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S. Africa celebrates 'Freedom Day'


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Tuesday marks 10 years since multiracial elections swept Nelson Mandela into power.
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PRETORIA, South Africa (CNN) -- South Africa is throwing a $13 million party to celebrate its first decade of freedom after the end of apartheid.

Tuesday marks 10 years since the nation's first all-race elections swept former anti-apartheid campaigner Nelson Mandela into power.

As part of the "Freedom Day" proceedings, President Thabo Mbeki was inaugurated for his second and last term with more than 100 international dignitaries looking on.

"For too long our country contained within it and represented much of what is ugly and repulsive in human society," Mbeki said in his inauguration speech.

"Nobody in our country today views democracy as a threat to their interests and their future.

"This includes our national, our racial and political minorities. This is because we sought to design and implement an inclusive democracy rather than one driven by social and political exclusion."

Mbeki's African National Congress party was re-elected for the third time in a landslide win two weeks ago.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II was among the first to congratulate Mbeki, who succeeded Mandela as president in 1999.

"2004 is a special year for South Africa, commemorating 10 years since the end of apartheid. As you celebrate your national day, I have much pleasure in sending my warmest best wishes," the queen said in a statement.

Mandela became South Africa's first black president on April 27, 1994 in polls that marked the end of centuries of white racist supremacy rule.

The focus of Tuesday's celebrations is the inauguration ceremony and a concert attended by 40,000 South Africans.

The guest list included dozens of heads of state and government as well as other diplomats -- among them former South African leaders Mandela and F.W. de Klerk and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

Officials say the celebrations will be South Africa's biggest since 1994 and feature mass choirs, bands, a military procession and a fly past by civilian and military aircraft.

Following the parade will be a play highlighting South Africa's successes over the past 10 years, including representations of sports victories in the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament in 1996 and the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

Tens of thousands of people crowded lawns to watch on large screens as Mbeki was inaugurated at Pretoria's Union Buildings -- the place where Mandela was sworn in a decade ago.

The real party begins at a mass outdoor concert on a large stage. The theme of the concert is "Proudly South African" and involves a string of popular local performers such as Miriam Makeba, Vusi Mahlasela and Hugh Masekela.

Later Tuesday, a gala concert will be held at a theater in Pretoria and attended by VIPs.

Though South Africa has come a long way since 1994, it still faces huge challenges in its second decade of democracy.

The country is gripped by a devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic affecting one in nine people. It is blighted by poverty and high crime and unemployment levels.

South Africa is also growing increasingly wary of the situation across the border in Zimbabwe.

Mbeki on Tuesday promised all South Africans a share of the nation's wealth.

"Endemic and widespread poverty continues to disfigure the face of our country. It will always be impossible for us to say that we have fully restored the dignity of all our people as long as this situation persists," he said.


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