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Zuma visits Mandela on eve of South Africa vote

Published on 17/05/2011

South African President Jacob Zuma visited anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela on Tuesday on the eve of local elections, seizing the moment to urge voters to cast their ballots.

“Mandela understands the importance of voting (more) than most of us,” Zuma told reporters outside the Johannesburg home of South Africa’s first black president.

In elections where turnout could become a crucial factor in the results, Zuma urged the nation to follow Mandela’s lead and cast ballots, after the Nobel Peace Prize winner cast a special ballot from his home on Monday.

“Voting is important for all of us, it shapes the direction of our country,” Zuma said.

“The fact that our icon has voted means a lot, so who are we to think twice about voting,” he added.

Zuma said that he briefed Mandela on the ruling African National Congress’s election campaign before leaving for his home village of Nkandla, where he will cast his ballot on Wednesday in the remote region of eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.

Photos of Mandela voting Monday were among the first images of the 92-year-old since he was discharged from hospital for two days in January for an acute respiratory infection.

“He was relaxed, in a good mood,” Zuma said.

The country votes on Wednesday in local elections in which basic public services have become a hot issue, with frustration towards the African National Congress building over inadequate power, water and housing.

Voters have rewarded the ANC for leading the country out of apartheid with resounding victories in every poll since the first democratic elections 17 years ago.

But the legacies of white-minority rule have proved hard to erase, and the deep inequality that continues to trouble Africa’s largest economy has taken some of the shine off Mandela’s party.

Voter turnout was at 48 percent in the last local elections in 2006, raising concerns about how many people will cast ballots Wednesday, with a high abstention rate seen as favouring the opposition.

The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has hit the campaign trail in a “Delivery Bus” and splashed the slogan “We Deliver For All” across its posters and billboards.

The opposition is expected to keep control of stronghold Cape Town, with the ANC seen holding onto most other major cities.