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Madiba makes his mark in Houghton
Nelson Mandela, the country's first democratically elected president, voted in Houghton, Johannesburg, on Wednesday.

Nelson Mandela, the country's first democratically elected president, voted in Houghton, Johannesburg, on Wednesday.

"Even if I go to my grave I will wake up and come and vote," Mandela said.

He was accompanied by his assistant Zelda la Grange and businessman Tokyo Sexwale.

He shook hands and hugged people as he was led to the polling booth.

Sexwale, a former Gauteng premier and fellow Robben Island prisoner turned prominent businessman, introduced Mandela to people along the way.

The local African National Congress candidate, Ramnie Dinat, was delighted to meet her party's famous former president, and was rendered momentarily speechless as she basked in the Madiba glow.

"Tata, tata," called out some of the elderly women in the queue as a high-spirited Mandela, whose Johannesburg residence is in the area, joked and chatted to a mixture of retired Houghton matrons, schoolchildren and students, domestic workers and businesspeople.

He just missed casually dressed South African Reserve Bank Governor Tito Mboweni, unrecognised by many in the queue as the man at the frontline of the country's interest rates.

"It is my responsibility to vote. We have to fulfil this responsibility," said Mboweni as he left to spend the rest of the public holiday reading the newspapers.

Cameras whirred as Mandela put his vote into the ballot box, with his minders ordering photographers to switch off their flashes to protect his eyes, damaged after years of forced labour in the limestone quarries of Robben Island.

Until April 27 1994, black, Indian and coloured South Africans were not allowed to vote.

Mandela was jailed from 1964 to 1990 for his part in the struggle that finally brought the vote to all South Africans with the downfall of the National Party government that enforced racial segregation.

"One of the manifestations of pride [in your country] is to vote for your country, and I am very happy for it," Mandela told reporters.

He said every country in the world faces challenges, but for South Africa, "we must ensure that we deal with poverty, lack of education and ... ensure good health".

Independent Electoral Commission chairperson Brigalia Bam briefed Mandela on how voting was progressing. "Even in Khutsong they are voting, even in Nongoma they are voting," said Bam.

When asked who he voted for, Mandela joked: "I voted for myself." -- Sapa