All day Wednesday, white suburban voters parked their Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs next to a golf club here and entered the guarded gates of the Fairway Primary School, where the parties' faithful were turned out in ribbons and friendly smiles for the big day.
The ruling National Party was serving pastries and tea in china cups under a tent on the right, where the gray-haired candidate squinted at a computer screen of election returns.
On the left, under the liberal Democratic Party tent, a campaign worker wore a fur coat against the chilly wind, and the incumbent, surrounded by his own picture posters, pumped constituents' hands.
Only a few miles away, the streets of the black township of Soweto were deserted and a yellow police helicopter hovered overhead as blacks heeded a work and school boycott to protest elections that exclude them.
One Sowetan, Nothemba Vabaza Smith, slept late and watched television most of the day.
"To me, it makes no difference who wins this election. It has nothing to do with me," said Smith, 47, a market researcher. "Everything is their (whites') decision. If only we had a say, then things would be better."
Back at the polling station, Beryle MacCarthy, a lawyer and government supporter, was asked if she felt guilty that 26 million blacks in a country of 34 million had no vote in their nation's parliamentary elections.
"I don't feel bad, because I don't think blacks are ready for it," said MacCarthy, who is about 60. "They don't know what it's about."
Just then a black woman in an apron, carrying a tray of dirty teacups through the white crowd, said quietly, "Excuse me."
'It Has to Be a Process'
"Of course, dear," MacCarthy said, stepping aside. To a reporter, she continued: "You can't give it all to blacks in one step. It has to be a process. You've got to get them used to our upbringing and our standards."
The primary school in Johannesburg's northern suburb of Fairway was one of hundreds of polling stations gaily festooned with posters and banners countrywide Wednesday, when the issue that defines South Africa's troubles went on public display--the denial of national voting rights for the black majority.
For South Africa's 5 million whites, bombarded for more than a month by campaign slogans, debates and analysis, it was an exciting day with the country's future in the balance.
But for the black majority, who make up 75% of the population, it was a day of rest and, in some cases, violent protest over an illegitimate election.
"It's one of our holidays," said Smith, who forfeited a day's pay to join the workers' stayaway. "I don't care for politics, but I'm a black person. And I'm part of the struggle."
The government's liberal opponent, the anti-apartheid Democratic Party, has not won the endorsement of black activists even though it has promised to abolish apartheid and grant political rights to blacks.
"I can more than understand their bitterness. It's a pity, really," said Shelagh Blackman, a Democratic Party campaign worker in the Fairway suburb. "But at the moment the only way to change peacefully is through Parliament."
The Democrats, making inroads against the National Party's parliamentary majority, have held the seat in the district since 1974. And on Wednesday, their candidate, Pieter Soal, won a third term with a comfortable majority.
The victory, Soal said, "was a signal to the government that there are white people here who care about equality."