Mandela calls for respect for democracy at ANC birthday celebration

Other News Materials 2 August 2008 18:44 (UTC +04:00)

South African freedom fighter and former president Nelson Mandela called his party to unity and respect for democracy at celebrations held in his honour by the African National Congress party on Saturday.

"Let no individual, faction or group regard itself as greater than the organization and the people," Mandela told the gathering of tens of thousands - including current South African President Thabo Mbeki - in a stadium in the capital Pretoria, the dpa reported.

He called for the celebration and confirmation of the fundamental obligation to create a better South Africa, which had known a history of division and struggle.

Mandela, who celebrated his 90th birthday on July 18, also called on his party not to lose itself in internal squabbles, but to show unity.

Current ANC President Jacob Zuma, for his part, praised Mandela as an "amazing" man, who wanted nothing more than "to see the fulfilment of the vision of a peaceful, prosperous, non-sexist, non-racial and democratic South Africa.

"During your term as the first President of a free South Africa, you elevated this country from being a pariah to a respected successful modern democracy ... before handing over to your deputy, Comrade Mbeki," Zuma continued.

"Your legacy," Zuma concluded, "is a book for all to read. If we do not learn, it cannot be your fault."

The call by Mandela comes as the nearly 100-year-old ANC has been plagued by bitter internal rivalries and increasingly militant rhetoric from its differing members and allies.

New elections in the country are scheduled to take place in April.