President Nelson Mandela of South Africa called on the WCC to be engaged in the entrenchment of democracy, so helping the fulfilment "of the dreams of African renaissance". His surprise visit on Sunday (13 December) was seen to have heightened the significance of the WCC as he used the occasion to bid its member churches farewell before he relinquishes the leadership of his country next year. In the past few months, President Mandela has been visiting selected countries and institutions for such farewells. "It is because of the values you promote and what you have stood for that I set aside whatever I was engaged in, to come and join you", he told a capacity audience at the University of Zimbabwe's Great Hall. "As my public life draws to a close, I feel privileged to share my dreams and my thoughts with you."
A few days earlier (8 December), President Mugabe had made a passionate appeal to WCC churches to help to end what he termed "a global conspiracy against poor nations". He said that the global order today belonged to the strong and heartless, a world dominated "by bullies". He went on to paint a bleak picture of "a conservative world where rich nations tumble upon poor ones with disgusting impunity", adding: "We call it a global village in spite of the blatant inequalities of its villagers."