My host in the majestic, mountainous wine country just north of Cape Town is waiting. His vines climb the mountains into the mist. He has a wonderful house, a swimming pool, a tennis court and lots of help -- blacks who graft the vines, turn the soil and bring tea in the afternoon. It -- or much of it -- will someday come to an end, my host says, but he knows neither how the situation will be resolved nor when. "I'm waiting, too," he says.

In the affluent Hyde Park suburb of Johannesburg, Helen Suzman, the implacable foe of apartheid and longtime member of parliament, also waits. She wonders not whether apartheid will last but what will replace it and, if there is a black-majority government, what it will be like. Will it, for instance, be as intolerant as the white one it replaces or will it be a Western-style democracy -- free press, the rule of law and, maybe most important, a guarantee of minority rights. "I'm not at all sure that is the aim of the black movement," Suzman says.

Jannie Momberg, the mentor of Zola Budd, says he is waiting, too. He is an Afrikaner who travels the world with his famous runner and with other South African athletes. The present system is shot, he says. Something -- something short of one-man, one-vote -- must replace it. Like many white South Africans, he casts his argument against one-man, one-vote in cultural rather than racial terms: many of the blacks are Third World peoples; the whites are First World. The former cannot be allowed to outvote the latter.

Before I came here, a colleague in Washington asked me to find out from white South Africans what they thought was going to happen. So I asked, and nearly always the answer was that the present system could not endure and something would have to take its place. Just don't as what.

A white Johannesburg cabdriver, for instance, pulled over and cut his engine to answer my question. At first he was belligerent, mocking American liberalism and our willingness to offer solutions to someone else's problems. But when he got that out of his system, he confessed that the oppression of blacks oppressed him, too. He could not envision one-man, one-vote, but he knew things could not continue the way they were. In the meantime, he's waiting.

So's Pieter Roux. He's 23, a pole vaulter from the University of Cape Town and an Afrikaner. At first he, too, sets me straight about America the busybody, America the naive moralist -- a country where most people do not know that many South African blacks don't even speak English. But Roux has come back from track and field events in Europe where he was not allowed to compete. He clears the bar at 18 feet, but that hardly matters. As a South African he can only observe.

Like more than a few Afrikaners, Roux blames some of South Africa's troubles on an unlikely conspiracy of communists and well-known capitalists -- the Rockefellers of America, the Oppenheimers of South Africa. Still, even he says the country must change. He will wait for it.

Some are not waiting. A classified ad in a newspaper says that a lawyer will arrive this week from Atlanta to help with immigration problems. Young men with no desire to enforce apartheid in the black townships are leaving the country to avoid army service. Others are leaving because the future is so uncertain -- revolution, continued violence, a black Marxist government. There is no scenario too unlikely to be disbelieved. "The very best are drifting away," Suzman says. "They think the future is insecure or they don't want to serve in the army."

Some will go because they can, but some will stay because they have to, and some will stay because they think they can do some good.

"I don't want to go, really," Suzman said. "There have been times when I wanted to go, but if someone gets into trouble, detained or something, I can still see a (Cabinet) minister."

Vincent Crapanzano, the author of a book called "Waiting," lived in a town in this country and made up a fictitious name for it. He wanted to protect the anonymity of the people he listened to and studied. That shouldn't be hard, because in an important sense they are indistinguishable from people anywhere in South Africa: here, everyone is waiting.