20 Apr 2009

Mandela endorses Zuma

3:25 pm on 20 April 2009

Former South African president Nelson Mandela has made a surprise appearance at the governing African National Congress party's final rally in Johannesburg before a general election on Wednesday.

Wearing an ANC T-shirt, Mr Mandela was at the side of the party's leader, Jacob Zuma, and was greeted with rapturous applause.

The rare public appearance by Mr Mandela, 90, is the biggest possible endorsement of Mr Zuma.

Mr Mandela's last active campaign was in 1994, when South Africa held its first democratic elections.

He urged the ANC to remember its main task was to eradicate poverty and build a united, non-racial society.

Jacob Zuma is expected to become president after Wednesday's poll, the most competitive since the end of apartheid in South Africa in 1994.

The breakaway party Congress of the People (COPE) is also holding its final rally, in Limpopo Province.

The latest opinion polls suggest that COPE, made up largely of former African National Congress members, could get as much as 15% of the national vote.