South African Elections: Election notebook

WITH the union flag fluttering on the bonnet of his consular Daimler, John Doble, the British Consul- General in Johannesburg, went for a spin through Thokoza township on the final day of voting. Thokoza, in the east Rand, was the scene of some of the worst pre-poll violence between supporters of Inkatha and the ANC. On this occasion, Mr Doble reported to his staff, everyone was perfectly friendly, waving at the Daimler as it bumped its way through Thokoza's narrow, pot-holed streets.

Mr Doble is a former cavalry officer and a diplomat of the old school. He believes in observing things up close. When commuter trains from Soweto were being machine- gunned a couple of years ago, he drove into the township at 4am and caught a train into Johannesburg 'to see what it was like'. He is also a Zulu- speaker. He startled election officials in Soweto the other day by conducting one press interview in Zulu and another in French.

In Thokoza all went well until the Daimler drew up at a polling station where senior officials of the Independent Electoral Commission had failed to show up. A crowd of several thousand people was turning (understandably) ugly. Mr Doble enlisted the help of a few Commonwealth observers who were standing near by, including the former New Zealand foreign minister, Russell Marshall. Together they opened up the polling station and processed 1,000 voters before the IEC officials arrived.

IN THE Eastern Cape, a fierce south westerly wind blew away half a polling station. The station at Committee's Drift, near Grahamstown, consisted of two tents and one blew down. The deputy district electoral officer, Charles Malan, said: 'Our planning did not include the wind.' Operations moved to a tennis club-house nearby.

THE Workers' List Party is not expected to trouble the ballot-counters too much today. But it knows how to illustrate a political argument. Its final election advertisement said: 'In order to effectively overcome unemployment, violence, homelessness and illiteracy, we need fundamental change . . . '

FOR ALL those who wish to construct the new South African flag at home, here are the official instructions. 'The National flag shall be rectangular in the proportion of two in the width to three to the length; per pall from the hoist, the upper band red (chilli) and the lower band blue, with a black triangle at the hoist; over the partition lines a green pall one fifth the width of the flag, fimbriated white against the red (chilli) and blue, and gold against the black triangle at the hoist of the width of the pall and its fimbriations is one third the width of the flag.'

MORE trouble with invisible ink. To prevent them from following the old Boston election exhortation - 'vote early, vote often' - all South African voters have their hands stamped with invisible ink (which becomes visible under an ultraviolet lamp). The Inkatha Freedom Party claims that some stubborn voters have been removing the ink with Alberto VO5 hairspray (apparently no other brand will do). Nonsense, says the Independent Electoral Commission. Tests have shown that Alberto VO5 makes the mark even more luminescent than it is supposed to be. So it's back to the drawing board: how about toothpaste?