A lavish ceremony Wednesday in Pretoria, South Africa marked the inauguration of Thabo Mbeki as the country's second black president. Several heads of state and foreign representatives were on hand to witness the formal resignation of Nelson Mandela and the oath of office of Mandela's former deputy President. While the landslide victory of Mbeki's African National Congress in the June 2 elections was able to briefly upstage the Kosova crisis in world headlines, Wednesday's ceremony did however receive passing coverage in many world papers, although it figured prominently in South Africa.
Neither the Electronic Telegraph nor the Independent Online, both British papers, covered the story directly. The Telegraph reported on the fact that Mandela's hometown is becoming a tourist attraction. The Independent concentrated on Mbeki's choice of fellow Sussex graduate Essop Pahad as his right-hand man in running an increasingly centralized South African government. The story mentioned the inaugural celebrations, but aside from covering Mbeki's appointment of Pahad, the paper was silent on prospects for South Africa under Mbeki.
The New York Times on the Web and WashingtonPost.com both carried an Associated Press (AP) report on the inauguration and the proposed agenda of South Africa's new president. The detailed report, linked on the front page of the Times and the Post, described the ceremony and reported on Mbeki's inaugural address as well as previous speeches that reveal Mbeki's developing agenda. According to the report, Mbeki will concentrate less on apartheid reconciliation and more on delivering on promises of reform and aid for South Africa's impoverished millions. The AP said that 42 percent of the nation's blacks are unemployed while three quarters of those employed earn less than $245 a month. Neither paper carried an editorial or its own analysis on South Africa's power transition.
Africa News Online carried a series of headlines from the Johannesburg-based Sowetan (unavailable online). The reports were resounding in their approval for and confidence in Thabo Mbeki. One report quoted analysts as saying that the new president is "well-studied" and the "best man for the job." Another report covered Mbeki's speech at a ceremony marking the 23rd anniversary of the 1976 Soweto uprising, where white police fired on children protesting against apartheid. Mbeki reportedly said that his inauguration would not have been possible without the sacrifices made by such youths.
Two editorials from the Sowetan commented on the immaturity of South African democracy. One editorial said that political candidates needed to learn to win and lose more gracefully. The second article said South Africa's newness to democracy was demonstrated in the continued voting along racial lines and the inability of opposition parties to present a coherent agenda that did something other than criticize the work of the ANC.
The Johannesburg-based WOZA Internet likewise headlined several articles dealing with Wednesday's formal transition of power. Reports detailed an aerial salute to the new president and the reactions of a smiling Mandela who is reportedly happy to retire and reclaim his life. Other reports also expressed confidence in Mbeki. A wire report from Reuters quoted one analyst as saying that the new leader is an intelligent economist and a pragmatic leader whose "Government policy will be driven by economic considerations much more than under Mandela." WOZA also carried the full text of Mbeki's inaugural address, which, among other things, called for action to rectify the situation of the "millions of our people [who] live in conditions of degrading poverty."
Zakariya Wright is a staff writer at iviews.com