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Mandela checks to see if he can vote
Former president Nelson Mandela was his usual humorous self on Sunday when he went to a voting station in Johannesburg.

Former president Nelson Mandela was his usual humorous self on Sunday when he went to a voting station in Johannesburg to check if he was registered for next year's elections.

"I hope you do not want to give an impression that I am old," he said to a roar of laughter after Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairwoman Brigalia Bam lead him into the Houghton registration hall where he confirmed he would be able to cast his ballot next year.

Mandela arrived at the Transvaal Automobile Club voting station, and greeted the gathered media contingent.

"How are you? I voted here the last time and I hope all of you have registered."

One of Mandela's aides handed him his identification document to an electoral officer.

"Your registration has been confirmed and this means you are eligible to vote in the next year's general elections," Mandela was told.

Asked which political party he was going to vote for, Mandela said: "I have not made up my mind, but I know which party liberated this country and the people of this country."

Public Enterprise Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi and African National Congress secretary-general David Makhura were also present. Bam introduced Mandela to a group of electoral officials from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, in South Africa to look at the IEC's voting system and models.

"We invited them to come here because most of African countries like our models, which we are still in the process of refining."

She said at a conference the IEC held early this year with electoral officials from Southern Africa Community Development, the commission decided to offer assistance to those African countries in need of help.

At the conference participants looked at norms and standards of elections in Africa, Bam said.

A collective decision was made that a formula that ensures free and fair elections must be adopted by everyone.

"The visit by these African brothers and sisters shows that we are slowly moving towards adopting this formulae.

"We all know elections in Africa have been run differently and in some states you have life presidents. But with the new draft of democracy sweeping through the continent one can see change."

Before Mandela's arrival, Bam said the IEC is to focus its voter registration drive on the youth.

She said that in general there has been significant voter apathy among the youth.

"We have resolved to go to areas where the youth (are) found and embark on an intensive voter registration campaign among this population group," she said.

"We will, for example, set up IEC tents at tertiary institutions, educate students on the importance of voting and distribute pamphlets."

Bam said the IEC has used various mechanisms to raise awareness among young people but the numbers of those coming to register so far had not been "desirable".

"We are not attracting as much numbers as we want to but this phenomenon is not a South African one. Globally, the youth shows a great sense of ignorance when it comes to voting for elections," she said.

"We want those who are 16 years and over to come and register so that when they turn 18 they are eligible to vote."

Bam said the IEC hoped to register just over nine million people over the weekend for next year's elections.

The registration campaign was aimed at those who had never registered as voters before, and registered voters who changed their residential address since the last elections in 1999 or who now fell under a different voting station due to the IEC's
redemacartion process. - Sapa