South African Elections: Election Notebook

TELEVISION, like democracy and human rights, is a relatively new concept here. It was banned until 1976 because the Afrikaner Establishment feared that it might introduce dangerous, foreign concepts - such as democracy and human rights. Probably, they were right: ever since the tube arrived, it has been downhill all the way for the Afrikaners.

In any case, the youthful South African television service, though technically advanced, lacks the polish of its counterparts elsewhere. But most maddeningly, the wall-to-wall election coverage shifts languages every half hour. Afrikaans, English and Xhosa- Zulu dodge between two channels, in a kind of insane, linguistic 'find-the-lady' game.

The adverts between the programmes defy any kind of pattern, popping up in Afrikaans, for instance, in the middle of English- language programmes. Most extraordinary of all is an ad featuring two Scottish tug-of-war teams and a black referee in full Highland gear. It is difficult to say what is being advertised. The black ref speaks in Zulu but so do the Scotsmen (with a convincing Zulu attempt at a Scots accent).

IF, against all expectations, the Soccer Party scores well at the polls, the South African cricket team touring England this summer will be deprived of one of its star batsmen. The Soccer Party stands for racial reconciliation through culture and sport and wants to decriminalise marijuana and prostitution. It was started by black and white next-door neighbours, James Mange, a former Robben Island political prisoner, and Neil Hellmann, an engineer.

The 22nd place on the party's list of national parliamentary candidates is occupied by Daryll Cullinan, one of South Africa's most accomplished batsmen. However, to reach that far down its batting order, the Soccer Party will have to win over five per cent of the electorate. Confident forecast: Cullinan will tour.

THERE are many puzzled voters out there but few so confused as the elderly white man who entered a polling station in the Western Cape. He asked where he should mark his cross for Jan Smuts. Smuts, scourge of the British in Boer War, died in 1950.

ONE of the most delicious ironies of the election is that the franchise extends to Robben Island, the prison near Cape Town where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in jail. Prisoners can vote unless they are murderers, rapists, or armed robbers. The boat taking the ballot boxes out to the island on Tuesday broke down and returned to port for repairs. 'Apart from that,' the presiding officer, Elrich Johannes, announced, in a memorable phrase, 'everything has gone swimmingly'.

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