Four hundred black and white - but mostly black - MPs stood inside the ancient bastion of apartheid to applaud and cheer the announcement by the Chief Justice, Michael Corbett, that Mr Mandela had been unanimously elected to lead the new government of national unity.
'For the first time in our country,' Justice Corbett said, 'we have a government by the people, of the people and for the people.'
President Mandela voiced his feelings only when he was standing on the city hall balcony before tens of thousands of people in Cape Town's Grand Parade - scene of his first public speech on his release in February 1990.
Introducing Mr Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: 'This is the day the Lord has made. This is the day of liberation for all of us, black and white together, for us, the rainbow people of God]' Brimming with exuberance, he added: 'Here he is] The man of the hour] The man of the decade] And, to us, the man of the century]' A massed choir sang the country's favourite hit: 'South Africa we love you, our beautiful land, let's show the whole world we can bring peace to our land.' As the Archbishop and the crowd rocked and swayed, the President released a white dove of peace.
'Today,' Mr Mandela, in full voice, declared, 'we celebrate not a victory for a party but a victory for all the people of South Africa. It is fitting that here in the Cape of Good Hope we have laid the foundation stone of our new country.'
It was at the Cape that three centuries ago 'the fateful convergence of people from Africa, Europe and Asia had taken place. It was also at the Cape, on Robben Island, where generations of liberation fighters had been jailed.'
Behind President Mandela rose the spectacular monolith of Table Mountain on which he had gazed during his 18-year incarceration on Robben Island. The new flag fluttering in the sea breeze to his left, Mr Mandela said that the people had spoken. 'They want change and change they will get.' He promised 'the most dynamic programme of social upliftment in the history of this country' and called on all South Africans to bring an end to divisions and suspicion and 'build a nation united in our diversity'.
The challenge was to create a new order based on justice for all, Mr Mandela said. Responding to that challenge immediately yesterday were the police. Until recently they would routinely club, tear gas and arrest Mr Mandela's supporters on the streets of Cape Town. Yesterday they were all smiles, all courtesy and consideration and when Mr Mandela called on the crowd to applaud them, the response was warm and heartfelt.
The cabinet, for the first time reflecting the country's racial mix, was all but completed yesterday when Deputy President F W de Klerk nominated the six ministers to which the National Party, a distant second in the elections to the African National Congress, is constitutionally entitled.
To the surprise of no one, Derek Keys will remain Minister of Finance and the appointment of the former mining company executive was warmly welcomed by South African business. Pik Botha, until yesterday the world's longest-serving foreign minister, takes over as Minister of Energy and Roelf Meyer stays as Minister of Constitutional Development.
The environment, agriculture and welfare portfolios went to Dawie de Villiers, Kraai van Niekerk and Abe Williams. The one important ministerial post unfilled was Home Affairs and there was speculation yesterday that it would be offered to the Inkatha leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
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