Thabo Mbeki is South Africa's most trusted politician, according to a survey released on the eve of elections that his African National Congress party is set to win.

The survey conducted by marketing and opinion poll company Markinor showed that Mbeki received a total score of 6,69 out of a possible 10 from voters who were asked to rate various politicians ahead of Wednesday's elections.

Far behind Mbeki were Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi with 3,42 and Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon with 3,41 out of 10.

Markinor director Mari Harris said the opinion poll was conducted in conjunction with the SABC public broadcaster between January 29

and February 20.

Personal in-home interviews were held with 3 500 randomly selected respondents around South Africa.

Mbeki also scored first as South Africa's "favourite" politician followed by Patricia de Lille, who heads the Independent Democrats.

The survey showed the president has wide appeal, scoring higher among supporters of the left-wing Pan Africanist Congress than PAC leader Motsoko Pheko himself, Harris said.

"The scenario repeats itself with the Freedom Front Plus, whose supporters trust the DA's Tony Leon more than their own leader Pieter Mulder," Harris said.

About 21 million voters are registered to cast their ballots on Wednesday in South Africa's third general elections since apartheid ended in 1994, when Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president.

The Markinor poll showed that 72,3 percent of those interviewed declared themselves to be ANC supporters, with the figure rising to 78 percent in the 18 to 24 age group.

The ANC also carried support within other political parties, Harris said.

"This can be interpreted in two ways - firstly that some supporters of the opposition parties don't disagree with the policies of the

ruling party, but believe that there must be some opposition to a majority party," Harris said.

"Or secondly, although they might support the ANC on some issues, the ruling party doesn't

quite represent their interests."

A small minority, about two percent, identified themselves as non-ANC supporters who would still cast their ballot in favour of the ruling party.

"This might be linked to the notion that people like to support a winner, the so-called 'bandwagon

effect'," she said. - Sapa-AFP