'We can and will solve our problems'

2004-04-27 11:50
Pretoria - South Africa's first 10 years of democracy have paved the way for solving many of the country's remaining problems in the next decade, President Thabo Mbeki said after his inauguration.

"We are convinced that what has been achieved during the first (decade of democracy) demonstrates that as Africans we can and will solve our problems," he told thousands who had gathered at the Union Buildings.

The work has begun, he said, to transform SA into a democratic, peaceful, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous country committed to the noble vision of human solidarity.

"That work will continue during our second decade of freedom. That struggle continues and victory is certain."

For too long, South Africa represented much that was ugly and repulsive in human society, Mbeki said.

It was a place in which to be born black was to inherit a lifelong curse, he said. To be born white was to carry a permanent burden of fear and hidden rage.

He lamented at length the evils associated with apartheid, including poverty, racism, sexism and the many lives lost in the struggle for equality.

What has been achieved to date would not have been possible without the majority of South Africans having opted for a path of national unity reconciliation rather than continued division.

'One another's keeper'

Nobody in South Africa today viewed democracy as a threat to their interests and their future, he said.

"We chose what seemed impossible because to have done otherwise would have condemned all our people, black and white, to a bloody and catastrophic conflict," Mbeki said. "We are proud that every day now, black and white South Africans discover that they are, after all, one another's keeper."

Where South Africa was in the past a terrible exemplar of racist bigotry, the country was now determined to testify to the possibility of building a stable non-racial society.

"We are greatly encouraged that our general elections a fortnight ago confirmed the determination of all our people, regardless of race, colour and ethnicity, to work together to build a South Africa defined by a common dream.

"Despite the fact that we are a mere ten years removed from the period of racist dictatorship, it is today impossible to imagine a South Africa that is not a democratic South Africa."

Mbeki also committed the country to strengthened ties with the rest of the continent and to ensuring the success of the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

Much of Tuesday's joy, he added, was tempered by the reality of a troubled world. He referred to ongoing violence in the Middle East, including Palestine, Israel, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, as well as recent acts of terrorism in Nairobi, Dar-es-Salaam, New York and Madrid.

As South Africa entered its second decade of freedom, it was certain the rest of the continent would record new advances in pursuing the goal of a better life for all, Mbeki said.

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