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World - Africa

Mandela skips last Cabinet meeting before election

May 26, 1999
Web posted at: 11:44 a.m. EDT (1544 GMT)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (CNN) -- South Africa's first democratic government on Wednesday held its last working Cabinet meeting ahead of the June 2 elections.

President Nelson Mandela skipped the meeting and, instead, held breakfast talks with members of the Asian community. Mandela is expected to attend a ceremonial farewell meeting for Cabinet members on June 9.

Government officials said the Cabinet meeting was chaired by Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, a 56-year-old British-trained economist and the only African National Congress candidate for president.

A poll conducted Monday indicated Mbeki would lead the ANC to victory in the elections, gathering as much of 67 percent of the vote.

Mandela will stay in office through the elections and the first session of the new parliament on June 14. He formally retires on June 16 and aides say he will have no official role in the new government.

Mandela spent 27 years in prison for opposing apartheid. He was freed in 1990 and became South Africa's first democratically elected president on May 10, 1994.

The ANC elected Mbeki to succeed Mandela in December 1997.

Meanwhile, there's the threat of violence ahead of the elections.

A spokesman for the right-wing Freedom Front says its leader, General Constand Viljoen, was the target of a gasoline bomb taken to his home by an unsuspecting party worker on Wednesday. The bomb did not go off.

The Freedom Front, which wants self determination for Afrikaners and a white homeland, is one of 15 main opposition parties running on June 2.

Violence is also simmering in KwaZulu-Natal, the most populous and potentially violent of all South African provinces. The Independent Election Commission said it may cancel the election in the town of Nongoma because of confrontation between rival supporters of the ANC.

KwaZulu-Natal has a history of political violence with more than 20,000 people killed since the mid-1980s.

Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Mandela skips last Cabinet meeting before election
May 26, 1999
Mandela sets timetable for national election
February 5, 1999



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Who 2: Nelson Mandela Profile
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