheid.
Other political parties joined the Christian chorus. The African Christian Democratic Party, declaring that "It's time to do it God's way," asserted that it was the only party that could unify the nation because it upheld Christian principles as the foundation for a just society. The right-wing Freedom Front claimed to represent the interests of concerned Christians in defending Christian values against the evils of communism. The Inkatha Freedom Party, however, must receive the award for creative Christian advertising. During its oneweek campaign for the election, Inkatha invoked Matthew 20:16 as a mixed message that fused its last-minute entry into the campaign, and its ad-hoc position at the bottom of the ballot paper, into a single biblical promise of apocalyptic redemption--"So the last shall be first."
At the very least, these examples of religious campaign advertising revealed the ways in which competing political groupings could make conflict-