Senior diplomat Lindiwe Mabuza said on Monday that the very people who once stood outside South Africa's London embassy banging on the walls to try to tear down apartheid were now her guests in the building. Her remarks were made in an impassioned speech celebrating 15 years of freedom for Black South Africans, writes Marc Wadsworth.
Dr Mabuza gave heartfelt thanks to supporters in Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America, America and "the whole of Africa" at the South African national day celebration in the British capital. A distinguished author, Dr Mabuza is South Africa's second woman to be the most senior diplomat to represent the republic in London.
She hailed the trouble-free South African elections, concluded on Saturday with a landslide win for the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
"There was no violence and the vote was a beacon of democracy for the world to see," said Dr Mabuza, who introduced the ANC's General Treasurer Mathews Phosa to her London lunch-time guests who included more than 200 politicians, diplomats, activists and community leaders.
The High Commissioner said that, since the free elections which for the first time gave Black South Africans the vote in 1994, there had been progress but much more was left to be done to tackle poverty, poor housing and improve sanitation, electrification and the supply of water to every household.
There are 48 million South Africans in a nation which prides itself on having a "non-racial, non-sexist" constitution that is "one of the most progressive in the world".
Dr Mabuza did not shirk from the challenge of violence which plagues cities and townships and gives South Africa a bad name. According to United Nations research during 1998 —2000, South Africa was ranked second for murder and first for assaults and rapes per capita. Total crime was 10th out of the 60 countries surveyed.
In May 2008, long standing hostility to African migrants exploded in a series of attacks that left up to 100 people dead and 100,000 displaced.
Dr Mabuza said that South Africa was particularly proud to be hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup - the biggest sporting event in the international calendar. Preparations for the staging of the soccer championship had included new roads, better transportation, airports refurbishments and infrastructural improvements which would benefit South Africans for generations to come.
"I hope that South Africa's footballers become the champions because we are in this not just to host the World Cup but to win it," said Dr Mabuza, to loud applause. "But if they don't, then I hope another deserving African team is victorious."
Photography: Luke Daniels