TransAfrica's television commercial claiming that Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) "just turns his back on apartheid" has been rejected by 12 network affiliates in Iowa's four biggest media markets.

The 30-second spot, which includes file footage of mayhem in South Africa and a closeup of Dole's face, was to have aired about 100 times from Sunday through yesterday, as Dole was formally announcing his White House bid and campaigning in Iowa.

"We're very distressed about it," said TransAfrica's Randall Robinson, who has tangled with Dole since the senator opposed South Africa sanctions legislation last year in a losing fight to sustain a presidential veto. "If an ad is accurate and scrupuluously honest," Robinson said, "why can't it be aired?"

Last week, Dole angrily denounced the ad as "a phony attempt to distort {my} record."

California advertising executive Bill Zimmerman, who made the spot, said the Iowa stations gave various reasons for rejecting it, including that it was "too harsh" and "anti-Africa." Ron Briggs, general manager of KCCI-TV, the CBS affiliate in Des Moines, said "the spot was done in poor taste, just plain and simple."

"Good for them!" Dole spokeswoman Dale Tate said yesterday.