South Africans Abroad Vote Tomorrow amidst Heartache, Pain and Apathy
Tomorrow South Africans overseas will get their opportunity to vote in the South African elections; but it’s come with a lot of frustration, heartache and pain…amidst accusations of apathy Disappointingly, only a little over 26,000 expats have registered to vote. If all of these people turn up tomorrow to vote, they would only be able […]
Tomorrow South Africans overseas will get their opportunity to vote in the South African elections; but it’s come with a lot of frustration, heartache and pain…amidst accusations of apathy
Disappointingly, only a little over 26,000 expats have registered to vote. If all of these people turn up tomorrow to vote, they would only be able to secure half a member in Parliament.
The low registration figures have led many to accuse expats of being “apathetic whingers”. And there certainly have been those who feel there’s “no point”, but the task of voting for their homeland has surely been made more difficult than for many expats of other countries who are offered electronic or postal votes.
The hurdles faced by South African expats began with needing a valid South African passport and SA ID book…
Jane Makkink Bourne says “I registered in Abu Dhabi and have now discovered that I need my ID book plus passport to vote. I voted outside of RSA in the ’94 elections and only needed a passport. So now I can’t vote as don’t have my ID book.”
And then they needed to register to vote in person…yet only a sparse number of voting stations were made available.
For instance, in the entire country of Australia, only one voting station has been allocated. You would imagine it would be Perth where there are tens of thousands of South Africans. Maybe Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. But no, it’s Canberra, a city which is over 3,700 km from Perth. The result is that in the whole of Australia a total of only 1,243 people will be eligible to vote tomorrow.
When the nearest voting station is thousands of kilometres away (or not even in your country in the case of all the expats in Cyprus), this costs money and time off work, which many people cannot afford.
South African expat Yousoof, who lives in Australia, says “Canberra has the least number of South Africans living there. There are a number of smaller ‘unused’ consular offices in Australia in all the major cities which are NOT going to be used for voting. Therefore, unless it’s a postal vote, my opinion, this voting process will be a waste of time.”
Not all expats had to register in person. Anyone who had voted in a previous SA election was already registered. Or so they thought. Many expats discovered upon checking their registration status, that although they HAD voted in SA before, they were no longer registered. Some discovered this too late.
David Fagan said “in my case, when I tried to register as a Saffer abroad I was told that I needed to be registered to vote. I am 49 and have voted many times in the past with no issue – suddenly I am not registered to vote…there’s a story there I’m sure…”
Apart from many needing to re-register in person, there was also the fiasco of the “VEC10” forms – an online form which every registered overseas voter had to fill in before 12 March. Many expats were not informed of this requirement. There were those who trekked across countries to register in person…and were told by consulate staff that that was all they had to do.
Amanda Vermeulen went to the Embassy in Dubai “at the start of February with my daughter and asked how to make sure we are able to vote. I was told by the staff that if we had voted in a previous elections we didn’t need to do anything. We would be eligible to vote again. Great stuff we thought. Well guess what? We just found out that we were supposed to fill in a VEC10 prior to the middle of March…which of course we didn’t do, based on their feedback. Now we cannot vote. We are so angry. But how do we prove anything now?!” There were similar reports from expats in the UK and North America, of being reassured they would be able to vote without any mention of the VEC10 form.
Anyone who did not submit the VEC10 form will be unable to vote.
The final hurdle is that expats have been designated a voting day that’s in the middle of a work week, rather than at the weekend when more people would have been able to get time off to travel long distances to vote.
These decisions have led to an exasperation and desperation from expats around the world. In the UK, those in the north and in Scotland must travel all the way to London. In New Zealand, expat hot spot Auckland is not on the list. Nor is Vancouver in Canada.
And no alternative options of a postal or electronic vote have been offered to expats.
R. Naidoo from Vancouver says that whilst she and her husband are registered voters, they will be unable to exercise their right to vote because their nearest cities are Toronto or Ottawa. “I am patriotic, but not at that expense. Both those cities are a flight away and it costs several hundred dollars to do this. It is indeed a great pity that no arrangements were made for SA citizens in cities where there are no SA offices…”
“It is with great disappointment and sadness that we accept that we’ve been denied the opportunity to vote,” she says.
The letters that have poured in to SAPeople are endless and filled with frustration and heartbreak. Many South African expats did want to vote.
Yesterday an expat in Dubai (which has the second highest number of registered voters), Rob Keats, wrote on SAPeople’s Facebook page: “Just came out of the SA consulate in Dubai. Apparently only 1500 people registered to vote out of the 50 000 South Africans living in the UAE…I’m wondering why?”
He received a flood of replies. Many mentioned the lack of an ID book, and missing or being unaware of the VEC10 deadline.
Reinette J.v Rensburg wrote: “this is crazy, everyone wants change but they are too lazy or just don’t care to vote. You are not allowed to complain if you do not vote!!!”
Vera-Jane De Villiers said that “at my office we are a few Saffas, I am the only one who registered. Many of my friends say that it’s hopeless and they have decided not to vote… it’s really sad but people are apathetic about the politics back home.”
Graca Nascimento Ward pointed out that “much as I agree that people should resist apathy, I also feel that we need to bear in mind that voting is not compulsory. It might be the case that many people are simply sick and tired of SA governance and politics and this is why they live in the UAE or abroad. Pressurising people into participating is also unfair. Some of them just don’t want to and that’s also okay.”
Mich Taylor responded that “if people really are sick and tired of SA governance and politics all the more reason to vote. Sorry but apathy is pure laziness and the reason why SA is in the position it is!”
Wayne Gadd, who missed the VEC10 form deadline, questioned why it closed over a month before Election Day. “Computer systems are actually able to correlate data fairly quickly I believe,” he said.
Jenilee van der Bergh admitted “I am so pathetic as I wanted to register but due my own laziness I missed the deadline to register!! Sorry guys.”
Bernadine Rossouw said: “Whether you are abroad or at home in South Africa. We need to look within ourselves and remember where we came from. We are South African. It is our home. It’s where most of us grew up. There is no place in this world more amazing than our country. Madiba had a dream that we as a nation could build a rainbow nation and live together in peace. It’s your choice whether to vote or not I agree. But I am. I live in hope that one day we will be a united nation. Simunye. We are one. Don’t forget where you come from and don’t lose faith in our beloved country.”
On the positive side, Anel-Carline Beukes pointed out that the Dubai figure is a lot more than the 900 or so who registered in the last election.
Beverley Anne Swinerd, who works in a South African company, said “I made it a point to get all to register & we will be voting together. All it takes is a little effort…”
Tomorrow those South Africans abroad who are registered will make that final effort to trek to an overseas voting station to use their privilege to vote. For those voting in London – an added challenge has been added with tube disruptions because of a London Underground strike!
But in the end, it will be a special day for those who have managed to jump all the hurdles, and one they are unlikely to ever forget.
Karin McCallum, who lives in Hampshire and is affected by the tube strike, says: “I will have to get a train in and walk…but it’s ok, I will not miss this for the world.”
This morning expat Craig Kinsman said: “Tomorrow – I vote for the first time outside South Africa in a South African election – I will vote in Manila, Philippines – I am excited about the prospect.”