All votes cast by South Africans abroad on 27 April 2019 made it back to the IEC in South Africa on time to be counted towards SA’s national elections! Phew! This will come as good news to those South African expats who travelled hundreds, sometimes thousands, of kilometres to make sure they cast their vote.
In 2014 the votes from four cities – Toronto, Havanna, Madrid and Lubumbashi – unfortunately got held up by the customs’ control in their countries, and did not make it back by the deadline, which led to many expats being reluctant to make the effort this year in case it reoccurred.
There was a nail-biting moment waiting for the votes from Algiers, Brussels, Shanghai, Lubumbashi, Asmara, Tokyo, Sao Tome and Caracas to arrive before the deadline… and fortunately they did!
DA Abroad Leader Francine Higham said: “We are happy to announce that this year every single ballot cast abroad arrived back in South Africa to be counted, unlike in 2014.”
Higham confirmed the overwhelming vote of confidence that the DA received from South African expats in this year’s General Election – 74.45% of South Africans who cast their vote abroad, voted for the DA.
“Thank you to every single voter abroad who travelled great distances to foreign missions around the world on Freedom Day to make their vote count,” said Higham.
Higham said the DA Abroad will continue its mission to request that the government allow for better access to voting for those living abroad. Requests include:
- More voting stations (the existence of only one mission station in the whole of Australia, and that being in Canberra far from where most expats live, is kind of ludicrous; with a similar situation in several other countries and continents)
- No requirement for a passport to vote (those voting at home in SA do not need to show their passport)
- Expat votes to count towards the provincial ballot
The DA’s efforts in the past have led to some successes, including the fact that this year the IEC allowed those abroad to vote over the weekend. The overseas voting process was also streamlined, and the queue times were reduced significantly, said Higham.
However, she says “unfortunately, all our other requests were blocked by the ANC government with no reason given.”
Volunteers from the DA Abroad team worked tirelessly ahead of the election to drive awareness, and on election day “we had over 60 volunteers at 25 voting stations around the world, with party agents observing the voting process for over 63% of the votes cast to ensure they were done so freely and fairly”, says Higham.
19,882 votes were cast abroad (up from 18,132 in 2014), and the results show an overwhelming support for the DA with 14,802 votes cast in the DA’s favour.
As evidenced by numerous complaints to SAPeople – the SA government did not appear to provide a comprehensive campaign of voting awareness for South Africans living and travelling abroad. Many expats had no idea they had to submit a VEC10 form in order to vote. They presumed that being registered to vote was sufficient, and several embassies around the world did not inform those who registered in person that they would still need to do fill in the form.
Some expats even had difficulty registering for weeks in the beginning – with embassies, including the SA Embassy in Paris, informing them that they couldn’t yet register… after the IEC had announced they could. In telephone and email communications SAPeople had with the Paris embassy and the IEC in South Africa – there appeared to be a total breakdown of communication.
Many expats this year were also reluctant to register and vote because of rumours that their details would be passed on to the government for the new SA expat tax.
Higham said: “As the DA Abroad we will continue to lobby Parliament in the coming years to ensure that South Africans abroad can vote with more ease while insuring the integrity of the system.”
Factbox: South African General Election – Overseas Voting 2019 vs 2014
2019 approved VEC10 applications = 31,314
2019 valid votes cast abroad = 19,882
2014 approved VEC10 applications = 27,084
2014 valid votes cast abroad = 18,247