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Saturday, December 20, 1997 Published at 18:47 GMT


Mandela hands the baton to Mbeki
image: [ Mandela:
Mandela: "Love and respect for me means love and respect for the ANC"

President Nelson Mandela has made his final address as leader of South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress.

On the last day of the ANC conference in Mafikeng, delegates bade farewell to Mr Mandela. He stepped down as party leader but will continue as state President until 1999.

He is replaced by Thabo Mbeki, who has been groomed to take over from Mr Mandela for many years.

[ image: Thabo Mbeki celebrates his new role]
Thabo Mbeki celebrates his new role
In his speech he acknowledged that he was loved but warned his successor not to surround himself with "yes men".

"The time has come to take leave, the time has come to hand over the baton in a relay that started more than 87 years ago," Mandela told some 3,000 delegates at the ANC's 50th national conference since its inception early this century.

The week has been full of emotional tributes to Mandela and at the end it was his turn to reciprocate.

"A name becomes the symbol of an era," he said. "As we hand over the baton it is appropriate that I should thank the ANC for shaping me as a symbol of what it stands for. I know that the love and respect that I have enjoyed is love and respect for the ANC and its ideals."

Mandela speaks of his retirement (13")
In a departure from his prepared speech, the 79-year-old state president said Mbeki's unopposed election on Wednesday to head the ANC put a heavy burden on him.

"One temptation of a leader elected unopposed is that he may use that powerful position to settle scores with his detractors, marginalise them and in certain cases get rid of them and surround himself with yes men and women," he said.

"Nobody understands that principle better than my comrade, president Thabo Mbeki," he said. "I have not the slightest doubt he is not the man who is going to sideline anybody."

South African media - attacked by Mandela this week for being white-dominated - have often portrayed Mbeki as an authoritarian leader who has pushed aside any rivals for power.

Mbeki pays tribute to his predecessor (16")
Mr Mandela said the time had come to take leave and to let a new generation of leaders run the party.

"I look forward to that period when I will be able to wake up with the sun, to walk the hills and valleys of my country village in peace and tranquility," he said.

"And I am confident that this will certainly be the case because, as I do so, and see the smiles on the faces of children which reflect the sunshine in their hearts, I will know, comrade Thabo and your team, that you are on the right track; you are succeeding."

Ramaphosa back in politics

The ANC elected a new National Executive Committee on Friday.

Cyril Ramaphosa, a former senior member of the ANC who left politics to head one of the nation's largest black-led corporations, received the most votes.

[ image: Cyril Ramaphosa: received most votes]
Cyril Ramaphosa: received most votes
Mr Mandela's former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, did not fair as well as some had expected. She came 15th in a list of 60 candidates.

The BBC's Correspondent Peter Biles says that the election of the ANC's National Executive Committee is a key barometer of popularity in the party hierarchy.

For the most part, the leading members of the Executive Committee mirror the shape of the Government. Apart from Mr Ramaphosa and Mrs Madikizela-Mandela, all those in the top 15 are also in the cabinet.

[ image: Winnie Mandela casts her vote for the NEC]
Winnie Mandela casts her vote for the NEC
The new leadership showed the party's diversity, with a strong contingent of Labour leaders, including Sam Shilowa, head of the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the Communist Party leader Jeremy Cronin.

Over half the elected members - 39 of 60 - retained their seats from the previous National Executive, while 21 were chosen for the first time.

The most significant loser was Public Enterprise Minister, Stella Sigcau, who was on the previous National Executive but failed to get re-elected.

Ms Sigcau was accused by another former National Executive member, Bantu Holomisa, of accepting a bribe when she was an official in the former Transkei black homeland in the 1980s. Holomisa was expelled from the ANC last year over corruption allegations.

New economic strategy

On Friday, the ANC asked its members to endorse a market-friendly economic strategy to create jobs and wealth, despite prior protest from its communist and labour allies.

A resolution on economic policy backed the ANC-led Government's controversial "Growth, Employment and Redistribution" programme, known as GEAR.

The resolution will be debated on Saturday, the final day of the five-day conference that chose the new leadership and is setting party policy for the next national election in 1999.

Economics is one of the thorniest issues that Mr Mandela's Government faces. It seeks to woo foreign investment and encourage wealthy whites to stay, while at the same time provide jobs and housing for an impoverished black majority that swept it to power in the country's first all-race election in 1994.

GEAR, while promoting black empowerment, calls for privatisation of state industries, control of Government spending and a firm hand on fiscal policy in order to make South African industries competitive in the world marketplace.

Critics of the programme, like the ANC allies in the South African Communist Party and labour groups, say it does little to create jobs among the millions of unemployed and underprivileged blacks.

However, the ANC says its plans are flexible and can change if the situation demands it.

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