President Nelson Mandela opened the first parliamentary session under South Africa’s new constitution Friday with a plea for unity and a vow to promote economic growth.
Outside Parliament, separate groups of demonstrators held protests against the government’s perceived mishandling of AIDS policy and to support the legalization of marijuana. About 40 people were arrested.
“A new nation is being forged, a nation whose new patriotism and sense of pride derive not only from ideals in our hearts but also from concrete progress in improving the well-being of all,” Mandela said.
Mandela, 78, due to step down when the next election is held in 1999, said his African National Congress had made giant strides in redressing the legacy of apartheid. But he added that major reforms, particularly in the civil service, were still needed.
“We have laid the foundation for a peaceful and prosperous nation,” he said, referring to the constitution that took effect at midnight Monday after nearly four years of negotiations.
“But it is just that--a foundation. And it will not amount to much if its provisions are not felt in the daily life of our people.”