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South Africa celebrates 10 years as democracy

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Praise singers, a pop concert and a fly-past of military jets in afigure "10" formation will be mustered to mark South Africa's celebration of 10 years of democracy today.

The anniversary of the first post-apartheid election will see President Thabo Mbeki inaugurated for a second five-year term, after last week's landslide poll victory by his African National Congress. Representatives of 135 countries, including 43 heads of state, are expected to attend. The programme includes a theatrical skit celebrating 10 years of freedom, and a concert comprising musical styles including jazz, gospel, hip-hop, and South Africa's homegrown kwaito. In the Xhosa language a traditional praise singer will laud Mr Mbeki as a worthy successor to Nelson Mandela and a "short, yet brainy" president.

The R90m (£7.5m) event will be democratic South Africa's biggest public celebration and its largest security operation since the 2002 United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Thousands of police, army and specialised bomb-squad, dog, equestrian and other units have been mobilised for the celebration, to be held in Pretoria.

It will also be a showcase for South Africa's bid to host the 2010 Fifa World Cup, with several members of football's world governing body, including Fifa president Sepp Blatter, among those attending. South Africa is competing against four north African countries for hosting rights, with Fifa scheduled to make its choice on May 15.

South Africans have generally observed the milestone happily but some commentators have sounded sombre notes.

"We have HIV and Aids, poverty, crime and corruption," Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote in the Sunday Times. Nelson Mandela wrote that "much has still to be done before we can claim that a better life for all has been achieved in our country".


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