NELSON MANDELA moved swiftly to unite this diverse and divided nation on the eve of his formal election as the country's first black president by Parliament today and his inauguration in Pretoria tomorrow.
In a series of Cabinet appointments and speeches to the country's diverse religious communities over the weekend, Mr. Mandela conveyed a message of unity.
``I stand firm in the belief that we are one country and one nation,'' he told a group of Muslims outside a mosque on Saturday. ``Whether we are coloreds [mixed-race], Indians, whites, or Africans - that is what we must promote in this country from now on.'' Speaking also at Jewish and Christian assemblies, he assured whites that they had nothing to fear from a government dominated by the African National Congress (ANC).
As Mandela spoke, nine provincial premiers were sworn in at emotional ceremonies around the country, transforming overnight bastions of white supremacy into new seats of provincial government reflecting the black majority. The newly inaugurated premiers, who include some of the ANC's highest-ranking officials, called for national reconciliation and unity.
But the challenge of uniting the country was reflected in the task of forming the new Cabinet, in which Mandela's ANC holds 18 seats, outgoing President Frederik de Klerk's National Party (NP) six seats, and Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) three seats.
In choosing the 18 ANC ministers, Mandela had to balance between members who have returned from exile or were released from political prison, on the one hand, and the younger generation of anti-apartheid activists who led the resistance against white rule inside the country, on the other. He had to counter the widely held perception of the ANC as an organization dominated by his Xhosa ethnic group ensuring the presence of Zulu, Indian, and colored officials in the Cabinet.
Thabo Mbeki, an urbane diplomat who headed the ANC's international department, has been chosen as the first deputy president. The second deputy president will be Mr. De Klerk. The three, who met for several hours on Friday, have already taken over the running of the country.
Mandela's most significant decision was to retain Finance Minister Derek Keys. This will likely find unanimous support in Western capitals and in banking and other financial circles as a clear indication that Mandela will follow viable economic policies and work closely with major financial institutions. The five other NP Cabinet seats also went to sitting ministers, including Roelf Meyer, the chief government negotiator during the four-year transition.
A row erupted across party lines, however, over the allocation of both the police and defense ministries to ANC officials after Mandela was overruled by his National Working Committee to deliver on a prior commitment to De Klerk that the police portfolio would stay in NP hands.
Mandela also caused friction inside the ANC. Secretary-General Cyril Ramaphosa, who led the ANC negotiating team and was Mr. Mbeki's main rival for the deputy presidency, caused a stir by choosing to remain outside the Cabinet.
Mr. Ramaphosa's decision means that Mbeki's main rivals for the succession to the ANC leadership are outside the Cabinet. The other leading contender is Tokyo Sexwale, premier of the Johannesburg/Pretoria region. Jacob Zuma, the ANC's candidate for premier of KwaZulu/ Natal, is also outside the Cabinet.
The biggest surprise was the appointment as foreign minister of Alfred Nzo, the discredited former ANC secretary-general who was defeated by Ramaphosa for the secretary-general post at the ANC's last full national conference in July 1991.
Mr. Nzo's appointment has reopened tensions between the returned ANC exiles and former Robben Island prisoners and the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) activists who led the anti-apartheid resistance before the exiles returned in 1990. The home-grown anti-apartheid leaders, of whom Ramaphosa is the most senior, are angry that 12 of the 18 ANC members in the Cabinet are from the ranks of the exile/Robben Island axis, known as the ``old-guard.'' Four former MDM members received Cabinet seats.
As for diversity, the ANC's Cabinet list includes three Zulus, four Indians, two coloreds, two women, three communists, and three former communists.
The IFP is entitled to three Cabinet seats, one of which is expected to be filled by Chief Buthelezi.
The loose ends of South Africa's complex transition to democracy were tied up on Friday with the final results of the country's all-race elections, which confirmed the ANC as the clear winner with 62.7 percent of the national vote.
But the ANC lost the symbolically important Western Cape Province to the NP by a substantial margin, and Inkatha barely obtained an outright majority in the turbulent KwaZulu/Natal Province. This means that the country's three major centers are shared between three parties: the Johannesburg/Pretoria regions to the ANC, KwaZulu/Natal to Inkatha, and the Western Cape to the NP. The ANC also failed to get a two-thirds majority, which would have enabled it to call the shots in the constitution-writing process.
``This will help promote power-sharing and consensus decisionmaking and should boost the concept of a government of national unity,'' says a Western diplomat. ``You could say it's a dream result because it will reassure whites and the business community and has defused the ethnic conflicts, which often threatened to wreck the transition.''