Flag at President Mandela's inauguration saved from auction

Flag at President Mandela`s inauguration saved from auction London: The flag which flew at Nelson Mandela's inauguration as the first black president of South Africa in 1994, will not go under the hammer and return to the country.

The historic flag, signed by the three South African presidents -- Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and F W de Klerk, will be bought by a London-based South African businessman, who wished not be named, after an agreement with auctioneer Bonhams in London.

The flag, that was flown at the historic presidential inauguration on May 10, 1994, will be bought by the anonymous philanthropist for an undisclosed amount on the understanding that it would be returned to South Africa and handed over to the government.

Giles Peppiatt, Director of South African Art at Bonhams, said: "This is the happiest possible outcome for the flag. We are delighted to have been able to arrange a deal with this patriotic South African who was determined to see the flag return to where it best belongs."

The flag signifies a crucial moment in South Africa's turbulent history, when the country's first black president took the charge after more than three centuries of white rule and subsequent anti-apartheid movement.

President Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) party won 252 of the 400 seats in the first democratic elections of South Africa's history. A moment celebration both in the country and abroad, it was also a period of some apprehension of what the future would hold.

The inauguration ceremony took place in the Union Buildings amphitheatre in Pretoria and was attended by politicians and dignitaries from more than 140 countries around the world.

Jubilant scenes on the streets of Pretoria followed the ceremony with more than 100,000 South African men, women and children of all races singing and dancing with joy.

President Mandela, flanked by first Deputy President Thabo Mbeki and Second Deputy president F W de Klerk, appeared on Botha Lawn beneath the Union Buildings, said; "we saw our country tear itself apart in terrible conflict... The time for healing of wounds has come... Never, Never again will this beautiful land experience the oppression of one by another."

Urging forgiveness from the crowd, he said in Afrikaans: "Wat is verby verby" meaning what is past is past".