- On Tuesday, President Thabo Mbeki will be inaugurated for his second term, exactly ten years after Nelson Mandela's inauguration. Thus, South Africa's majority population looks back on ten years of democracy and progress - something that is to be marked by a large party for national and international officials, but also for ordinary citizens.
Pretoria, housing South Africa's government, is preparing the final details for the largest celebration in the country since Mr Mandela became South Africa's first democratically elected President on 27 April 1994. After re-inaugurating President Mbeki, officials will celebrate in Pretoria's Union Building while masses of South Africans are expected to gather and celebrate outside.
- This ceremony will involve over 6,000 guests among them Heads of State, international icons, diplomats and statesmen as well as an estimated crowd of at least 40,000 at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, according to government spokesperson Mdu Lembede. "There will be eight big screens on the grounds to provide visuals for the expected crowd," Mr Lembede added.
The guest list includes three South African Nobel peace laureates; ex-Presidents Mandela and F.W. de Klerk and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Senior officials, ministers and presidents from more than 100 countries will be arriving. The participants even include Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, despite that he reportedly had been refused to stay in two Pretoria luxury hotels.
For South Africa's ruling ANC party, the ceremony also marks ten years of political control in Africa's most powerful nation and renewed trust from a large majority of the population. The party and its leader, Mr Mbeki, are using the occasion to look back on what went right and what went wrong during the first decade of democracy in South Africa.
- When we convene to celebrate our 10th anniversary, we will also rejoice at the progress we have made to reduce poverty and give material hope to our people, President Mbeki told South Africans this week. Given the inheritance from the apartheid rule, the ANC of course had not yet managed to create a society of equal opportunities for all. Doubtlessly, "the process of the eradication of poverty" among black South Africans had begun, Mr Mbeki however emphasised.
Also the ANC-affiliated trade union COSATU agreed that the majority in South Africa, "especially workers and the poor, consider themselves better off" over the last ten years. "But while Freedom Day is a time to celebrate, it must also be an occasion to rededicate ourselves to solving the many problems that we have not solved in the first ten years of democracy," COSATU spokesman Patrick Craven said today.
The powerful trade union reminded the ANC of the "22 million South Africans who live in poverty and the 41 percent of the working population who are unemployed." The fruits of freedom also eluded "the millions who suffer from HIV/AIDS and other deadly diseases, many of which are diseases of poverty," Mr Craven noted.
South Africa not only celebrates the victory and progress of its majority population, but also the international context of these victories. An important reason for the 1994 power transition had been some 30 years of growing international pressure against the apartheid regime, which resulted in South Africa becoming "the pariah of the world," in President Mbeki's words.
- When we come together to celebrate our first decade of democracy, we will also rejoice at the progress that has been made to reintegrate South Africa within the world community of nations, Mr Mbeki said. Celebrations will also honour the many state leaders and anti-apartheid activists around the world that was solidary with the ANC and its cause before 1994.
While the large-scale, televised official celebrations are due to be held at the Union Building in Pretoria, festivities are planned around South Africa and around the world. In South Africa, there will be a live link up to over 100 big television screens mounted across the country and at Multi-Purpose Community Centres in both rural and urban areas. Internationally, former anti-apartheid activists are inviting to local celebrations, South Africa seminars and demonstrations.
- We are pleased to announce that after many months of hard work and swift planning, all systems and logistical preparations are almost complete to enable the nation to celebrate pride and dignity our achievements since 1994, and who we are and what we are becoming, says government spokesman Lembede.
Massive security presence is expected in Pretoria and at other sites of celebrations. The South African government has set aside a budget of US$ 13 million for the giant party, which is also expected to be a well-invested marketing of the South African brand abroad.
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