South African voters lose out

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AS MANY as five million of South Africa's 25 million eligible voters may be unable to vote in next year's general elections after the completion of this month's registration process. Most of those who may lose out are white.

Election officials claimed voter registration in the five northern provinces, home to roughly half the population, was going far more smoothly yesterday than on Friday, the first of the three days allotted. But accusations of disorganisation and incompetence continued. On Friday 671 of the 6,276 registration points failed to open because civil servants did not turn up, and hundreds still remained closed yesterday.

Many voters were sent to the wrong station, including President Nelson Mandela, who found when he appeared at a registration point on Friday that he had been misdirected.

Large numbers of whites are likely to be ineligible to vote in next year's election, the first since the ANC came to power in 1994, because they have not yet received their new bar-coded identity cards. This has led to accusations against the ANC of plotting to disenfranchise the supporters of the mostly white Democratic and National parties. Both plan to file a court application this week, arguing that voters should be allowed to use their old identity cards.

Fears have also arisen that many domestic workers and farm labourers are unaware of the registration requirements, and may find themselves unable to vote next year. When they voted in South Africa's first free election four years ago, almost any proof of identity was allowed.