72 days that shaped South Africa (11)

Just how “miraculous” was South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy? How close did the country really come to civil war?

Check out our press clipping snapshots of the 72 days leading up to Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as SA’s first democratically elected President – and see how heavily the odds were stacked against “the rainbow nation”.

9 MAY 1994

World’s rich and powerful arrive in SA

A who’s who of the world has arrived in South Africa for tomorrow’s inauguration of president-elect Nelson Mandela.
Prince Philip of Britain, United Nations secretary-general Dr Boutros Boutros-Ghali, United States Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his deputy Joshua Nkomo are among those already in the country.
And today, the flow of dignitaries continued with the arrival of delegations from the Middle East and Far East.
The Star, Monday 9 May 1994

New South Africa has landed

Cape Town – Yesterday morning’s Flight SA373 from Johannesburg was not ordinary. It carried, along with a smattering of everyday passengers, a hefty chunk of South Africa’s first ever nonracial Parliament.
In years gone by, flights to Cape Town on the eve of parliamentary sittings were also filled with MPs. But in those days, the overwhelming majority were white.
The Star, Monday 9 May 1994

10 MAY 1994

The world at Mandela’s feet

Today will see the climax of a breathtaking two days in the history of South Africa. Mr Nelson Mandela, elected by Parliament in Cape Town yesterday as South Africa’s new president, will be inaugurated at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
His election yesterday was an event filled with joy and emotion. It started with outgoing President FW de Klerk leading Mandela into the chamber of Parliament. They embraced to rapturous applause from newly elected MPs and guests in the public gallery.
Mandela also embraced Inkatha Freedom Party leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi when he saw him walking towards him.
The land of miracles was seeing a momentous event unfolding every few minutes.
Sowetan, Tuesday 10 May 1994

Mandela and FW express optimism

On the eve of changing the reins of power, South Africa’s outgoing and incoming presidents last night called for reconciliation and expressed confidence in the country’s future.
Outgoing president FW de Klerk told a civic banquet in Pretoria that he would play his part so that reconciliation became reality. President Nelson Mandela said it was necessary to join hands to promote the spirit of reconciliation to build the country.
The Star, Tuesday 10 May 1994

Gore’s night at the Market

Johannesburg’s Market Theatre complex last night became the site of an awesome security spectacle as one of America’s most prized politicians arrived for a night of entertainment.
US vice-president Al Gore and his wife “Tipper”, First Lady Hillary Clinton and Jesse Jackson were but a few big names who swept into The Laager theatre to watch extracts of South Africa’s theatrical genius.
Patrons temporarily detained in The Yard restaurant opposite the theatre entrance were astonished to see six black limousines cruise swiftly into the precinct, which was tightly guarded by US secret service agents.
The only SAF presence was in the form of two black-clad snipers on the theatre roof.
The Star, Tuesday 10 May 1994

11 MAY 1994

Let’s build a great SA, says Mandela

Pretoria – South Africans should forget the past and work together to build a great country, President Nelson Mandela told an excited, cheering crowd of 60 000 people attending his inauguration at the Union Buildings yesterday.
Before starting his speech to the people gathered on the Botha Lawn, Mandela danced briefly to the music of the African Jazz Pioneers, and the crowd danced delightedly with him.
In a carnival atmosphere, a group of youths ran across the lawn holding aloft a coffin with “hamba kahle apartheid” (farewell apartheid) painted on the side.
Earlier, after he had taken his oath of office, Mandela told almost 60 heads of state, royalty and 6 000 other dignitaries that South Africa, the “rainbow nation”, had at last achieved its political emancipation.
In his address, Mandela vowed that “never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will experience the oppression of one by another”.
Business Day, Wednesday 11 May 1994

Big welcome from world leaders

Pretoria – UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali welcomed South Africa back into the world community yesterday, paying tribute to President Nelson Mandela and his deputy FW de Klerk.
“Today South Africa regained its rightful place in Africa, in the UN, and the family of nations”, he said at Mandela’s inauguration lunch at the Presidency.
“South Africa has earned the respect and admiration of all; tireless in search of understanding, and vigorous in pursuit of peace. You have refused to let difficulties defeat you.”
Business Day, Wednesday 11 May 1994

Years of enmity end as Castro meets De Klerk and defence chief

Pretoria – An atmosphere of reconciliation prevailed as Cuban leader Fidel Castro chatted with former arch-enemies Deputy President FW de Klerk and defence force chief Gen Georg Meiring and President Mandela welcomed three of his former jailers to yesterday’s inauguration luncheon.
Business Day, Wednesday 11 May 1994

Research, photos: Ndaba Dlamini

Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo material