The ANC is considered likely to win South Africa's first multi-racial elections on 27 April, and Mr Man dela, the ANC president, tops the list of 200 candidates for the National Assembly announced yesterday. The list, drawn from nominations by ANC chapters across the country, includes several whites, Indians and people of mixed-race, a reflection of the ANC's desire to portray itself as a multi-racial organisation.
But the overwhelming majority are black activists who made their names in the anti-apartheid struggle by going to prison, fleeing into exile, or challenging the white-minority government as leaders of black labour groups.
Voters will be asked to choose a party rather than an individual, and with opinion polls suggesting the ANC may win 50 per cent of votes, all the candidates could gain seats in the 400-member parliament.
Mr Mandela is followed on the list by the ANC secretary-general, Cyril Ramaphosa, the national chairman, Thabo Mbeki, the Communist Party leader, Joe Slovo, and the ANC information director, Pallo Jordan.
Mrs Mandela is the 31st candidate, confirming that the ANC leadership has ruled her kidnapping conviction was a political crime. ANC election rules ban convicted criminals from running unless their crimes were politically motivated.
Her inclusion is sure to draw criticism from opposing parties. President F W de Klerk's National Party already has run a full-page newspaper advertisement criticising Mrs Mandela's possible election.
A court in 1991 convicted Mrs Mandela of kidnapping four young men and assisting in assaulting them. Mrs Mandela received a six-year prison sentence. An appeals court overturned the assault conviction and its one-year jail term but upheld the kidnapping conviction. It permitted Mrs Mandela to pay fines totalling 30,000 rand (pounds 6,000) instead of going to prison.
Winnie and Nelson Mandela separated in 1992, and she later resigned from several ANC posts. But Mrs Mandela has remained popular with militants. Her election last December to the powerful post of ANC Women's League president was a sign of her support.
Some 66 women were on the list, falling short of calls by women's groups for equal representation. Other female candidates include Adelaide Tambo, widow of the former ANC leader, Oliver Tambo, the ANC spokeswoman Gill Marcus, and the singer Miriam Makeba.