By Associated Press Dec 22, 1993, 12:00am MST

The white-led Parliament overwhelmingly approved a new constitution Wednesday giving blacks and whites equal rights for the first time.

The document, vehemently opposed by pro-apartheid white groups, replaces a constitution that for generations denied the black majority the right to vote, hold political office or have any voice in national affairs.”Now, for the first time, the future holds the promise of a brighter tomorrow,” ANC President Nelson Mandela said in a written statement issued by ANC headquarters in Johannesburg. Mandela was en route to a Christmas vacation in the Bahamas.

As the vote – 237-45 – was tallied, the public gallery erupted with shouts of “Viva!” from fist-waving blacks. Police hustled one white protester from the gallery after he heckled lawmakers with shouts of “Treason!”

The constitution will go into effect as soon as it is signed by President F.W. de Klerk. No time was set, but no delay was expected.

De Klerk’s government and the African National Congress, the country’s main black group, heralded the approval of a charter worked out during two years of negotiations. Those talks began after de Klerk, acknowledging apartheid could not work, freed Mandela from his life prison term in 1990 and legalized black opposition groups.

Right-wing whites warned the constitution would cause a violent backlash.

“This constitution is a monster,” said the leader of the pro-apartheid Conservative Party, Ferdi Hartzenberg, whose supporters stood up in Parliament and sang the Afrikaner national anthem, Die Stem, just before the vote.

“Our liberation struggle will start and it will end in a success,” he said earlier.

A white lawmaker who is a member of the ANC acknowledged the potential for violence, saying it was the consequence of generations of racial discrimination. “Those who remain outside the settlement contained in this constitution are at most of nuisance value, and of course we can expect violence from fanatics within their ranks,” said Pierre Cronje. “But that is the price we have to pay for having nurtured and rewarded ethnic divisions and differences for so long.”

In addition to the Conservatives, several white lawmakers representing the Inkatha Freedom Party, an ANC rival, opposed the constitution.

The opposition groups, part of the anti-ANC Freedom Alliance, had sought changes that would weaken the powers of the central government, allow the possibility of a white homeland, or “volkstaat,” and preserve the powers of blacks in autonomous regions.