CAPE TOWN, South Africa - Former President Nelson
Mandela Monday hailed South Africa's 10 years of peaceful
multi-racial democracy as inspiration for a world he said was
saddened and horrified by the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
The 85-year-old anti-apartheid icon, in a farewell address
to parliament on the 10th anniversary of his inauguration as
the country's first black president, urged South Africans to
come together to meet their new challenges: poverty,
unemployment and HIV/AIDS.
"We live in a world where there is enough reason for
cynicism and despair," said Mandela, a fierce critic of the
U.S.-led war on Iraq, told parliament.
"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," Mandela said, adding that the
world had been horrified by reports of torture of Iraqi
prisoners by U.S. and British forces.
Former South African president Nelson Mandela waves to the crowds as he arrives to address the country's Parliament in Cape Town, May 10, 2004. Mandela on Monday hailed South Africa's 10 years of peaceful multi-racial democracy as inspiration for a world he said was saddened and horrified by the U.S.-led war in Iraq. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
"We see how the powerful countries, all of them so-called
democracies, manipulate multilateral bodies to the great
disadvantage and suffering of the poorer developing nations."
Mandela -- who stepped down in 1999 and wryly referred to
himself as "a retired old pensioner" -- said South Africa had
forged a path based on respect for human dignity.
"Historical enemies succeeded in negotiating a peaceful
transition from apartheid to democracy exactly because we were
prepared to accept the inherent capacity for goodness in the
other," he said in a joint appearance with former President
F.W. de Klerk, his fellow architect in South Africa's
Mandela, who turns 86 on July 18 and appears increasingly
frail, said Monday's speech would be his last to parliament and
aides say he plans to drastically cut back on his public
schedule to concentrate on his family and writing projects.
Legislators in somber business suits and spectacular
African traditional dress filled the ornate parliamentary hall
with rhythmic clapping and a melodic chant of "Nelson Mandela"
as the white-haired statesman made his way slowly out of the
"Your words of wisdom have not fallen on deaf ears,"
Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza said in parliament's official
thanks to its founding president.
Mandela said he believed the country was in good hands with
his successor President Thabo Mbeki, who led the ruling African
National Congress (ANC) to another landslide victory in
elections in April, winning a second five-year term.
"His achievement as president and national leader is the
embodiment of what our nation is capable of," Mandela -- who
has been known to disagree with Mbeki in the past -- said
before an audience that included Mbeki and his entire cabinet.
De Klerk, who shared a Nobel Peace prize with Mandela, said
South Africa averted the racial bloodbath many feared only
through tough negotiation.
"We all did the right thing: we came together," de Klerk
said. "I call on all people to continue to work together and to
take hands and to make our country a shining example to the
rest of the world."
Mandela used his speech to highlight one of his main
causes: the HIV/AIDS epidemic which infects about one of nine
South Africans, making it the hardest hit country in the world.
"HIV/AIDS continues to threaten our future in a
particularly frightening manner," Mandela said, adding poverty,
unemployment and disease "blot out the landscape as we strive
to give content to the democratic commitment of a better life
"Our democracy must bring its material fruits to all,
particularly the poor, marginalized and vulnerable. Our belief
in the common good ultimately translates into a deep concern
for those who suffer want and deprivation of any kind," he
© Copyright 2004 Reuters Ltd