9 May 2009
Newly inaugurated South African President Jacob Zuma says his administration will stay true to the course of nation-building and reconciliation set by former president Nelson Mandela.
Delivering his inaugural speech at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Saturday, exactly 15 years from the day Mandela was elected South Africa’s first democratic president, Zuma said Mandela had healed the country’s wounds and firmly it as the “rainbow nation”.
Mandela had “made reconciliation the central theme of his term of office,” Zuma said. “We will not deviate from that nation-building task. Thank you Madiba, for showing us the way.”
Zuma hinted that this would be the theme of his presidency when, after being elected President in Parliament in Cape Town on Wednesday, he said: “As President of the Republic, I will do my best to lead the country towards the realisation of Madiba’s vision of a truly non-sexist, non-racial South Africa, united in its diversity.
“With the support of my organisation the ANC, as well as all South Africans, I hope to lead the country on a path of friendship, cooperation, harmony, unity and faster change.”
Mandela arrived at the Union Buildings earlier on Saturday wearing a heavy black overcoat and black-and-white shirt, aided by his wife Graca Machel.
When Zuma arrived on the main stage set up for his inauguration, he got down on his knees to address Mandela as an elder.
He also embraced Thabo Mbeki and his wife Zanele and, in his inauguration speech, paid tribute to the former president who, in 2005, fired him as deputy president of the country.
Zuma said Mbeki had taken South Africa forward as a true statesman, while making a massive contribution to strengthening its democracy, economic growth and development.
Mbeki “made our country an integral part of the continent and worked tirelessly for an African rebirth,” Zuma said. “Through his leadership, South Africa’s stature grew on the continent and globally.”
Zuma also acknowledged South Africa’s former second deputy president, FW de Klerk, who worked with Mandela in the resolution of the apartheid conflict and participated in shaping a new South Africa.
Finally, Zuma acknowledged outgoing President Kgalema Motlanthe, describing him as his friend, comrade and brother.
He said Motlanthe – who took over as President last year, when Mbeki stepped down – had brought calm, stability and certainty to the government of the country during a period of great anxiety.