The Associated Press
DURBAN, South Africa -- Before a sea of black supporters, Nelson Mandela used his final campaign appearance Sunday to reassure whites and insist that a late surge of violence would not derail the election that is expected to catapult him to the presidency.
The rally, which drew more than 100,000 people to a Durban sports stadium, began just hours after a car-bomb blast killed nine people and wounded about 100 near the African National Congress headquarters in Johannesburg.
"We're not going to be deterred from getting our freedom. Nothing they can do ... can stop us from making April 27 a historic day for South Africa," he said.
The rally appeared to be the biggest of Mandela's electioneering roadshows, which began in January and took the ANC leader to virtually every corner of South Africa, from remote hamlets to cities such as Durban, 370 miles southeast of Johannesburg.
Mandela's main oppenent, President F.W. de Klerk, closed his election campaign in Cape Town Saturday. And a late-starter, Zulu nationalist Mangosuthu Buthelezi, wound up with a rally Sunday in the ANC stronghold of Soweto.
The ANC is rated a strong favorite to win the country's first all-race elections. Three days of voting begin Tuesday.
"We have closed an area of more than three centuries of white minority rule," Mandela said. "A new era of hope and reconciliation and nation-building is starting."
He appealed explicitly to white professionals to stay in South Africa.
"Engineers, teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers need to sit down with us and plan how to build our country," he said. "This is an earnest appeal from a man who spent 27 years in prison. There is nothing that hurts me more than seeing these people leave and use their skills for another country."
"The ANC recognizes the critical and decisive role that whites can play," he said.
Mandela's decision to close out the ANC campaign in Durban was significant, because the port city is the biggest urban area of Zulu-dominated Natal Province. Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party is the ANC's main black rival, and violence between supporters of the two groups has killed more than 10,000 people the past three years.
Fears of more violence subsided last week when Inkatha dropped its boycott of the election, but the bomb blast and clashes Saturday in the Zulu stronghold of Ulundi were a reminder of the potentially dangerous days ahead.
Three ANC members died after they were attacked Saturday in Ulundi while posting campaign signs and handing out ANC leaflets.
"The people who were involved in killing ANC workers in Ulundi, no matter what position they hold, must pay for those crimes," Mandela said. He called for police in the Zulu homeland, KwaZulu, to be confined to barracks during the vote or face arrest.
Independent investigators have acused KwaZulu police, who are controlled by Buthelezi, of instigating violence against ANC members.
In Soweto Sunday, Buthelezi blamed the violence on the ANC, which called off a 30-year sabotage campaign against the government in 1990.
The ANC's "armed struggle militarized the black South African body politic," Buthelezi told about 15,000 supporters gathered in Orlando Stadium, a Soweto landmark.
Most of Buthelezi's listeners came from Soweto's worker hostels, where Inkatha support is concentrated in a township that is overwhelmingly ANC.
In Durban, Mandela stressed that his willingness to offer amnesty for past political violence would not extend to any crimes committed during the election campaign.
Most people in the vast crowd waved small ANC flags that fluttered in the wind as Mandela, in a high-collared black shirt, arrived. Some said they had waited five hours to see Mandela.
"This is the best day," said Sandile Mfeka, 27, who came early from his township home in Umlazi, outside Durban, to claim a place near the podium. "This is the time for us to speak." Read Next Article