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World - Africa

S. Africa's new leader Mbeki calls for crime crackdown

Mbeki with his wife, Zanile, right, at the opening of Parliament in Cape Town

CNN's Cynde Strand reports on Mbeki's first days as South Africa's president
Windows Media 28K 80K

June 25, 1999
Web posted at: 9:49 p.m. EDT (0149 GMT)

From Correspondent Cynde Strand

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNN) -- South Africa rolled out the red carpet, struck up the band and lined up a special honor guard of schoolchildren to welcome newly elected President Thabo Mbeki to Parliament Friday.

Mbeki used his first state-of-the-nation speech to unveil his vision of South Africa's future.

"We are on course," he said. "Steadily, the dark clouds of despair are lifting, giving way to our season of hope."

Crime was first on the new president's agenda. His announcement of new measures to combat what he called an "impermissible level of crime and violence" drew loud applause.

"Legislation will also be introduced to ensure that we deal mercilessly with all crimes involving guns, including the illegal possession of firearms, the killing of police officers, corruption within the criminal justice system and the intimidation of witnesses," he said.

The speech was one of continuity, with no big surprises, reflecting the fact that Mbeki had played a major role in running the government while former President Nelson Mandela was in office.

Mbeki said he would stick to the same basic economic policies, stressing investment and job creation.

After Mbeki's speech, members of Parliament and invited guests chanted, "Thabo Mbeki, there is no one like you" -- a song normally used to honor Mandela.

Outside the Parliament buildings, however, government workers chanted for higher wages -- a reminder of the challenge Mbeki faces in delivering on the promises of a better life for all South Africans and his call for an African renaissance.

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Mandela gets rousing send-off as Mbeki takes office
June 16, 1999
New South African parliament elects Mbeki as president
June 14, 1999
ANC narrowly misses two-thirds majority in South African vote
June 7, 1999

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