Mandela 'towers like a giant'

2004-05-10 17:45
Cape Town - The last apartheid president of South Africa, FW de Klerk, said his successor, Nelson Mandela, "towers out like a giant" in the transformation of South Africa.

Speaking before Mandela during a special joint sitting of the two houses of parliament - the national assembly and the national council of provinces - De Klerk said: "Today, in more than one sense of the word, is the day of Nelson Mandela, of Madiba."

De Klerk, then leader of the National Party, released Mandela and other political prisoners in 1990 and unbanned what is today''s ruling party, the African National Congress, and its alliance partner, the South African Communist Party.

The special sitting was held on Monday to celebrate 10 years of democracy and, in particular, the inauguration of Mandela on May 10 1994, as the first president of a nonracial democratic South Africa.

Mandela served just one term until 1999.

South Africa 'has become an inspiration'

In honouring Mandela, De Klerk said: "To a man who towers out like a giant in this transformation (of South Africa).

"To a man who has shown to all of us what it means to really build reconciliation. We honour you, sir, on this day."

In his speech, Mandela said that in a cynical world South Africa had become an inspiration to many.

He was referring to the country and its progress in the past decade towards stable democracy, but the words could well be used to describe himself and former president F W de Klerk, who had both been invited to address the session.

When Mandela rose to speak, MPs and guests leapt to their feet to clap, cheer and whistle the man who, more than any other, championed and led the change to democracy in South Africa.

Mandela said: "Merely observing this parliament inspires national pride and confidence.

"We, the people of South Africa, the preamble to our constitution states, believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.

In the second decade of democracy, he hoped the past would inspire South Africans to celebrate "our own demonstration of the capacity of human beings to progress, to go forward, to improve, to do better.

'Human beings who are prepared to trust'

"Let us never be unmindful of the terrible past from which we come - that memory not as a means to keep us shackled to the past in a negative manner, but rather as a joyous reminder of how far we have come and how much we have achieved."

Mandela said there was reason for despair in the world as leading democracies manipulated multilateral bodies to the disadvantage and suffering of the poorer developing nations.

"We signal that good can be achieved among human beings who are prepared to trust, prepared in the goodness of people," he said.

As the two men left the hall, with Mandela holding on to De Klerk's right arm for support, ANC members rose from their seats and sang Show us the Way to Freedom. - I-Net Bridge(News24)/Sapa


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