Talks to forge South Africa's postelection unity government will need to bring together parties with goals as contradictory as seizing white-owned farms and mines, ditching Black empowerment policies and tearing up the Constitution.

How well the African National Congress (ANC) harmonizes these divergent and mutually hostile visions will determine the government's stability, its ability to make decisions and its policy priorities over the next five years.

It will also test Nelson Mandela's 1994 aspiration for a "rainbow nation at peace with itself," as politicians try to navigate historical ethnic and racial enmities that were starkly exposed by the May 29 election.