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Mandela: SA's greatest son laid to rest (slideshow)
The world watched as Nelson Mandela was finally laid to rest in his hometown of Qunu following a dignified and moving funeral ceremony on Sunday.
Outside Ohlange High School in Inanda the first voters had waited since 4am.
Virginia Gasa stood at the front of the line unaware of the man about to push ahead of her. Told that Nelson Mandela would soon arrive she asked "Sure?" and then, suddenly overwhelmed, buried her face in a friend's shoulder.
Mandela's first stop was John Dube's grave. The last president of the ANC as a liberation organisation laid a wreath beneath the inscription "Out of the darkness into the glorious light".
As he turned toward the polling station, Mandela was asked how he was gong to vote. He smiled broadly. "I've been agonising over that question. When I decide it'll be a secret."
A mass of photographers and the American member of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Gaye McDougall, battled over the positioning of a voting table placed outside. McDougall won, saying the regulations dictated where the table should go. "You have to listen to the law, not reason,” she said.
A few minutes later McDougall brushed aside the law, reason and the IEC's independence by greeting the ANC leader with a kiss. "I just wanted to welcome you," she said. From that moment she at his side.
Mandela went inside, displayed his identity book and listened patiently to an explanation of how to mark his two ballots. One ballot was dropped in a box inside the polling station to cheers and yet another hug from McDougall before Mandela emerged for his turn before the cameras.
Waving his second folded ballot paper he graciously positioned himself on each side of the ballot box in turn. Posing a last time, he dropped the paper into the box, beamed and thrust a hand -- not a clenched fist -- in the air.
"This is, for all South Africans, an unforgetable occasion. It is the realisation of our hopes and dreams that we have cherished over decades. The dreams of a South Africa which represents all South Africans," he said.
"It is the beginning of a new era. We have moved from an era of pessimism, division, limited opportunities, turmoil and conflict. We are starting a new era of hope, reconciliation and nation building. We hope by the mere casting of a vote the results will give hope to all South Africans and make all South Africans realise this is our country. We are one nation," he added.
Campaigning may officially be at an end but Mandela could not resist trying to charm the police. One white policeman grunted and looked the other way, but Colonel Kobus le Roux was moved. "Take care of yourself," he told his next president. "He's incredible. He went through a tough school, you know. But there's no bitterness there. The way he came over and spoke to the cops. It's just incredible," the colonel later said.
By the time Mandela left the polling station, the lines to follow his lead had grown across South Africa. As if to nail the apartheid lie, blacks and whites mingled peacefully.
Out side Ohlange High School the order was only disrupted as Mandela emerged. Hardly any of the waiting voters knew he was going in but word spread and hundreds were on hand for him to emerge.