So far, Mr Mandela indicated, change had been most visible in the political arena. 'We have at last a robust and vibrant democracy, with broad consensus on the most important national questions; we have forged an enduring national consensus; we have a government that has brought together bitter enemies into a constructive relationship.'
Mr Mandela spelt out the issues which required immediate attention: crime was first on his list, notably 'the wanton killing of security force members' (160 policemen have been murdered this year) and increased drug trafficking. He promised 'urgent, visible and effective measures to eradicate these problems'.
On the economic front, funds would soon be forthcoming from the Reconstruction and Development Programme, the lynchpin of government policy, to finalise arrangements for a major clinic-building programme; for a primary school feeding programme in the poorer communities; for rebuilding townships, particularly in areas which have been prey to political violence; for new water and sanitation schemes; and for the restitution and distribution of land to some 40,000 people made homeless under apartheid.
Initiatives were necessary to promote foreign and domestic investment. This would require a 'critical merger' of bodies representing labour, business and government. In a veiled criticism of the recent spate of strikes, he said that while workers had every right to engage in collective bargaining, 'the new situation obliges all of us to take on board questions of increased investments'.
Mr Mandela, who has been accused by ANC critics of mollycoddling the white establishment, also said the government would move rapidly to make the civil service 'truly representative of South African society'.
In another response to demands from his own supporters, he signalled the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to supervise an amnesty for violators of human rights 'on the principle of disclosure'. The past should be overcome but not forgotten for otherwise it threatened 'to live with us like a festering sore'.
He also promised 'the rapid dismantling of all the networks which kept members of the public under surveillance simply because they were opposed to the government of the day'.
At the end of the speech, as if to reinforce Mr Mandela's faith in the new national consensus, Deputy President F W de Klerk and Inkatha leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi joined in the applause which broke out from every corner of the chamber, including - in a significant break from the protocols of the past - the packed public gallery.