Past and future leaders party into the new dawn

JOHANNESBURG - The song 'I'm not in love' did not seem the most appropriate to celebrate the dawn of the new South Africa, writes John Carlin.

But inexplicably, as soon as Nelson Mandela, F W de Klerk and 19 other political leaders had pledged their commitment to South Africa's first democratic constitution, the tune wafted from the loudspeaker system at Johannesburg's World Trade Centre.

The mournful piano accompaniment seemed to have an effect on Mr de Klerk, whose moist eyes betrayed a truth rarely remarked upon, that he is a deeply sentimental man. As for Mr Mandela, for whom 3am is wake-up time, he was fresh as a daisy, flashing his famous smile. Since the ANC president, who is 75, had a plane to catch at 7am, his minders deemed it wise to put him to bed and spare him the party that followed.

Drinks, the World Trade Centre announced, were on the house. So was the cake. It was the birthday of the ANC's chief negotiator, Cyril Ramaphosa. The man who, in a pleasing little 'new South Africa' ceremony, presented him with the cake was his opposite number in the government, Roelf Meyer. Mr Meyer made a brief speech. Mr Ramaphosa, who was 41, made one in reply, replete with cliches about 'the birth of a new nation' that came across as profound.

Mr Ramaphosa, Mr Meyer and their negotiating cast of hundreds had been going to bed at two and waking up at six every day the previous week. As the night wore on some 80 stalwarts - politicians, lawyers, journalists - dug deep into the supplies of champagne, whisky and beer. Professor Kader Asmal, the ANC's most illustrious constitutional expert, caused a sensation with his high-voltage response to the Beach Boys' 'Surfing USA' and 'Barbara Ann'. Roused by 'Rock around the Clock', Albie Sachs, another legal expert and member of the ANC's executive, grabbed a female journalist and hurled her around with his left hand, his right arm having been blown off in a car-bomb explosion in Maputo a few years back.

Mr Meyer took the floor fleetingly with the other twin star of the negotiations, Mr Ramaphosa, who remained there with his wife till long after first light. Each time Mr Ramaphosa paused for refreshment he went up, smiling broadly, to the more retiring Mr Meyer. Each time they shook hands, or traded a 'high five'.

Not that the Afrikaner contingent in the room all played the wallflower. Marius Kleynhans, a portly senior official in Mr de Klerk's office, was inspired by Bob Marley into arguably the most sinuous performance of the evening.

Thabo Mbeki, the ANC's national chairman, danced relentlessly but with the gravitas of a man who knows that on a day not far off he will probably succeed Mr Mandela as president of South Africa. Mr Mbeki dissolved with laughter when someone shouted that he was perhaps the first man in the world to have smoked a pipe while dancing to Michael Jackson.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
voicesBy the man who has
people... and stop them from attacking people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?