BY LUCY LETHBRIDGE
TIE VICTORY IN South Africa's first multi-race Ten
of African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela to presidential power this week, has been hailed as "an historic moment" by Catholic observers and Churchmen in South Africa.
Fr Pat Davies, representing CAFOD, was a member of a 22-member delegation of senior Churchmen, including Bishop Patrick Kelly of Salford, who were invited by the South Africa Bishops' Conference to be official "observers" of the elections.
"The uniform feeling among all the observers was that the elections were free and fair. It is a miracle that it was all so peaceful," Fr Davies told the Catholic Herald.
In the wake of pre-election bombings by the white supremacist Afrikaner Resistance Movement that killed 21 people and wounded scores more, Holy Cross Fr Oliver Williams of the UN Observation Mission said the bombs would "serve to strengthen peoples' resolve".
Carol Watson, a staff member of Catholic Charities in New York and an election observer in Cape Town, said this week: "The Church here has played an extraordinary role its people were willing to do whatever it took to make the election free and fair."
In a victory speech this week, Nelson Mandela invited the people of South Africa to celebrate "a joyous night for the human spirit". Church spokesman have echoed Mr Mandela's concern that the future government should "serve all the people of South Africa, not just ANC members".
In the wake of anger among Inkatha members about what they saw as the ANC's unfair advantage in the voting (many ballot papers did not have an Inkatha candidate listed because of Chief Buthelezi's last-minute decision to participate in the elections), Fr Davies said: "One of the Church's main roles now is to encourage reconciliation between the Zulus and the ANC".
He went on: "The Church must retain its critical function to make sure the new government stays pointing in the right direction."