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Mandela 'Elated' to Assert Right to Vote - 2004-04-14

Many South Africans turned out early to vote in the country's general election on Wednesday. Among those anxious to beat the rush was elder statesman Nelson Mandela. Mr. Mandela turned up at his local voting station in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton promptly at 8:30 a.m(local time), leaning heavily on the arm of his personal assistant. He was escorted to the front of the line by Brigalia Bam, the head of the Independent Electoral Commission.

The former president voted twice - once for the national parliament and the once for the provincial legislature - before saying he was delighted to be exercising his voting rights for the third time in a general election.

"I feel elated that I can freely assert my right as a citizen," says Mr. Mandela. "And I sincerely hope that the entire world will abandon violence and use peaceful methods of asserting their rights as citizens."

As is his habit, Mr. Mandela warmly greeted many waiting voters, and when he was reminded by his assistant that he knew an actress standing in line, he told her he would have remembered her despite his 85 years.

Assitant Zelda Le Grange: You know Sandra Prinsloo?
Mr. Mandela: I hope she still remembers me.
Sandra Prinsloo: I remember you too well, Madiba (Mandela's clan name commonly used by South Africans to address him).
Mr. Mandela: I'm sorry that she has told me who you are. because I would have told you that I know you very well.

Mr. Mandela urged all eligible voters to exercise their right to vote, saying it is the surest way in which they can influence the future of South Africa.