Accessibility links

Former S. African Presidents Mark 10-Year Anniversary of Mandela Inauguration - 2004-05-10

Former South African presidents Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk have made special addresses to the country's parliament on the 10th anniversary of Mr. Mandela's inauguration. Mr. Mandela slammed Britain and the United States for the war in Iraq, but said a democratic South Africa stands as a beacon of hope for the world.

Parliament had to bend its own rules to allow the special address by the two former presidents, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize for their work in shepherding South Africa through its transition to democracy.

Now age 85 and visibly frail, Mr. Mandela said it is likely to be the last time he speaks in the legislature.

He issued a rebuke to the United States and Britain over the war in Iraq. Mr. Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison under the apartheid regime, referred to the uproar over mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners.

"We live in a world where there is enough reason for cynicism and despair," he said. "We watch as two of the leading democracies, two leading nations of the free world, get involved in a war that the United Nations did not sanction. We look on with horror as reports surface of terrible abuses against the dignity of human beings held captive by invading forces in their own country."

Turning to his own country, Mr. Mandela said South Africans can be rightly proud of what they have achieved. Historical enemies, he said, negotiated a peaceful transition, and the nation has built a stable and progressive democracy.

"In a cynical world, we have become an inspiration to many," Mr. Mandela said. "We signal that good can be achieved amongst human beings who are prepared to trust, prepared to believe in the goodness of people."

The man who presided over the last apartheid government a decade ago warmly praised the progress South Africans have made in the 10 years since then. Former president F.W. de Klerk said the new government has done a great deal to improve people's daily lives.

Mr. de Klerk urged South Africans to work together in meeting the challenges of their second decade of freedom.

"All South Africans must now join hands to tackle economic and social transformation, just as we joined hands 14 years ago to tackle the constitutional transformation of our country," he said.

The two former presidents agreed that continued inequality, poverty, unemployment, and AIDS remain major challenges for South Africa's future. Mr. Mandela said democracy must bring, what he called, material fruits to all, especially to the poor, marginalized and vulnerable.