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Sunday, March 14, 1999 Published at 07:12 GMT

World: Africa

South African leaders hit campaign trail

Thabo Mbeki (left): Leading contender to replace President Mandela

Political leaders in South Africa have begun campaigning for the country's second democratic general election, set for 2 June.

The country's Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, told a series of rallies near Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal province, that the governing African National Congress (ANC) was the party best able to unite the nation after decades of apartheid.

Mr Mbeki, widely expected to succeed President Mandela, said people were reaping the benefits of peace in KwaZulu-Natal, after years of violence.

[ image: 1994's democratic ballot ended white rule]
1994's democratic ballot ended white rule
He told a rally near Isipingo, south of Durban, that peace meant delivering services to the rural and urban poor.

"I want to praise the people for bringing peace. We can see the results ... that people, whether they are ANC or IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party), have houses...because there is peace and cooperation," the deputy president said.

During Saturday's rallies, Mr Mbeki also promised that his party would address rampant crime and economic hardship in South Africa, two of voters' main concerns.

At a rally outside Umlazi, one of Durban's largest black townships, he also pledged that the ANC would continue working to provide electricity and water for all South Africans.

The leader of the rival IFP, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi also took up Mr Mbeki's theme of peace when he went campaigning on Saturday. He called for tolerance at a rally on the outskirts of Durban.

'End to intimidation'

"Let the message go forth that the time of political intimidation is past."

He told a 10,000-strong rally: "Violence at the polling stations will not be tolerated. Let there be tolerance amongst members of all parties."

Chief Buthelezi, who currently serves as home affairs minister, is regarded as a possible deputy president to Mr Mbeki if he takes over from President Mandela.

The IFP won 10% of the vote in 1994, but captured control of KwaZulu-Natal. Recent polls say the party's national support has slipped to around 7% and that it will struggle to keep control of the province.

The leader of the right-wing Freedom Front, Constand Viljoen, was also on the campaign trail on Saturday. He said he wanted to "co-operate with opposition parties ... in an attempt to limit ANC power and prevent a two-thirds majority".

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