UPDATE: For South Africans abroad there will be a special overseas voter registration weekend from the 1 – 4 February at all SA foreign missions. Don’t miss this opportunity to register to vote!
The 2019 National Election is going to be one of the most important that South Africa faces since 1994. All South Africans living abroad can vote in national elections, and we are here to help you find everything you need to know about how to register and vote.
This guide is based on our experience of the 2014 elections, and we are lobbying the government for better access to voting for South Africans abroad ahead of the 2019 elections, so the information may change. (Read more about our campaign and show your support)
Generally, we recommend that if you have any specific questions you check out the IEC website (www.elections.org.za), but if you’re still unable to find the answer you’re welcome to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp us on https://wa.me/447958291141 and we’ll do our best to help you out.
Section 19 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996) upholds that all South Africans living abroad can vote in national elections. South Africans living abroad can currently only vote at South African embassies, consulates and high commissions. And to vote you must have previously registered in South Africa, completed a VEC10 form and have BOTH a valid ID book and passport with you at the time of voting.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. When are the next South African National Elections?
South Africans will go to the polls again in 2019. The date of the election will be proclaimed by the President in early 2019. In terms of the Constitution the elections must be held within 90 days of the expiry of the current term of the National Assembly and provincial legislatures. Their term expires on 6 May 2019, and the 90 day period ends on 5 August 2019, so the elections must take place between these dates. The President has indicated his intention to call an election before the end of May 2019.
It’s essential that you are registered to vote BEFORE the date the election is proclaimed as registration will not be available from the proclamation until after the elections.
Note: South Africans abroad can’t vote in Local Government Elections.
2. Why do I have to register?
To vote your name must appear on the Voter’s Roll. The Voter’s Roll contains particulars of voters and it is an important tool to protect against electoral fraud e.g. to ensure that individuals only vote once.
3. How do I find out if I’m already registered?
Visit the AmIRegistered page on the IEC website and submit your ID Number.
4. What do I need to register?
- be a South African citizen;
- be at least 16 years old; and
- have a valid current green, bar-coded South African ID book or Smart ID card.
- a valid South African passport or temporary passport if you are registering abroad
5. Can I register to vote while abroad?
Yes, the Electoral Amendment Act 2013 gave all South African citizens the right to register and vote abroad in national elections. Important: In order to vote abroad, you must be registered AND submit a VEC10 notification within the period specified on the election’s timetable (15 days from the date on which the election is proclaimed). For more info on this please visit the IEC website.
6. WHERE can I register abroad and vote?
You can apply for registration at your nearest South African embassy, high commission or consulate-general during their normal office hours or during the special overseas voter registration weekend on the 1 – 4 February 2019. You can find the one nearest to you on the map below. Please note that it is not possible to register or vote at honorary consulates.
If you are travelling to South Africa, you can also register to vote at a local IEC Office during office hours prior to an election. We strongly urge you to contact your local IEC Office prior to your trip to confirm their opening times and the dates that you will be able to register to vote. For more info on this please visit the IEC website.
You will also be able to vote at your nearest South Africans embassy, high commission or consulate-general.
Please visit the Dept. of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) for the latest contact details for each SA foreign mission.
7. WHEN can I register abroad?
You can register during the embassy, high commission or consulate-general’s normal working hours, or during the special overseas voter registration weekend from the 1 – 4 February 2019 Please see the map above to find your nearest SA foreign mission.
While registration is ongoing, you must apply for registration before an election is proclaimed (published in the Government Gazette) to be able to vote in that election. For more info on this please visit the IEC website.
8. What documentation do I need to take with me to register?
You need to take BOTH your green, bar-coded South African ID book; Smartcard ID; or valid Temporary Identity Certificate, AND your valid South African passport or temporary passport. Both documents are essential and must be valid, and no other identity document can be accepted. Only original documents can be accepted, no copies.
9. My Passport & ID Book have different surnames. Do I need to re-register?
This question is generally asked by those who have married and their maiden name still appears in either their Passport or ID Book/Smart ID.
According to the IEC – “You do not need to re-register. The IEC use your ID number and check it against the National Population Register (NPR). They get your name as it’s reflected on the NPR (the Department of Home Affairs automatically changes your name when you get married), and that is the name that appears on the Voters’ Roll.”
You can apply for a new ID/Passport reflecting your changed name if you want to. These new documents can be applied for at any SA Mission abroad or at Home Affairs in South Africa.
10. I’m already registered to vote in South Africa – do I need to re-register to vote abroad?
No – if you are already registered to vote in South Africa, you do not need to register again in order to vote. Instead, when the President officially proclaims the date of the election you will need to complete a VEC10 form within 15 days from the date on which the election is proclaimed to inform the IEC that you intend to vote abroad and where you would like to vote. This form will be made available on the IEC’s website to complete online.
11. I’m already registered to vote, but my given address is in South Africa. Do I need to provide the Electoral Commission with my new address where I live abroad?
Yes. By law the Electoral Commission is obliged to have an up-to-date and complete address recorded for each voter. Please email the Electoral Commission at email@example.com and provide them with your ID number, full names, and new address so that your information can be updated on the voters’ roll.
Please note that to be eligible to vote out-of-country, voters will also need to inform IEC via the completion of an online VEC10 form that they intend to vote abroad once the 2019 national election is proclaimed.
12. What is the current voting abroad process?
Voting abroad is a “Special Vote” and is allowed for those who cannot vote at a voting station where they are registered including those South African citizens temporarily absent from the Republic for the purposes of a holiday, business trip, educational visit or participation in an international sporting event. However, South Africans abroad are only allowed to cast their vote in a general election at the main South African Diplomatic Post of the country they reside in if:
- they have previously registered in South Africa to vote;
- they inform the IEC of their intention to vote by completing the relevant form (the VEC10)and sending it to the IEC before the closing date;
- they present the voting confirmation received from the IEC together with BOTH their current valid South African ID book and passport when attending the Embassy to vote
13. What can I do now?
If you are not already registered please ensure you register as soon as possible. As you will need BOTH your original South African ID book and passport to be able to vote please ensure you bring both these documents along with you when you plan to travel abroad for extended periods during election years. You will not be able to vote with only your passport. Your ID book is mandatory to be able to vote locally or internationally. Closer to the elections the IEC will release more details about the VEC10 form and when it needs to be submitted by. You can sign up to our newsletter or WhatsApp broadcast list to ensure you don’t miss any important deadlines.
It is the democratic right and duty of each South African citizen to vote – please ensure that you register and vote in the next election to keep our democracy alive.