Monday, April 20, 2009

Mandela Calls For Unity at Final ANC Poll Rally

Mandela calls for unity at final ANC poll rally

Sunday, April 19 03:09 pm
Sibongile Khumalo

In a sea of black and gold, more than 100,000 ANC supporters on Sunday feted an anticipated victory in Wednesday's South African elections, electrified by the presence of Nelson Mandela and presidential favourite Jacob Zuma.

Giant banners bearing Zuma's portrait and a giant X marked next to it loomed over the massive Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg where the final African National Congress election rally throbbed with the beat of success.

The party is expected to win the upcoming elections with about 60 percent of the vote, despite what analysts are calling its toughest opposition challenge ever.

"We don't want a problem here in terms of stampedes and a disaster. Stay where you are," warned an ANC leader from the stage as crowds thronged outside the stadium which was filled to capacity.

Loud music blared as supporters clad in party colours, T-shirts and memorabilia sang, chanted and cheered, breaking into a frenzy when a frail-looking Mandela, 90, arrived in a golf cart.

"Mandela's presence shows that the so-called divisions in the ANC are nothing," said supporter Keith Duma, referring to recent political infighting and the formation of breakaway party the Congress of the People (COPE).

"He is with us, his support means a lot."

Mandela's presence only added to that of Zuma, who steadfastly pulls massive crowds of supporters and enjoys performing a signature tune whose title in English is "Bring me My Machine Gun".

The song resounded around the stadium on Sunday as the new leadership danced alongside ANC liberation veterans, with a white-haired Mandela seated throughout.

"I am here to witness my party's biggest moment. We are preparing for victory," said Themba Zimu, a medical doctor from Soweto.

The overflowing crowd was contained in a neighbouring stadium while the festivites were broadcast live on television and radio, as well as to eight other venues around the country.

"Everyone who is an ardent supporter of our movement is here today. We have come to claim victory," said Fikile Mbalula, the ANC's election campaign manager.

Women dressed in Zulu regalia decorated with ANC colours ululated and beat drums ahead of the arrival of Zuma, who has battled fierce opposition, corruption charges and numerous scandals in the past years.

"Those who are against Zuma becoming president must just give up. They tried to stop him with the rape charges. That failed, Now they have failed again to nail him with corruption," said ANC supporter Nobahle Cawe.

"I am ready to vote ANC, the whole country is ready to vote and the ANC will govern again," said the 67-year-old pensioner who travelled from East London with her husband Martin to attend the rally.

The ANC has promised to rid South Africa of corruption and improve on delivery of public services -- a weak point which has been seized by the newly formed opposition.

"Those who defected to COPE are going to be sorry. The ANC has done a good job taking this country this far, I believe in that they will continue to work hard to deliver their promises," said Kamogelo Ndibi from Pretoria.

Millions of South Africans still live in shanty towns despite promises to solve the country's housing crisis. Nearly three million new homes have been built but too often with scant regard for the needs of the people affected.

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