South African Election Guide: The candidates

F W de Klerk

A LATE developer, this 58-year-old is nevertheless the youngest of the top six and has not proved, as many had expected under the new rules, to be a slow starter. He shares with the favourite a never-say-die spirit. And he is a tricky competitor, able to draw on a depth of experience Nelson Mandela lacks in the hurly- burly of the electoral contest. He recently enlisted the assistance of Sir Tim Bell, the English trainer, who performed wonders with Iron Lady, in the hope of adding international sophistication to his campaign. That may prove to have been a mistake, since conditions in England differ substantially from those of the new South Africa. But he should finish a comfortable second.

Zach de Beer

WITHIN the Democratic Party he has acquired the label 'Dr Zzzzz' because of his tendency to doze off at meetings. Like Chief Buthelezi, he is 65 but there the difference ends. A gentle, docile and well- groomed competitor, he has never fought dirty, remaining the colonial gent. It has been a point of principle during his career never to deviate from the straight and narrow, never to sacrifice righteousness in pursuit of glory. He would frown in the old days on the ruthlessness of the National Party but, holding his nose, he kept alongside. That has been the Democratic Party way. Unless the young Turks in his party abandon etiquette, a bet for him is one borne of nostalgia.

Constand Viljoen

IN THE DAYS when he led the South African Defence Force, they called him 'a soldier's soldier'. He performed well in the Seventies and early Eighties in Angola. In 1985 he was rested, on a farm in the Eastern Transvaal. But when Nelson Man dela appeared on the scene in 1990, he began to brood, fearing that the glorious memory of the Afrikaner volk was under threat. But he knew the ANC were too strong for the volk. He knew they could never be beaten in a fair competition. So he emerged from retirement in May last year, abandoned his more fanatical backers and decided to take part in the race. At 60, the general is past his best and will struggle to keep up with the pace.

Clarence Makwetu

AN OUTSIDER in the field, believed to be in his mid-sixties, and could cause a surprise. The Pan- Africanist Congress (PAC) produced its best runners in the Sixties then faded from view for 30 years. He is dogged more than inspired, having never displayed the capacity to effect the turn of speed required to win at this level of competition. Deep down, as is the PAC way, he harbours a hate for the indignities heaped upon the rest of the field by the National Party down the years. The engine of resentment might enable him to draw on hitherto untapped energies. He just might shift up a gear as the finishing line comes into view. Given the long odds, he is worth a bet for a place.

Mangosuthu Buthelezi

A VOLATILE runner, brilliant one moment, unpredictable the next. It required extraordinary perseverance to persuade him to join the race. Several endured some painful kicks and there were more than a few casualties. The alliance he forged six months ago with the white far right proved a grave error. He thought it would boost his chances to run with a team of spoilers dedicated, more than anything, to tripping up the ANC favourite. But the alliance cracked. He has had to fall back on his own resources, which rest more on kinship with the Zulu king than on crude Inkatha training methods. This reluctant 65-year-old should edge his way into the top three.

Nelson Mandela

PEDIGREE and stamina make him undisputed favourite to win the electoral race. Bookmakers stopped taking bets when he was set free to compete, on 11 February 1992. He cantered out of the gate with the beaming smile of an individual who knew, at the age of 71, that his best was yet to come. He has had many hurdles to overcome in the last four years. His opponents have jostled and cheated and employed all manner of dirty tricks. But he is nothing if not determined, and tough. A canny capacity to identify his rivals' vanities has enabled him, through sheer charm, to disarm those plotting his fall. Expect this courageous 75-year-old to gallop clear to victory over the final furlong.

(Photograph omitted)

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