SOUTH AFRICA: ANC RALLY BIDS FAREWELL TO MANDELA
(30 May 1999) English/Nat
Eighty-thousand African National Congress supporters have attended a rally to bid farewell to President Nelson Mandela and cheer the man expected to succeed him.
The rapturous crowd greeted Mandela and his chosen heir, Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, as they arrived at one of the country's biggest football stadiums in Soweto.
The rally marked a climax in the campaign for South Africa's second all-race elections, to be held on Wednesday.
This was a chance for A-N-C supporters to bid their beloved President Nelson Mandela farewell.
And a crowd of more than 80-thousand A-N-C supporters had joined the party atmosphere in Soweto's main football stadium.
Thunderous cheers greeted the president and his chosen heir Thabo Mbeki as they arrived on a golf cart and circled the field which was adorned with posters of the two men.
As the band played a song about Mandela, the 80-year obliged the delighted crowd by dancing on stage with Mbeki.
But there was also an important message to get across.
The rally was the A-N-C's last scheduled mass event before Wednesday's election - South Africa's second free and democratic vote since the fall of apartheid.
The party is seeking an overwhelming victory, which it says is necessary to continue dismantling the vestiges of apartheid.
Whites still control much of South Africa's wealth, leaving (M) millions of blacks in poverty.
In his final appearance as president at a mass rally, he urged the crowd to elect his hand-picked successor Mbeki, saying the long walk to freedom was not over.
"Today, as we did five years ago, we call on you to return to your communities and mobilise the people for an overwhelming ANC victory on Wednesday. We call you to the ballot box in your millions to give President Mbeki and your organisation, the ANC, the mandate that they need to accelerate the transformation and deliver."
SUPER CAPTION: Nelson Mandela, outgoing President of South Africa
According to the polls, Mbeki is assured of victory.
Recent tallies show the A-N-C with more than 60 percent support and not one of the many opposition parties with more than 10 percent.
Mbeki promised to use his power to improve conditions for everyone.
"We must fight against crime and corruption, Your ministers, your government is working on those plans so that we carry out an effective fight against criminals and those who are corrupt."
SUPER CAPTION: Thabo Mbeki, Deputy President of South Africa
Not left out of the crowd's adulation was Mandela's ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who is on a comeback trail.
Despite controversy over her notorious youth football team, she remains a hugely popular figure in some parts of South Africa.
Although she and Mandela kept their distance, she danced hand-in-hand with Mbeki after her ex-husband had left the stage.
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