Racist whites reject SA poll

JOHANNESBURG (Agencies) - In a highly charged day for South African politics, 10,000 right-wing Afrikaners yesterday attended a meeting in Pretoria, where militant neo-Nazis shouted down calls for participation in South Africa's first non-racial election in April - and Nelson Mandela launched the African National Congress campaign, promising social justice and telling supporters: 'Today we are almost there.'

The right-wingers at the meeting of the umbrella Afrikaner Volksfront planned to name the Conservative Party leader, Ferdi Hartzenberg, as the 'president' of their Volkstaat - the breakaway white 'homeland' that they want to found, but whose site and boundaries are not yet clear.

In KwaZulu, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi proposed that his Inkatha Freedom Party, linked to the Afrikaner Volksfront in the Freedom Alliance, should boycott the April election and consider 'resistance politics'.

Meanwhile, President F W de Klerk had another hostile reception for his attempt to woo black voters in the Eastern Transvaal, when he was booed and jeered as he tried to address a crowd of about 200 at Mzinoni township, just outside Bethal.

Even with a megaphone, Mr de Klerk, who was there to open an office of his governing National Party, could not compete with the din from the dancing crowd of ANC supporters who met him.

At the rally in Soweto, Mr Mandela said: 'I am confident . . . we will work together to build a united nation in a non- racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.'

The ANC manifesto promised to cut some taxes, raise public spending and improve housing and education, in a social justice drive for blacks left behind during apartheid rule. 'The millions of people without jobs will be at the top of the ANC government's agenda,' the manifesto said.

Mr Mandela took a swipe at Mr de Klerk, saying: 'There are those who would like us to believe that the past doesn't exist, that decades of apartheid rule have suddenly disappeared. But the economic and social devastation of apartheid remains. Our country is in a mess.'