By MICHAEL O. ALLEN, Daily News Staff Writer | Sunday, May 8, 1994
JOHANNESBURG—South Africa’s new national assembly sits for the first time tomorrow, and the African National Congress, which holds 252 of the chamber’s 400 seats, will select Nelson Mandela, as president.
On Tuesday, he will be sworn in as the nation’s first president chosen democratically. The theme of the inauguration concert, with some 3,000 performers, is “Many Cultures, One Nation.”
The weight of history, of course, demands this.
Much of the world is coming to share in the celebration—and, perhaps, taste some of the smoked crocodile and ostrich dishes on the menu.
Delegations representing more than 125 nations, including 40 heads of state, plan to attend. The American contingent is headed by Vice President Al Gore.
Gore departs today with a 44-member U.S. delegation that includes First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, two cabinet officials, 11 members of Congress and various influential private citizens.
Gore said he wanted to go “bear witness in the name of our country to one of the great transitions of power in all of history and one of the great triumphs of human spirit that any of us will ever witness.”
Meeting with different groups before his inauguration, Mandela told Jews gathered in a Cape Town synagogue yesterday that the new South Africa needed their skills and resources, and reiterated that whites had nothing to fear from black majority rule.
“You have no reason to fear a government of national unity,” he said during the Sabbath prayers in the Sea Point Synagogue, after a visit to a mosque in Cape Town’s Muslim quarter Friday.
He won a standing ovation from the congregation for his speech in which he also paid tribute to the role Jews in opposing apartheid.
Mandela, 75, has been criticized by Jews for ties to Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Arafat is expected to attend Mandela’s inauguration on Tuesday.
Mandela’s remarks were also aimed at reassuring Jews, who, along with many whites, have distrusted the ANC because of its alliance with the Communist Party.
The democratic era here began in earnest yesterday as new provincial legislatures met and blacks took political power for the first time in more than three centuries.
Leading members of the ANC took over in seven of the nine new provinces following the party’s sweeping victory in last week’s all-race election.
Current President F.W. de Klerk retained a toehold on power by winning the Western Cape, where whites first landed 350 years ago. De Klerk will also become second deputy president in the new government of national unity.
Zulu chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party took the Zulu heartland of KwaZulu-Natal, but the legislature there will not meet until next Wednesday.
In the National Parliament, final results Friday showed the ANC took 62.5% of the vote in last week’s election and will have 252 seats in the 400-seat parliament, compared to 148 for all opponents combined.
With Wire News Service