Victory Not Official, But Revelers Celebrate Anyway With AM-South Africa, Bjt
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Huge portraits of Nelson Mandela beamed down on hundreds of revelers Sunday night as the African National Congress celebrated victory even before the count was final in South Africa’s election.
The Carlton Hotel ballroom was bedecked in balloons and bunting in the ANC’s green, black and gold colors. People hugged each other and laughed loudly while waiters and waitresses served drinks and kept buffet tables stocked. Choirs sang African hymns from a stage where jazz bands would later sway the crowd.
Mandela stayed away, not wishing to appear presumptuous by formally claiming victory with barely 20 percent of the vote from last week’s all-race election counted. But other ANC officials were less restrained.
″We have won the election. We have won,″ former political prisoner Steve Tshwete shouted while slapping the palm of colleague Aziz Pahad. ″And we deserve it.″
Pahad admitted ″a gut feeling″ that the ANC won South Africa’s first all- race election, which finally buried apartheid. But he said the crawling vote count was maddening to ANC supporters.
″Everybody wants to know,″ he said. ″The longer you wait, the more it gets unsettled. I think, in a sense, that’s a bit of a letdown.″
Called ″A Celebration of Democracy and a Better Life for All,″ the party actually started Saturday night and would continue until the final results are in, said Feroza Adam, an ANC spokesman and candidate for Parliament.
″We’ve got the ballroom for a few days,″ she said. ″We’ve warned the Carlton.″
Catering for 1,000 people was planned, with the guest list including foreign dignitaries - former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda was spotted Sunday - along with ANC stalwarts and hundreds of journalists.
Adam said cases of champagne were waiting for when Mandela would appear to announce victory. The fact that it might take a few days seemed unimportant.
″We’ll boogie nonetheless, because we think it’s about time we did,″ ANC information director Pallo Jordan said.
Standing near the bar, ANC supporter Raymond Mabaso agreed.
″The celebration to me means liberation,″ he said.