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South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki Takes Oath of Office for Second Term - 2004-04-27

South African President Thabo Mbeki has been inaugurated for his second term in office. The ceremony took place as South Africa celebrates the 10th anniversary of the end of apartheid.

President Mbeki took the oath of office for the second time on the steps of the Union Buildings in Pretoria, a grand stone complex that for so long symbolized the old white-minority government. It was an occasion of great pomp and protocol.

The inauguration came on Freedom Day, a national holiday marking the country's first democratic elections, in 1994. On this, the 10th anniversary of South Africa's freedom, President Mbeki reminded the nation of where they had come from.

"For too long our country contained within it and represented much that is ugly and repulsive in human society," he said. "It was a place in which happiness could only break through in short, ephemeral bursts, briefly streaking across our skies like a dying comet. It was a place in which to be born black was to inherit a lifelong curse. It was a place in which to be born white was to carry a permanent burden of fear and hidden rage."

The president said that despite the fact that the country is only 10 years removed from an oppressive, racist dictatorship, it is now impossible to imagine a South Africa that is not democratic.

"Today we begin our second decade of democracy. We are convinced that what has been achieved during the first demonstrates that as Africans we can and will solve our problems," said President Mbeki. "We are equally certain that Africa will record new advances as she pursues the goal of a better life for all."

Scores of foreign dignitaries attended the inauguration, including the presidents of many African nations who supported the anti-apartheid struggle and high-level delegations from Western nations.

On the stage with Mr. Mbeki were his predecessors, former presidents Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, as well as his mother, Epainette Mbeki, and two other widows of the anti-apartheid struggle, Albertina Sisulu and Adelaide Tambo.

The president paid tribute to all those who built the new South Africa.

"We pledge to all the heroes and heroines who sacrificed for our freedom, as well as to you, our friends from the rest of the world, that we will never betray the trust you bestowed on us when you helped to give us the possibility to transform South Africa into a democratic, peaceful, non-racial, non-sexist, and prosperous country, committed to the noble vision of human solidarity," he said.

After his swearing-in, the president stood for a military parade. Then, along with an estimated 40,000 revelers on the south lawn of the Union Buildings, he danced to a massive music concert featuring some of South Africa's biggest stars.