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South African President Mbeki Wins Second Term - 2004-04-23


South Africa's third democratically-elected parliament has been sworn in and has re-elected President Thabo Mbeki to his second term.

About 30 members of parliament from the ruling African National Congress literally danced down the steps of the parliament building after the swearing-in ceremony. Many of them have been installed in the National Assembly for the first time.

The mood was joyful. Back inside later in the day, there was much laughter and applause as the lawmakers re-elected President Mbeki for a second term. He was the only person nominated for the job.

Constitutional Court Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson made it official.

"I accordingly declare the honorable Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki duly elected as the president of the Republic of South Africa," he announced.

Opposition parties temporarily put aside their rivalry with the ANC to wish Mr. Mbeki and his new government the best of luck. Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon said all of the parties have the same goals and dreams for a better South Africa.

"We will, and we do sometimes disagree with the ANC on how these challenges should be met," said Mr. Leon. "We will and we do occasionally oppose those policies that we believe are more likely to harm the people than help them. And yet we can and we will work together, government and opposition. We are rivals, not enemies."

In his brief remarks at the end of the first parliamentary session, President Mbeki told lawmakers they have a responsibility to work together for the people who elected them. He said 10 years after the end of apartheid, too many South Africans are still living in poverty and battling disease and crime. But still, he said millions of them took the trouble to go to the polls. "This was both a vote of confidence in our democratic system, and a message to all of us here of the expectations of the masses of our people that the legislatures and governments they would vote for would do everything necessary further to change their lives for the better," said president Mbeki."

The election gave the ANC more than two-thirds of the seats in parliament, its largest majority ever.

Mr. Mbeki will be inaugurated for his second term in Pretoria on Tuesday, the 10th anniversary of South Africa's first democratic elections.