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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 April, 2004, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
South Africa cheers 10 years of freedom
By Barnaby Phillips
BBC Southern Africa correspondent, Pretoria

Crowd outside Union Buildings
Thousands saw the inauguration ceremony - and the concert afterwards
In fairness to the South Africans they do organise these sort of events rather well.

The formal part of the ceremony over, I looked down on the Union Building lawn here in Pretoria at an absolutely enormous crowd.

It is rather hard to say exactly how many people are here - I know that they were hoping for 40,000 people - enjoying a music concert.

Back at the beginning of the day, heads of state and other dignitaries began arriving here at the buildings soon after dawn.

The biggest cheer I think was for the former President Nelson Mandela.

And this is a day of course that evokes such memories of his inauguration 10 years ago.

We have even got the same beautiful autumnal weather.

Malicious gossip

He came into this amphitheatre in the middle of the Union Buildings once all the other heads of state had arrived.

He is an old man now, in the second part of his eighties, and he is increasingly frail.

Nelson Mandela, with his wife Graca Machel
Mandela is increasingly frail but remains hugely popular
He finds it difficult to walk. He was supported by his wife Graca Machel.

And we watched the audience including all the heads of state who are here, rise as one to give him an extremely warm, effusive welcome.

He waved to them, with almost a love - I don't think that is too strong a word - tumbling down from the auditorium towards him.

I have to say that the one woman I saw who was NOT standing and giving him an ovation was his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Of course she had a very acrimonious divorce from him - but perhaps that is a bit of slightly malicious gossip.

There was also applause for Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, a man reviled by white South Africans but seen by some in the black majority as a freedom fighter.

World Cup bid

And then President Thabo Mbeki arrived, to be sworn in for a second five-year term.

Pretoria crowd

There will never be that special kind of relationship that Nelson Mandela had - particularly with the black majority.

But nonetheless, to the vast majority of black South Africans he is the symbol of their freedom in virtue of being head of state and they voted for him in their millions.

So he was also given a very warm reception.

The authorities were hoping to put on a very good show with a view to influencing football's world governing body Fifa in their decision about whether to name South Africa as host for the 2010 World Cup.

In his speech, Mr Mbeki talked about the dark days of apartheid when South Africa represented everything that is ugly.

He said today white and black are pulling together but he said there are still huge challenges for this country:

"Endemic and widespread poverty continues to disfigure the face of our country. It will always be impossible for us to say that we have fully restored the dignity of all our people as long as this situation persists," he said.

Sitting pretty

I caught up with one of President Mbeki's outgoing cabinet members just afterwards - Security Minister Charles Nqakula.

1.6m new houses built for poor
Stable economy, low inflation
70% households electrified
9m access to water
30% unemployment
5.3m with HIV/Aids
Massive wealth inequality

"This is a very important day, not only for me but for all the millions of South Africans who for many years had to live under racial oppression," he said.

"And to us, having participated directly in the struggle for freedom, this is the pinnacle of what we meant when we said we needed to free our people."

At the moment, President Mbeki is sitting pretty, he is extremely powerful, buoyed by that extraordinary election result. The ANC had almost 70% of the vote - their share having risen and risen since 1994 and 1999.

Towards the end of his term I think things will become more difficult.

There is not a clear succession. When Nelson Mandela was in power it was always very evident that Thabo Mbeki would be taking over from him, and unfortunately I do not think that Thabo Mbeki has groomed a successor as clearly.

Increasingly, toward the end of his new five-year term he will begin to be seen as something of a lame duck.

But that is some way off.

The BBC's Barnaby Phillips
"Life in the country has improved"

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