The Presidential Years

President Nelson Mandela, appearing on South African television reassured the nation on Sunday, saying there would be a peaceful transfer of power as he winds down his presidency. Mandela is stepping down as head of the ruling African National Congress, to be replaced by Deputy President Thabo Mbeki.

Mandela said he is doing all in his power to persuade former president P-W Botha to obey a subpoena to the South African Truth Commission, and avoid prosecution.

In an interview on South African television on Sunday President Mandela explained his lessening importance in the present government and outlined plans for its future. His successor will be Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, who is expected to follow Mandela as president in the 1999 elections. Mandela reassured South Africans on Sunday that there would be a peaceful transfer of power as he gradually hands the reigns to Mbeki.

Mandela: "I have already pointed out I am a de jure president and the that Thabo Mbeki is already a de facto president of the country, I am pushing everything to him and I'm a ceremonial president, they can ask me any day, to hand over all powers to Thabo Mbeki, he is the man who is already running the government of the country, and my stepping down will be very smooth, it won't bring about any disruption"

Mandela also said he is determined to see that former President P-W Botha testifies before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigating apartheid-era abuses. Botha received a summons last week to appear next week at a hearing to investigate activities of the State Security Council. This was the highest security body of the apartheid government, and has been charged with giving orders to the police to kill and torture. But despite the threat of imprisonment Botha has refused to appear, calling the panel a witch-hunt against apartheid leaders.

Mandela: "I have done my bit, and I can assure you that P-W Botha is not above the law, and I will never allow him to defy the T-R-C and I have urged his family to help to prevent his humiliation, and if he continues along this line then the law must take its course"

For almost four years the black majority government has not found it easy to live up to the expectations of its electorate, but Mandela's faith has not been weakened.

Mandela: "And I think that, er, we have made commendable progress, We have introduced democratic values in this country and they're enshrined in the constitution that governs this country. It mirrors the aspirations and the hopes of all South Africans, irrespective of their background"

Mandela, who is internationally respected and loved for his charisma, will shortly be retiring as A-N-C president, and in 16 months he retires as head of state. In the rapidly changing world of international politics Mandela has achieved what most statesmen only dream of, enduring popularity.