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Poll landslide predicted for ANC

THE question in the South African elections of 27 April will not be whether Nelson Mandela's African National Congress wins, but by how much. The result of a comprehensive national poll published yesterday by the Johannesburg Sunday Times also leaves no doubt that F W de Klerk's National Party will come second, a safe distance ahead of the Inkatha Freedom Party, the combined white right and the liberal Democratic Party.

The ANC and the NP between them will take 80 per cent of the national vote, according to the poll, which largely confirms the findings of another poll published only five days ago by the US-funded Institute for Multi-Party Democracy.

The Sunday Times poll gives the ANC a landslide 65 per cent of the national vote, a whisker short of the two-thirds majority legally required to rewrite South Africa's constitution. The NP gets 16 per cent; Inkatha 5 per cent; the white right 4 per cent and the DP just under 3 per cent. Under the new federal system of government, the ANC will take comfortable control of seven of the nine provincial legislatures and win the other two by a narrow majority.

The poll, conducted by Markinor, took responses from 2,655 South Africans of all races, including representative numbers from the migrant workers' hostels and the more remote rural areas.

The political implications are significant, not least for the Zulu chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha. The poll showed that in the Natal/KwaZulu area, where the Zulu population is in the vast majority, the ANC could expect to win 46 per cent of the vote to Inkatha's 19 per cent. Elsewhere in the country Inkatha barely figured, their second best result coming in the greater Johannesburg area where their support stands at 5 per cent.

The clear message to Chief Buthelezi is that his obstructionist tactics of recent months - a candid Inkatha official said last year his party was engaged in 'constructive filibustering' - have significantly reduced Inkatha's popular appeal. Polls conducted six months ago put his support at closer to 10 per cent. The question whether to participate in the elections, already hotly debated in Inkatha circles, is certain to acquire new urgency.

Inkatha's allies in the so-called Freedom Alliance, the far-right separatists of the Afrikaner Volksfront, will also be forced to reappraise their position. The Volksfront's claim to represent Afrikaners is severely questioned by the results of the poll, which shows that in the Boer heartlands of the Northern and Eastern Transvaal they lag some way behind the NP. Nationally, the far right can lay claim to only a fifth of the white vote. Trends suggest that more whites will flock to the NP for fear of wasting their vote.

As to the radical Pan-Africanist Congress, which yesterday suspended its 'armed struggle', its support stands at less than 2 per cent. Claims during the past year by the PAC's armed wing, the Azanian People's Liberation Army (Apla), to have carried out a number of terrorist attacks against whites appear not to have made a favourable impression on the black population.

The one area in the country where, as yesterday's poll confirmed, the electoral battle will have something of an edge is the Cape Town area, the Western Cape. Here the ANC has 43 per cent support to the NP's 33 per cent, the relatively narrow margin being accounted for by the fact that here it is mixed-race Coloureds - as the apartheid definition has it - that are in the majority. Support among Coloureds for Mr de Klerk is almost as high as it is among the white community.

One theory of South Africa to which the apartheid diehards of the Volksfront still cling has been well and truly put to rest by the poll. Blacks will not vote with their tribal feet. The Sothos, the Tswanas and the Xhosas will vote for the ANC with equal enthusiasm. And as for the long-cherished right-wing notion that the Zulus will vote as a block for Inkatha, the poll results speak for themselves.