Former South African president Nelson Mandela made a rare public appearance Sunday at an election rally held by his party, the ruling African National Congress (ANC), dpa reported.
Mandela, 90, who has previously shrugged off calls by the ANC to campaign in upcoming general elections, attended a party rally in his native Eastern Cape province with one of his daughters and a grandson.
The frail anti-apartheid icon did not address the rally. However, his grandson, Mandla Mandela, a chieftain in Mandela's birthplace of Mvezo, said his grandfather were "there to confirm their ANC membership and support for the party," the ANC reported.
"He said they would continue to support the ANC towards winning the upcoming elections," the ANC quoted the young Mandela as saying.
Mandela's appearance came as a surprise. Since retiring from public life in 2004, he has avoided getting caught up in domestic politics, choosing instead to concentrate on charities benefiting children and those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
His endorsement is deemed important for the new ANC of controversial leader Jacob Zuma. While the party is forecast to easily win the April 22 elections, its more-than-two-thirds majority in parliament is under threat from the Congress of the People, a new party of breakaway ANC members loyal to ousted former president Thabo Mbeki.
The ANC split into pro-Mbeki and pro-Zuma factions when Mbeki ran for a third term as party leader against Zuma in 2007. Zuma won by a landslide.
Mandela, the nation's first democratically elected president, handed over the baton of power to Mbeki after a single term in 1999.