On this day: Nelson Mandela is inaugurated

May 10 1994: A time for healing wounds

By Jennifer Lipman, May 10, 2011

After a decades-long struggle, Nelson Mandela's Africa National Congress party won a majority in South Africa's first multi-racial elections.

A fortnight later, the prominent activist and former political prisoner was sworn in as the country's first black president, an unbelievable occasion in a country that had only recently thrown off apartheid rule.

Statesman and dignitaries from some 140 nations across the globe watched as Mandela, was sworn in at a ceremony in Pretoria.

The new president paid tribute to his predecessor FW de Klerk, another person who was instrumental in bringing about the end of apartheid.

As South Africans, including the estimated 91,000-strong Jewish population, celebrated a new day for the Rainbow Nation, their leader pledged to "promote that which will advance and to oppose all that may harm the republic" and said he would be devoted to the well-being "of the republic and all its people".

He said: "We saw our country tear itself apart in terrible conflict.

"The time for healing of wounds has come... Never, never again will this beautiful land experience the oppression of one by another."

Mandela, considered one of the world's greatest politicians, stayed in power for five more years, stepping down in 1999.

What anti-apartheid activist Helen Suzman told the JC: No, I confess I did not expect the events of these last few days to happen. Not in my lifetime. Not in the way they have. Basically, what we have seen is the surrender of power by a government which could have stayed for much longer…It would have meant steadily greater use of the police and the army. But there is no doubt they could have stayed.

See more from the JC archives here.

Last updated: 9:08am, May 10 2011