By Francine Higham, DA Abroad Leader.
This article was first published on the 25 January 2019 on SA People.
I watched with great interest, the video that was released by President Ramaphosa yesterday, encouraging South Africans around the world to register and vote in the 2019 South African National Elections and be “part of this effort”,
While I am glad to see that some effort is being made to inform South Africans abroad about voting abroad in the upcoming election, it struck me as rather disingenuous considering that it is the current ANC government that have blocked every attempt by the Democratic Alliance (DA) to extend access to voting for South Africans abroad.
President Ramaphosa also seemed blissfully unaware of the great lengths that many South Africans are expected to travel in order to cast their vote at a South African diplomatic mission.
In 2014, only 18,132 South Africans abroad cast their votes at foreign missions around the world. It’s a testament to their endurance and patriotism that as many as this completed all the steps to make their voice heard.
Since then the DA have used every political channel available to us to lobby the South African government for increased access to voting for South Africans abroad.
Our requests for increased access to voting abroad have focused primarily on the following:
- All South African citizens to be permitted to register to vote on production of a valid ID document only.
- The day designated for overseas casting of votes to necessarily fall on a weekend.
- South Africans overseas be permitted to vote for the Provincial Legislatures
- Voting stations overseas to not be limited to consulates, embassies or high commissions, allowing for more remote voters to be able to vote without travelling great distances.
- Vote counting procedures to properly account for differences in time zones when considering deadlines.
Every one of these attempts has received either non-committal responses, or outright rejection.
The IEC have had more than enough time to take the necessary steps to expand voting abroad for all South Africans. Our suggestions and requests have not been unreasonable, but the IEC’s inaction, and Dirco’s inefficiency makes one wonder if there is not a deliberate attempt to limit voting abroad.
The irony of this video message is that many South Africans have tried to “be part of the exercise of democracy” and gone to their nearest diplomatic mission to try and register to vote but have been turned away.
In March this year, the IEC and Dirco announced officially that South Africans abroad can register to vote at foreign missions. We welcomed this announcement, only to receive numerous reports from individuals around the world informing us that they were being turned away and told that they couldn’t register.
According to emails sent to us from South Africans abroad, at least 14 foreign missions have rejected attempts by voters to register.
Yet, in a Parliamentary question asked by the DA in October to Lindiwe Sisulu as Minister for Dirco, the response was that none of the foreign missions were “not allowing South Africans to register to vote.”
So, either the IEC are not conveying our concerns to Dirco, or they are, and Dirco are misrepresenting the truth, but the fact remains that so far there is no sign that this issue is being resolved and the election is less than six months away.
The Democratic Alliance has now written a petition to the President requesting that he consider remitting the Electoral Amendment Bill – as was passed by the NCOP – back to Parliament based on procedural irregularities.
If he genuinely wishes for ALL South Africans living abroad to take part in the upcoming election, we ask that he consider this petition and take the necessary action to allow for our proposed amendments to the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill to be considered by the NCOP.
In the meantime, we’ll keep fighting to make sure that every South African citizen abroad is able to fulfil their constitutional right to vote and keep our country’s democracy alive.
We encourage each and everyone to take the following steps to be a part of our country’s future:
- Check first that you aren’t already registered to vote on the IEC’s website.
- If you are already registered, you don’t need to re-register, even if your registered address is in South Africa. If you aren’t already registered then you can do so during the opening hours of your nearest SA foreign mission, or over the registration weekend on the 1 – 4 Feb 2019.
- Once registered, you need to fill in a VEC10 form on the IEC’s website when the date of the election is announced to inform the IEC where you would like to vote abroad.
- Once all these steps have been completed, on election day you can take BOTH your SA ID and passport to vote at your nearest SA foreign mission.
South Africa is a great country, and its potential is immense – our votes for its future are as important as any others. Every vote does count!