‘Vote, or kiss SA goodbye’, ex-South Africans told
South Africans are calling on their countrymen abroad to register to vote in the national elections this year so they can help create meaningful change for those living here. Registration for South Africans around the world is open this weekend.
Kim Kur, the founder and lead volunteer of Community Circle SA, a 25 000-strong organisation of South Africans and dual nationals abroad living in more than 100 countries, said it was vital South Africans living abroad registered to vote this weekend. She insisted they should register regardless of how they felt about the current situation in the country and in spite of how they felt about the government’s views and the way things stood. They also shouldn’t worry about how they will cast their votes on elections day due to a lack of voting stations.
“Just register, and the rest will hopefully be ironed out later,” she said, on the lack of availability of voting centres abroad.
“South Africans abroad should be just as invested in this election, especially because the Electoral Commission of South Africa [IEC] has made it easier for them to register, because they may want to return home one day and hopefully see meaningful change,” she said.
“Every single vote counts if you want to see change for your friends and family back home. Don’t take your choice away by not voting, you may want to return one day, and this is your chance to make a difference.”
Kur said that for those feeling disillusioned with the government, it was especially important to register. “People cannot criticise our government or the way things are being run here if they don’t exercise their right to vote. Just because they may be gatvol with certain things, doesn’t mean they should forsake the country while their family and friends still reside here.
“Also, there are many South Africans returning to our shores. They shouldn’t lose this opportunity to register to vote. It’s so easy to make your mark,” she said.
“There are many in our community here and abroad who say they are embarrassed to be South African. I say to them, it’s okay to be embarrassed about the ruling party and government, but they aren’t South Africa. Remain proud, and vote for change.”
For the first time, voters can register to vote online, making voting as a South African far less complicated. The 2024 national and political elections are expected to take place between May and August, and the IEC is calling on South Africans at home and overseas to register.
South Africans abroad can vote at 125 voting centres, which include embassies, high commissions, and consulates. The IEC launched an online registration portal for expats who want to vote abroad. According to it, 10 000 South Africans have successfully registered since the portal went live in December.
It’s important to note that even if you’re registered to vote in South Africa, you’re still required to register to vote abroad.
Concerns have been raised by the Democratic Alliance (DA) over the number of temporary foreign missions available for expats to vote abroad, and calls have been made to increase the number of these facilities.
The DA this week threatened court action if the government and the IEC didn’t increase voting centres for expats.
The party said the status quo potentially excluded thousands of voters who didn’t live in nearby capital cities or close to foreign missions, with many having to travel vast distances to cast their votes.
For example, there are more than 200 000 South Africans in Australia, and voting is available only in Canberra, which makes it difficult if not impossible for those who don’t live nearby.
The DA has called on the government and the IEC to open voting centres in about 14 new locations abroad.
It’s hoped, however, that the more people register to vote, the more voting stations will become available, and the more consular services will be provided, as there’s a duty to provide these services to South Africans abroad.
Gayton McKenzie, the leader of the Patriotic Alliance, said citizens abroad must register to vote to exercise their civic duty. “There’s no country in the world that can compare to South Africa in terms of weather, there’s no place like home, no place better than amongst family. South Africans living abroad miss these things every day. Money can’t buy these things. The Patriotic Alliance is fighting hard to create job opportunities, bring down crime levels, and make South Africa investor friendly. Go and register to help us help you to come back home.”
To those who criticise the government but don’t turn up at polling stations he said, “You can kiss South Africa goodbye. Our vote is the only weapon we have against the decay of our beautiful country.”
Voters who reside in South Africa but will be abroad on election day, or those who are abroad but intend to vote in a different country or at a different mission than where they are registered, can submit a VEC10 notification to inform the IEC of the foreign mission at which they intend to vote.
According to recent reports, London is the busiest voting centre outside of South Africa, followed by Dubai and The Hague.
South African citizens who live abroad, or will be abroad on election day, and who have a South African identity document (either a green ID book, a smartcard ID, or a valid temporary ID certificate) and a valid South African passport or a valid temporary passport, are eligible to vote abroad.
You also need to be a registered voter, and be at least 18 years and older.
On 26, 27, and 28 January, you can visit any of South Africa’s 120 embassies, high commissions, and consulates to register to vote and/or update your details.
If you have any doubts that you are registered to vote, you can check your voter-registration status on the IEC’s website. This also allows you to find out where you’re registered.
Additionally, to confirm that you’re registered and to find out where you’re registered, SMS your ID number to 32810; call the IEC’s contact centre on 0800 11 800; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.