Songs of praise and cheers for Madiba

FORMER president Nelson Mandela made a rare public appearance in Parliament yesterday, marking the 20th anniversary of his release from prison.

FORMER president Nelson Mandela made a rare public appearance in Parliament yesterday, marking the 20th anniversary of his release from prison.

Those present in the chamber cheered and sang "Nelson Mandela, there is none like you" as the former president took his seat.

Mandela, now 91, was freed in 1990 after spending 27 years in prison and went on to lead South Africa through the last stretch of a peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy.

In his State of the Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma said Mandela's release was a watershed moment that changed the face of South Africa.

He said Mandela was released because of the struggles of the South African people and their allies all over the world.

"We express our heartfelt gratitude to the international community for their support," said Zuma.

Zuma paid tribute not only to Mandela but also to South Africa's last two white presidents for the country's transition to democracy.

"On this special day, we must also acknowledge the contribution of those within the leadership of the National Party, who eventually realised that apartheid had no future."

He also paid tribute to Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi for also calling for Mandela's release and that of other political prisoners.

Zuma also praised the late Democratic Party leader Helen Suzman for being "the lone voice" in the apartheid parliament calling for Mandela's release.

He dedicated his speech to Mandela and recalled that he was central in securing South Africa the right to host the upcoming Fifa World Cup.

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