Will Expats be Able to Vote?
More clarity is needed from Home Affairs and the Electoral Commission on the whole question of whether provision can be made for South Africans who live abroad to vote in this country’s national or provincial elections, before a Private Members legislative proposal can be considered.
That’s the upshot of discussion of such a proposal by Ms Annette Lovemore to the Standing Committee on Private Members’ Legislative Proposals and Special Petitions. The Standing Committee has agreed to seek advice from the Department of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
In November last year, Ms Lovemore tabled a private member’s legislative proposal aimed at allowing South African abroad to register and cast their votes in provincial and national elections. The proposal was to increase accessibility to voting, by introducing more facilities (such as temporary polling stations). “Currently voting by South Africans abroad is limited to national elections only, and voting facilities abroad are limited to embassies, consulates and high commissioners,” Ms Lovemore said.
Of the 198 countries where South Africans lived abroad, 93 had no voting facilities at all.
Ms Lovemore added that her proposal was also informed by the 2009 court ruling of a case between Richter and Minister for Home Affairs where the Constitutional Court ordered, among other things, that a special vote should be accorded to any registered voter who would be absent from the Republic on polling day, and gave notice within the prescribed time to the Chief Electoral Officer.
The committee’s deliberations on the matter were cut short due a lack of inputs from the relevant stakeholders.
“We first need to establish if we have other territories we could use as voting stations in other countries, other than South Africa’s embassies, consulates or high commissioners. We also need to hear how this proposal will impact on the time factor and financial implications, given the logistical requirements of voting abroad during provincial elections” said Mr Setlamorago Thobejane, Chairperson of the Committee.
Despite concerns from opposition parties who felt that the process of waiting for Departments before the committee could deliberate on a matter delayed the process, the committee agreed to get a briefing from the Department of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). A full ruling of the court case in question should also be made available to members before discussions began.