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South Africans slam inability to vote in Israel



South Africans in Israel aren’t able to vote in the South African national election, with less than two weeks to go until 29 May.

“There are justifiable assumptions being made that the African National Congress (ANC) government is aware that dual national Israeli/South Africans would probably vote against the ANC,” said a knowledgeable source who spoke to the SA Jewish Report on condition of anonymity because of security risks.

The South African embassy in Ramat Gan, which would have been the obvious place to vote, has been closed since November 2023, when its staff were recalled, and the last South African ambassador to Israel was called home in 2018.

South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) Chairperson Rowan Polovin described the situation as “unconstitutional disenfranchisement of South African citizens in Israel who wish to vote in the upcoming elections.

“The ongoing closure of the South African embassy in Tel Aviv, which prevents these individuals from exercising their democratic rights, is a grave injustice that undermines the very principle of democracy,” Polovin said. “As we celebrate 30 years of democracy in South Africa, it’s disturbing to witness the government’s failure to ensure that all its citizens, regardless of their location, have the opportunity to participate in this landmark election.”

Said Polovin, “Tel Aviv isn’t in a war situation, unlike Ukraine, where the ongoing conflict has understandably made it difficult to conduct voting procedures. There’s no valid reason for the South African government to deny its citizens in Israel the right to vote, and it appears that South Africa is deliberately discriminating against them. The SAZF has repeatedly reached out to the department of international relations and cooperation [Dirco], expressing our deep concern and dismay over this matter. We urge the government to take immediate action to rectify this unacceptable situation.”

South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) National Director Wendy Kahn said, “It’s regrettable that Dirco hasn’t provided a solution to assist South Africans in Israel to vote, as is their constitutional right. Since Dirco has found creative solutions to other issues that have arisen due to the temporary closure of the South African embassy, it’s puzzling why it’s unable to find one for the elections. Its ill-conceived suggestion that Jewish South Africans vote in Ramallah or Amman points to its disregard for the situation in the region.”

Travel expert Kim Kur notes that few South Africans in Israel registered to vote in the upcoming election, but even those few have a democratic right to vote, and every vote counts. “It was a predictable outcome that Dirco wouldn’t facilitate voting in Israel, even though it could easily have done so, utilising staff from Ramallah or the embassy that is still based in Israel,” she said. She has also been urging Dirco to ensure that South Africans in Israel could vote.

“The South African government’s decision to shut the South African embassy in Ramat Gan deprives South Africans in Israel of their democratic right to vote in the upcoming South African election,” said Telfed Chairperson Maish Isaacson. “The South African embassy in Ramallah allows South African Palestinians to vote in the May elections, but not Israelis.”

Kenneth Moeng Mokgatlhe, a South African political writer and researcher based at Ben Gurion University, wrote from Israel on 1 May that, “For the first time since I was eligible to vote in the 2009 general elections, the ANC government will make it impossible for South African citizens in Israel to cast their vote to bring about much-needed change in government. I was told a week ago by Independent Electoral Commission [IEC] officials that I should go to other missions outside Israel to vote, such as Ramallah, Amman, or Cairo. Really? That’s effectively telling me, ‘You can’t vote!’

“The IEC and South African government are duty-bound to ensure that all South African citizens in the diaspora can participate in the upcoming extraordinary elections,” said Mokgatlhe. “I stress the importance of voting to all South Africans in the country and in the diaspora as it remains our only tool to affect positive change. For all South Africans in the diaspora, especially in conflict-ridden areas like Israel, Sudan, and Ukraine, it should be made possible for everyone to participate in this upcoming historic election. There’s a need for all citizens to participate in spearheading political change in our country.”

Said Kahn, “We’re pleased that the request we made to the IEC in 2019 to accommodate shomer Shabbat voters in overseas countries where there is a high concentration of Jewish voters has again been provided for. For this election, voting stations in New York will remain open late, while the embassy in London will be open on both Friday, 17 May, and Saturday, 18 May.”

Since Dirco closed the South African embassy in Israel on 17 November 2023, the SAJBD has been working to assist community members in Israel to access consular services, Kahn said. “Thus far, we’ve helped community members urgently needing to return to South Africa apply for travel documents or passports; a family with a baby requiring a passport in order to access critically needed medical care; community members to replace lost passports in Israel; as well as those waiting for months to receive passports and other documents.

“We’ve also had countless conversations and correspondence between ourselves, Dirco, and the department of home affairs to address these situations. The majority of these cases are seemingly being handled.”

Isaacson said the decision to keep the embassy closed demonstrated that “once again, the South African government shows it cannot act as an honest broker in any aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. How sad that South Africa, with its rich history of conflict resolution, removed itself from any meaningful role in the Middle East conflict settlement.”

Kahn said anyone needing consular assistance should email and send a copy to They are also welcome to contact

The SA Jewish Report reached out to Dirco for comment, but hadn’t received a response by the time of going to print.

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  1. Mark Wade

    May 16, 2024 at 2:31 pm

    ‘Celebrate thirty years of democracy’? Aren’t the racist and discriminatory apartheid laws of BEE, EE, AA and quotas incompatible with a ‘democracy’, not only contrary to our (supposed) ‘world class Constitution’, but the UN’s Human Rights Charter too? In total, Parliament has adopted 313 racial statutes from the year 1910 to the present day. 37%, or 116, of those, were adopted during and since 1994.

  2. Jonathan Berger

    May 16, 2024 at 4:38 pm

    There is simply no evidence even to suggest that there’s a deliberate plan to disenfranchise (Jewish) South Africans in Israel. South Africans abroad are only entitled to vote at embassies, high commissions, and consulates. If the embassy in Ramat Gan has been closed, then – by simple operation of law – South Africans who wish to vote must make arrangements to vote elsewhere.

    • rafaelli

      May 17, 2024 at 8:01 am

      Can we vote in Ramallah?

    • PJ

      May 19, 2024 at 11:27 am

      Disgraceful that the embassy is closed in the first place.

  3. Jessica

    May 19, 2024 at 11:54 am

    Democracy for me, but not for thee.

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