For the majority of the population who support the African National Congress (ANC) it was a double celebration. Street parties erupted in black townships around the country after Janusz Walus, a Polish immigrant, and Clive Derby-Lewis, a former right- wing MP, were sentenced to death for murdering the ANC leader Chris Hani.
Mr Mandela, the ANC president, was toasted with champagne at the ANC's head office in Johannesburg and feted with a triumphant rendering of 'For He's a Jolly Good Fellow' before telling a press conference that he dedicated his prize to 'all courageous South Africans, black and white'.
'I pledge,' said Mr Mandela, 75, 'that in whatever time remains to me, I will spare no effort to bring peace, freedom and justice for all to South Africa.'
Mr Mandela, who returned home yesterday morning from a three-week international tour, said he planned to telephone President de Klerk later in the day to congratulate him.
In Cape Town, Mr de Klerk told a press conference that he planned to do the same. Posing for photographers with his three-year-old grandson - 'pardon me for bringing him, but I couldn't resist the temptation' - a beaming Mr de Klerk said he thought it was 'wonderful' that the world had stopped looking at South Africa through racist eyes: 'I don't think black and white is important any more.'
On a more solemn note, he said: 'I trust that the awarding of this prize to two South Africans will motivate all South Africans to rededicate themselves to the peaceful resolution of our problems and that it will inspire us all to work for a new and better society.'
Leaders of opposition parties, the South African business community and the churches all issued statements yesterday congratulating the two leaders. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who received the Nobel peace prize in 1984, described the award as a fitting climax to the struggle to dismantle apartheid.
The only dissenting voices came from the far right. Ferdi Hartzenberg, leader of Clive Derby-Lewis's Conservative Party, called the Nobel judges' decision 'strange'. Eugene Terre-Blanche of the neo-Nazi Afrikaner Resistance Movement said: 'There are a lot of crazy people in the world.'
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