Eclectic mix to SA freedom

2004-04-27 18:24
Pretoria - Traditional Zulu outfits with feathered plumages mixed with rhythm and blues and rock music as tens of thousands of South Africa's diverse people together feted a decade of freedom on Tuesday.

The revellers gathered at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, starting the day by witnessing the inauguration of President Thabo Mbeki for a second and final five-year term, but the giant concert afterwards was when celebrations really started.

Crowds packed the lower grounds of the presidential offices and sang and danced to some of the biggest names in music including jazz giant Hugh Masekela and rhythm and blues artist Danny K and to the sounds of kwaito (indigenous hip-hop) and traditional music.

Many in the crowd greeted the artists with "Viva South Africa, viva!" and "Amandla!" (Power) - liberation-era slogans.

Danny K included in his repertoire a hit by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the first South African group to win a Grammy in 1987, sending the crowd into a frenzy as it evoked the struggle of the grim past.

The song was called "Selalamaweni", Zulu for "We sleep (hide) under the ground."

Some of the concert-goers wore T-shirts proclaiming "A people united for a better South Africa and a better world." Others tucked miniature flags into their caps.

Violet Madidimalo said her "heart is very, very happy today."

"There is no comparison between then and now," she said.

The day started with the inauguration of Mbeki at a stylish ceremony marked by drums and prayers and a military display including a dazzling flypast.

A cultural programme reflected the country's multi-racial diversity, replete with African and Indian dances and a brass band.

Joyce Seroke, chairperson of the Commission on Gender Equality, was one of the select guests, including 45 heads of state and government, who witnessed Mbeki's swearing in at the amphitheatre of the Union Buildings.

She mirrored a popular sentiment that the mood though festive, was tinged with a maturity that was not there ten years ago when Nelson Mandela took over as the country's first black president.

"We are elated. This is different from 1994 because then there was just euphoria. But this time round it was the first time that people voted because they believe their vote can improve the country and they can make the government more accountable," she said.

Mbeki's inauguration ceremony started with celebratory songs and a film on the apartheid struggle shown on giant television screens that opened with black-and-white footage of race riots and protesters holding up banners that read "Freedom in my lifetime."

It then showed the 1990 release of apartheid icon Mandela from 27 years in prison and the return of ANC heavyweight Oliver Tambo from exile.

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