Zuma pledges to uphold Madiba's legacy

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Union Buildings - Freshly inaugurated South African President Jacob Zuma has again pledged that his administration would not deviate from the task of nation-building and reconciliation, firmly etched by former President Nelson Mandela.

Delivering his inaugural speech at the Union Buildings on Saturday, exactly a decade and a half ago on the day that Madiba was elected as the first President of the democratic Republic of South Africa, Mr Zuma paid tribute to the father of the nation saying he had healed the country's wounds and established the rainbow nation very firmly.

"He made reconciliation the central theme of his term of office.

"We will not deviate from that nation-building task. Thank you Madiba, for showing us the way," said Mr Zuma.

This seems to set firmly the flavour that the new President's leadership would take over the next five years.

Mr Zuma hinted at this on Wednesday, when in his acceptance speech, after being formally elected as President, he said: "As President of the Republic, I will do my best to lead the country towards the realisation of Madiba's vision of a truly non-sexist, non-racial South Africa, united in its diversity. With the support of my organisation the ANC, as well as all South Africans, I hope to lead the country on a path of friendship, cooperation, harmony, unity and faster change."

Madiba arrived at the Union Buildings earlier, wearing a heavy black overcoat and black and white shirt, aided by his wife Graca Machel.

Upon his own arrival, Mr Zuma got down on his knees to address the the elder he reveres.

Mr Zuma today also paid tribute to the other former presidents, including President Thabo Mbeki, who in 2005, had relinquished him of his responsibilities as Deputy President of the country.

Upon his arrival at the main stage earlier, Mr Zuma embraced Mr Mbeki and his wife Zanele.

He said Mbeki took the country forward as a true statesman while making a remarkable contribution towards strengthening our democracy, and economic growth and development.

"He made our country an integral part of the continent and worked tirelessly for an African rebirth. Through his leadership, South Africa's stature grew in the continent and globally," he told the gathering which included the former presidents.

He also acknowledged the former second Deputy President of the democratic republic, FW de Klerk, who worked with Madiba in the resolution of the apartheid conflict, and participated in shaping a new South Africa.

Mr Zuma also acknowledged outgoing President Kgalema Motlanthe whom he described as his friend, comrade and brother.

He said Mr Motlanthe came into office during a period of great anxiety, and brought about calm, stability and certainty.