By Francine Higham, DA Abroad Leader
The DA’s Blue Wave truly went international on Freedom Day!
Thank you to the tens of thousands of South Africans living abroad, who travelled great distances to foreign missions around the world on Saturday, 27 April to cast their vote for change in South Africa. We know it wasn’t easy, which is why we are so grateful for each and every vote.
Thank you also to our fantastic DA Abroad volunteers who worked tirelessly throughout the day to ensure votes were cast freely and fairly at overseas voting stations from Canberra to Ghana, London to Los Angeles. Our volunteers have shown exceptional commitment to our country’s democracy, not only on election day, but throughout our four-year campaign to ensure South Africans abroad are able to vote and that they do so.
Regardless of the result, I am incredibly proud of this team and their efforts, every vote helps secure a better future for all South Africans and shows our friends and family back home that those abroad still care for them and our country.
Over 29,000 South Africans indicated their intention to vote abroad by submitting a VEC10 form, however early indications show a lower than expected turnout as South Africans have been frustrated by the many hurdles they’re expected to overcome simply to enact their democratic right.
At London alone, many were turned away as they didn’t have both the required SA ID and a valid SA passport in order to vote – a requirement that only applies to South Africans abroad. When the average waiting time to receive these documents abroad from the Dept. of Home Affairs is six months it is unsurprising that many hopeful voters were forced to face the fact that they simply couldn’t vote as they were still waiting for their documents to arrive at their destination.
It was also saddening to hear from our volunteer teams at overseas voting stations who consoled registered voters who had travelled hundreds of kilometres to a voting station only to be told that they couldn’t vote because they hadn’t completed the VEC10 form. One mother in Australia who had recently been informed by her parents that she could vote on Freedom Day drove from Sydney to Canberra with her two small children only to hear this news on arriving at the voting station. Exhaustedly, she burst into tears disappointed that she was not able to cast her vote for her country in this election.
While we understand the requirement for the VEC10 with regards to the allocation of ballots at overseas voting stations, the period for submissions is simply too short and the government could be doing a great deal more to ensure South Africans abroad are informed about this important step in overseas voting. In particular, the elderly and those with special needs are excluded from this process due to the online-only nature of the VEC10 process.
We have been campaigning for more voting stations abroad since the change in legislation in 2009 allowing voting overseas – this urgent need became even more apparent yesterday as registered voters informed us that they simply were unable to travel the distances to get to a voting station due to personal commitments, or they couldn’t afford the costs. As a result, we will continue this fight for more voting stations abroad following this election.
On the upside we must commend the IEC and the staff at the South African High Commission in London who took several important steps to improve the queuing time at one of the biggest voting stations in this election. With 9,000 voters expected many were apprehensive about the queuing time, but those who made the effort didn’t have to queue for too long, and at most only queued for 2.5hrs, which is markedly better than the 4-6hrs experienced in 2014. Our hope now is that all the ballots cast arrive safely back in South Africa to be counted.
The Blue Wave started with South Africans abroad on the 27 April, casting their vote on Freedom Day for a better future for our friends and family back home. We now encourage all South Africans back home to do the same on the 8 May. We might be far from home, but we know that our country cannot survive another five years of ANC government, and that the DA is the only party that is strong enough to beat the ANC, and provide capable, honest governance that cares for all South Africans.
On the 8 May, vote DA!