Mandela Shapes New Leadership S. African President-Elect Urges Unity, but Cabinet Appointments Cause Some Divisions Series: FORGING A NEW SOUTH AFRICA. Part 8 of an Occasional Series Examining the Problems of a Country Making Historic Transition from Segregation to Democracy. Only Article Appearing Today

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NELSON MANDELA moved swiftly to unite this diverse and divided nation on the eve of his formal election as the country's first black president by Parliament today and his inauguration in Pretoria tomorrow.

In a series of Cabinet appointments and speeches to the country's diverse religious communities over the weekend, Mr. Mandela conveyed a message of unity.

"I stand firm in the belief that we are one country and one nation," he told a group of Muslims outside a mosque on Saturday. "Whether we are coloreds {mixed-race}, Indians, whites, or Africans - that is what we must promote in this country from now on." Speaking also at Jewish and Christian assemblies, he assured whites that they had nothing to fear from a government dominated by the African National Congress (ANC).

As Mandela spoke, nine provincial premiers were sworn in at emotional ceremonies around the country, transforming overnight bastions of white supremacy into new seats of provincial government reflecting the black majority. The newly inaugurated premiers, who include some of the ANC's highest-ranking officials, called for national reconciliation and unity.

But the challenge of uniting the country was reflected in the task of forming the new Cabinet, in which Mandela's ANC holds 18 seats, outgoing President Frederik de Klerk's National Party (NP) six seats, and Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) three seats.

In choosing the 18 ANC ministers, Mandela had to balance between members who have returned from exile or were released from political prison, on the one hand, and the younger generation of anti-apartheid activists who led the resistance against white rule inside the country, on the other. He had to counter the widely held perception of the ANC as an organization dominated by his Xhosa ethnic group ensuring the presence of Zulu, Indian, and colored officials in the Cabinet.

Thabo Mbeki, an urbane diplomat who headed the ANC's international department, has been chosen as the first deputy president. The second deputy president will be Mr. De Klerk. The three, who met for several hours on Friday, have already taken over the running of the country.

Mandela's most significant decision was to retain Finance Minister Derek Keys. This will likely find unanimous support in Western capitals and in banking and other financial circles as a clear indication that Mandela will follow viable economic policies and work closely with major financial institutions. The five other NP Cabinet seats also went to sitting ministers, including Roelf Meyer, the chief government negotiator during the four-year transition.

A row erupted across party lines, however, over the allocation of both the police and defense ministries to ANC officials after Mandela was overruled by his National Working Committee to deliver on a prior commitment to De Klerk that the police portfolio would stay in NP hands. …