South African Elections: SA muzzles the racist dog who lauds De Klerk: Fury as National Party uses prejudice and fear to win Coloured vote

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The Independent Online
MEET THE Abrahamse family: John, his wife, Miena, their son, Cedric, and Uitsmyt the racist boxer dog, who thinks President F W de Klerk is great and Winnie Mandela is 'the Power behind the Powder Keg'. In the dirtiest fight of the South African election campaign, the Abrahamses are a devastating weapon.

The family of middle-class 'Coloureds' (people of mixed race) features in a glossy photo-comic distributed to thousands of Coloured households around Cape Town. It plays on the community's fears that under government led by the African National Congress (ANC) it would lose the relatively privileged position it enjoyed under apartheid, and has been so effective that the Western Cape, where Coloureds have just over half the votes, is the only region in which President de Klerk's Nationalists are the favourites.

In Thursday's heated debate between Nelson Mandela and Mr de Klerk, the ANC leader produced the comic to show how far the NP was prepared to go. Mr de Klerk replied faintly that he had repudiated it. 'Only because you knew you were coming on this programme,' Mr Mandela said.

This week the Independent Election Commission (IEC) banned distribution of the publication and seized the remaining copies, but nearly 70,000 are estimated to have gone out.

In the characteristic Cape mixture of English and Afrikaans, Mr and Mrs Abrahamse are shown demolishing their son's arguments against voting for the 'Nats', such as its past discrimination against Coloureds.

'Now we have a new National Party]' says Miena. 'Apartheid is dead,' says Cedric's Uncle Ben. The dialogue brings out all the Coloureds' uncertainties. Will an ANC government, with its Communist partners, encourage blacks to seize the property of the better-off? 'I want to feel safe, and not live in fear. I am sick of the violence, murder and mass action and intimidation,' John says. Eventually Cedric admits that while his heart tells him to vote ANC, 'my head says Nat. I am going to follow my head.'

All this would be fair game if it were not for the cruder interjections of Uitsmyt, whose canine thought-bubbles make explicit what is implied elsewhere. Mr Abrahamse wonders why Coloureds such as Allan Boesak, who leads the ANC in the Western Cape, support the party: 'What does he get out of it? Two nice houses and wealth in exchange for his pulpit,' thinks the dog.

The most controversial section seizes on an unguarded proposal by Mr Mandela to give 14-year-olds the vote. Uitsmyt imagines the outcome: a swaggering black teenager called Mike Sibasa, who uses his rifle butt on a Bible-carrying matron seeking to go to church. 'There is no God]' he tells her. 'The government is your god]' Later the 'comrade' shoots a guitar-strumming young man who refuses to show him respect. 'We used you . . . and now we are finished with you]' shouts Mike. 'You were useful idiots.'

Jan Kruger, a National Party spokesman, refused to comment on the party's tactics. 'We have complied with the IEC's decision,' he said.

The comic was preceded by a newspaper advertisement exploiting the notorious 'Cape Strangler', or 'Station Strangler'. A suspect in the murders of 22 boys in Coloured townships in the past few years was arrested on Thursday. Using a police photofit, which the ANC claims has been darkened to stir Coloured hostility towards blacks, the National Party attacks ANC and Democratic Party proposals to give prisoners the vote. The advertising agency said it had a big effect on Coloureds; asked by the Weekly Mail whether it was not manipulative, one of its authors replied: 'So what? It worked.'