(16 Dec 1997) Natural Sound
South African President Nelson Mandela made his final speech as leader of the African National Congress at the party's 50th national conference on Tuesday.
The conference marks the final step in the A-N-C's transition from a liberation movement to a political party.
Deputy president Thabo Mbeki is expected to be the only candidate to replace Mandela as head of the A-N-C.
The five-day conference will choose new leaders to replace the generation which led the African National Congress through its struggle for liberation.
It will also decide on new policies to take the party - and South Africa - into the 21st century.
The congress will see Nelson Mandela step down as A-N-C president after six years in which he has led his party through negotiations on ending white rule, the landmark 1994 elections and its first period governing the country.
The conference is also expected to decide on final nominations for the top six party posts later on Tuesday.
Mandela's deputy president, Thabo Mbeki, 55, is expected to be the only candidate to replace him, and will automatically be considered the new party president when the nominations close later today.
Mbeki is expected to receive unanimous backing.
A party atmosphere permeated the University of the North West campus in Mafeking.
But while the scene suggested unity, the conference could see rifts grow in the A-N-C over leadership and policies.
The only candidate to emerge so far for the deputy presidency - national chairman Jacob Zuma - may have to face a floor revolt from Mandela's ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
She proffered her famous raised-fist salute as she arrived on Tuesday and was cheered by about a dozen delegates.
The A-N-C was expected to change its rules to make it more difficult for Madikizela-Mandela to be nominated by conference.
At present such a nomination requires support from 10 per cent of the delegates by a show of hands.
The new rules would increase this to 25 per cent - or 766 of the 3,064 voting delegates - who must sign seconding petitions.
Madikizela-Mandela has been isolated for years by the mainstream A-N-C leadership because of her defiance of party discipline.
Trouble could also come from discontented grassroots supporters of the A-N-C.
Delegates representing impoverished blacks hungry for housing, power and jobs want more forceful policies and more pressure on wealthy whites to ease their situation.
Some party leaders have warned that the A-N-C must start paying more attention to its members.
In his final state of the A-N-C address, Nelson Mandela looked to the future.
"Hopefully it will also assist the conference as it formulates both our policy position and the programme of action that will guide our activities in the period up to our next conference at the end of the twentieth century."
SUPER CAPTION: Nelson Mandela, South African President
Mandela will remain president of the country until 1999, when national elections are due. The A-N-C is expected to win, and the leaders chosen this week are almost certain to lead South Africa into the next century.
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