Nelson Mandela Foundation


Nelson Mandela votes for the first time on April 27, 1994

23 November, 2011 – A photographer has given the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory a set of previously not widely known photographs of Nelson Mandela voting for the first time on 27 April 1994.

There were two ballots to be cast in South Africa’s first democratic elections – one for the national government and one for the provincial government.

Mr Mandela cast his first vote inside a building at the Ohlange High School in Inanda in KwaZulu-Natal and then cast his second vote in front of photographers waiting outside. The venue was chosen because it was a school started by the founding President of the African National Congress John Langalibalele Dube and his grave was close by.

On that day Mr Mandela stood at his grave and said: “Mr President, I have come to report to you that South Africa is free today.”

Luke Dollimore, then a BA student at Curtin University in Perth, Australia and freelance photographer, covered the election campaign and travelled with the world’s press to Inanda. He entered the hall and photographed Mr Mandela casting the first vote of his life. This week he donated copies of these photographs to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory for its own research purposes.

“I believe it captures a moment of such national and indeed international repute,” said Mr Dollimore who presently works in real estate and commercial acting in Cape Town and still takes photographs.

The Independent Electoral Commission observer pictured alongside Mr Mandela while he voted is Dr Gay McDougall, a human rights lawyer who is presently the Robert Drinan Visiting Professor in Human Rights at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington DC.

She was shown the photographs this week and said she had never seen them before. Dr McDougall appears in the famous photograph of Mr Mandela voting outside the hall.

Commenting by email from the US, she said: “These were taken inside the voting hall at Ohlange. It was the first vote.”


Luke Dollimore’s old ANC press pass

Recalling what happened next Dr McDougall said: “Then we proceeded outside for the second vote that was set up on the porch of the school house so that the photographers could get photos. After the second vote he walked onto the lawn where the microphone was set up to give his speech.”

Verne Harris, the head of the Memory Programme at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory said: “The archive reveals that what we’ve all thought was Madiba casting his first vote was actually him casting his second vote.”

“We commend Mr Dollimore for allowing these photographs to be used for research purposes and thereby doing his part to assist in furthering Madiba’s legacy.”