The Democratic Alliance Abroad (DA Abroad), the global network of Democratic Alliance supporters overseas, today launched its campaign to encourage South African citizens living abroad to prepare to vote in the South African general elections in 2014.
DA Abroad Chief Executive Officer, Ludre Stevens, said the organisation wanted to highlight the important role South African citizens living abroad play in bringing about positive change by casting their vote in the 2014 general elections. He also called on the South African government to perform its duty to allow South African citizens to register and vote abroad.
“It might still seem like a long time away, but there is a lot of ground to cover before the next South African national election in three years’ time,” he said.
He said that arrangements needed to be put in place without delay to facilitate the registration of tens of thousands of eligible South African voters around the world, including Africa, and to ensure South Africans living abroad and wanting to register and cast their vote were not unlawfully and unfairly discriminated against.
“The historic ruling by the Constitutional Court in March 2009 [to allow South Africans living abroad ‘temporarily’ the right to vote in the country’s general elections that year] was a victory for the democratic right of the hundreds of thousands of South African expatriates across the world to continue to play an active role in the future of their home country.
“Unfortunately we cannot rest on our laurels. Apart from obviously re-confirming the rights of South Africans living abroad to vote in these elections, we now have the task of insisting that the government allow South African citizens around the globe, and wishing to vote in 2014, to register to vote conveniently, and to make sure that there are sufficient opportunities for them to actually cast their votes from abroad without unfair obstacles,” Mr Stevens said.
Mr Stevens said that in the last election, thousands of registered South African voters living abroad who had gone to the trouble of applying for a special vote had been unfairly disadvantaged by inadequate opportunities to actually cast their vote.
He cited the situation in Australia, where of the approximately 15,000 South African voters who had applied for a special vote, fewer than 2,000 of them were actually able to cast their vote, as this had to be in person at the only single polling station in the country, in Canberra, a city 4,000 kilometres away from Perth, where a high proportion of those eligible to vote reside.
“Clearly there need to be more options available to South African nationals living outside of South Africa to be able to register and cast their votes conveniently so they are not deprived of their democratic right,” he said. Mr Stevens said countries like Australia enabled their nationals living abroad a fair opportunity to cast their votes, such as sufficient polling stations in countries where there are sizeable Australian expatriate communities, and by postal votes. He said there was no justifiable reason why the South African government could not make similar arrangements for its citizens.
“Now is the time for those of us living abroad and wanting to continue to make a difference in our home country to resume the hard work and ensure South African citizens are not marginalised,” he concluded.