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Friday, 31 December, 1999, 23:32 GMT
Mandela revisits prison cell
Nelson Mandela wished the new century would be better than the last
Nelson Mandela: From prison cell to message of freedom
Nelson Mandela has returned to the prison cell where he was locked up for 18 years to light a "flame for freedom".

The 81-year-old former South African president went back to Robben Island as the millennium drew to a close.

Handing the thick white candle to his successor, President Thabo Mbeki, he said: "There are good men and women around the world that will always keep that flame burning.

"It symbolises that the freedom flame can never be put down by anybody."

Mr Mandela was imprisoned for a total of 27 years during his struggle against apartheid.

Earlier, in a millenium message to South Africans, he said the 20th Century had been a disappointment.

"I have been fortunate to live through most of the century. It brought such great hope and at other times such disappointment.

Mandela passed his 'freedom flame' to Thabo Mbeki
Thabo Mbeki: Hope for future
"In some ways we outstreaked the achievements of our ancestors over all the preceding centuries," he added.

"In other ways we fell short of what we hoped for and what was indeed possible."

He listed the end of the two world wars, the establishment of the United Nations and advances in science, technology and industry as some of the achievements of the century.

"Yet we close the century with most people still languishing in poverty, subjected to hunger, preventable disease, illiteracy and insufficient shelter."

Mr Mandela urged South Africans to keep working at the "miracle" of its democracy in the next century.

He called on them to follow the defeat of apartheid with measures to create a better life for all.

"In particular, let us make our country and the world a safer and more caring and respectful place," he said.

"Let the abuse of children and women and the neglect or the poor remain behind as a phenomenon of the 20th Century."

Mr Mbeki called in his address to the nation for an end to war and corruption.

"Whatever may have been the tragedies we experienced in the passing century and millennium, now we must aim for the stars," he said.

Cape Town parties

Across the water from Robben Island, thousands of revellers watched the last sunset of the millennium from Cape Town's beaches before heading into the city for all-night parties.

A BBC correspondent in Cape Town said fewer people than expected were attending the celebrations because of a recent spate of bomb attacks.

Security officials have accused Muslim fundamentalists of detonating three bombs in the city and earlier this week arrested the leader of one group, People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad).

See also:

29 Dec 99 | Africa
24 Dec 99 | Africa
31 Dec 99 | Africa
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