Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Boston, Jubilant South Africans Cast First Votes for Democracy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Boston, Jubilant South Africans Cast First Votes for Democracy

Article excerpt

CASTING an absentee ballot Tuesday at 7 a.m. in the Massachusetts State House in Boston, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela became one of the first black South Africans ever to vote in a national election.

As she turned in her sealed ballot, applause erupted in the cavernous Doric Hall, startling many onlookers.

Although election rules prohibited Ms. Gobodo-Madikizela, a volunteer monitor, from speaking with reporters, she displayed unmistakable euphoria as she embraced friends and fellow election workers.

Emerging from the tall black-curtained booths, voters' reactions ranged from giddiness to tears.

"It feels so good, I'm so excited. It's like living in a dream," said Anna Mabuzo, a student from the Western Transvaal region now living in Cambridge, Mass. "I see a lot of happiness for everybody, and I see progress now that apartheid is dying. Finally, black people will have a say in how they want our country to be ruled."

"I feel like a human being," she added, her face alight with a smile, "like I have rights."

Ms. Mabuzo, whose parents settled in Botswana after being exiled 30 years ago, said she hopes the elections and change of government will convince them to return to their homeland. "They're very excited," she said. "I feel that they will go back as soon as the country is free."

Mabuzo and Gobodo-Madikizela were among 1,200 South Africans expected to cast ballots in Boston, joining absentee voters at polling stations in 12 other metropolitain areas across the United States.

Worldwide, a total of 16 million black South Africans were expected to vote in the first of three days of voting. General balloting opened yesterday in South Africa and will conclude today. South Africans will elect a multiracial government of national unity, a national assembly, and legislatures for each of the nine newly created provinces.

"This is the first free election in modern history," noted Michael Blaine, a South African citizen working temporarily in Hartford, Conn. …

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