Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Nelson Mandela Set to Become South Africa's 1st Black President Landmark Elections Place Power in Hands of Black Majority after 340 Years

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Nelson Mandela Set to Become South Africa's 1st Black President Landmark Elections Place Power in Hands of Black Majority after 340 Years

Article excerpt

AFRICAN National Congress President Nelson Mandela is poised to take over power in South Africa from President Frederik De Klerk - the man who freed him from jail four years ago. The ANC, the liberation group that resisted white rule for 82 years, has won an outright majority in the country's founding vote, according to projections based on about 20 percent of the vote counted.

Mr. Mandela was due to declare victory May 10 in a ballot that has restored the dignity of black South Africans and begun to bond the nation's diverse population. The handover of power will mark the end of more than four decades of apartheid rule and will place control in the hands of the black majority for the first time in history.

But the landmark event has been tarnished by administrative bungling, protracted delays in the casting and counting of votes, and at least 200 complaints by rival political groups.

The most serious incident - which smacks of deliberate sabotage - involves hundreds of thousands of unused ballots destined for polling stations near Johnannesburg. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has issued summons against four warehouse managers suspected of intercepting the ballots.

Projections indicate that the ANC will win about 58 percent of the vote and the ruling National Party (NP) about 28 percent. The Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party, likely to come in third with about 6 percent of the vote, could be a third player in a coalition cabinet that will be dominated by the two giants of South African politics.

The NP put in a stronger showing than predicted by most polls. Mr. De Klerk is ensured of becoming one of two deputy presidents and the party will be entitled to at least five posts in the coalition cabinet.

"We have just witnessed a major milestone in South Africa's transition to nonracial democracy," said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, president of the Rainbow Coalition, who led a United States delegation to the country.

The voting process was remarkable in several respects: It took place in an atmosphere of peace and mutual tolerance, and South Africans of all races showed an irrepressible will to vote despite administrative bottlenecks, long delays, and right-wing intimidation.

A series of bomb blasts in the days before the poll failed to deter millions of South Africans streaming to the polls - often to wait for four or five hours to vote.

"In all the places that I have been, the election breathed an air of reconciliation, and that is what the country needs," De Klerk said, visiting polling stations on April 28, the second day of the poll. "Violence has abated ... and we have had no overt intimidation."

Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, also a Nobel Peace laureate, said voting for the first time was an "incredible" feeling. "It was like falling in love," he said. …

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