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Paper tigers vie for support

IN THE remarkably peaceful run-up to the South African elections, the most vicious party warring has been in the wording of posters on the country's lampposts.

"The guts to fight back," the slogan of the white-dominated Democratic Party, was countered by the African National Congress with a pointed: "Don't fight blacks," poster. It is now absent from lampposts because it has become a collectors' item.

To stoke fears that the ANC will tamper with the country's constitution if it secures a two-thirds majority, the New National Party refers to the turmoil and strife in neighbouring Zimbabwe. "Mugabe has two-thirds," it says.

But most NNP posters go straight for the jugular of white fears: "Hang rapists and killers" and: "No mercy for criminals" are some of the favourites.

In Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal, which has been the scene of violent clashes between the Inkatha Freedom Party and the ANC in 1994, both parties have gone to great lengths to maximise their own visibility. They have been using long ladders to reach the very tops of lampposts and electricity poles.

The ANC - which has an election fund estimated at pounds 120m raised largely from foreign supporters - even organised air drops of pamphlets over IFP strongholds in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

Most parties have at some point complained to the Independent Electoral Commission about rivals tearing down their election posters. But new light was shed on the problem on Monday when the newspaper The Sowetan published a picture of township goats nibbling at ANC posters.

Taken to task about the tons of paper used for posters covering every lamppost in the country, and in each of South Africa's 11 languages, the environment minister, Pallo Jordan, declared they had humanitarian value.

"The posters, usually stuck to Masonite, make excellent insulation for homes in informal settlements," he said.