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Last Updated: Monday, 10 May, 2004, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
Mandela's farewell to parliament
By Richard Hamilton
BBC, Cape Town

Nelson Mandela, with his wife Graca Machel
Mandela, 85, is starting to take things easy
Former President Nelson Mandela has made his farewell address to South Africa's parliament.

The 85-year-old statesman is bowing out of the limelight and reducing his workload and public commitments.

Mr Mandela received a standing ovation as he took the floor to address the special sitting.

He started by thanking parliament for "making an exception to the rules to allow a retired old pensioner to address the assembly."

He spoke of his memories of 10 years ago when he said South Africa emerged from its restrictive past and walked into a brighter future.

Mr Mandela talked about the future of his country and the African continent, but he also made a point of expressing his concern about the war in Iraq.

He said it was led by two democracies but it was a war that had not been sanctioned by the United Nations.

Aids threat

He congratulated Thabo Mbeki on his recent election victory and said no president or prime minister in the history of South Africa had done more for the people and the country.

But unlike his successor, Mr Mandela did not shy away from mentioning the scourge of HIV and Aids.

"Nothing impairs the dignity of a person so much as not being able to find work and gainful employment," he said.

"HIV/Aids continues to threaten our future in a particularly frightening manner."

Nelson Mandela closed by thanking parliament for the opportunity to greet the dawn of the second decade of democracy in his country.

As he stepped down from the platform for the very last time, the assembly chamber erupted into applause, chanting and singing.

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