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Mandela urges patience with rejectionists

NELSON MANDELA called on his supporters yesterday for 'absolute patience' in the face of the most exasperating confusion within the ranks of those who, in their zeal to turn back the clock, continue to threaten war if the April elections go ahead as planned.

With what had been billed as the final deadline for electoral registration having passed on Friday, the President of the African National Congress yesterday proposed an extension of the deadline so that time might be found to persuade the rejectionists to change their minds.

Addressing some 20,000 people at an ANC rally in Pietersburg, Northern Transvaal, Mr Mandela repeated his words of last week and said he remained prepared to go down on his knees to ensure peace in South Africa.

Mr Mandela told the crowd: 'We must develop absolute patience and the ability to understand the fears of others . . . These are temporary setbacks.' The setbacks in question concerned the far-right coalition, the Afrikaner Volksfront. Late on Friday night the Volksfront's most high-profile leader, General Constand Viljoen, decided in the face of opposition from his own ranks to register for the election.

But at a Volksfront meeting on Saturday he was overruled by his own people, notably by the Conservative Party leader Ferdi Hartzenberg, and it was announced that the organisation would categorically not take part in the elections. Mr Hartzenberg's position is that the government and the ANC have not provided sufficient guarantees that a separate Afrikaner state will be created under the new dispensation.

So far South Africa's two main political players have only gone so far as to state that the volkstaat option will receive serious attention under the coalition government that will emerge after next month's poll.

Although General Viljoen has caved in, the suspicion in political circles is that deep tensions remain within the far right and the possibility still exists that the 'moderates' will break away and form their own party. General Viljoen's supporters include General Tienie Groenewald, a former military intelligence chief, and General Kobus Visser, who was head of police CID.

The Inkatha leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, appears to have been mollified for the moment. He also 'provisionally registered' for the election on Friday night, but so far has not changed his mind.