Chaos erupts at SA High Commission on voting day

The IEC’s National Results Operations Centre in Midrand has been declared open for the May 29 elections. Picture: Faheem Khota/IOL

The IEC’s National Results Operations Centre in Midrand has been declared open for the May 29 elections. Picture: Faheem Khota/IOL

Published May 25, 2024


The majority of South Africans based in London experienced challenges and hiccups on the day they were expected to cast their votes.

Kieran Rennie, a South African based in London, detailed how they were turned away from the South African High Commission on May 17, on the day they were supposed to cast their votes.

Rennie said he and others were told they couldn’t vote, and this was regardless of the official communique they received from the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC).

He said the officials told them that they should go home and return the following day.

“People had travelled from as far as Edinburgh and were being turned away.

“Elderly folks in their 80s were being told to go home. Others were visiting family and friends in the UK and would be missing the SA elections back home, hence, they registered for a London vote.

“We were, however, determined. We stated that this was a violation of our rights, as well as a contravention of the ethos and legal requirements for a free and fair election,” Rennie detailed.

He recalled how one of the voters threatened one of the officials that she would camp outside the Commission’s offices.

“One of the ladies told this gentleman that she would camp out all day and started taking each and every voter’s name and identity number and would inform all the news outlets about the injustices meted at them.“

Rennie said the threats seemed to work as the High Commission’s officials realised that they might have made an error, adding that things started to happen.

“Staff appeared, tables and booths were laid out, and voting began.”

The process for a South African to vote abroad requires either a formal registration to move your voting station to one of the South African Consulates abroad (a permanent registration) or to register via a VEC10 form (a temporary registration).

“Those of us who completed this VEC10 form received a confirmation email from the IEC stating the voting station address (the High Commission in London) and the dates: May 17 and 18,” he added.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) said it was not aware of the challenges that took place at the High Commission in London, it, however, said the voting dates were never changed.

Speaking on behalf of the Commission, Kate Bapela said the voting for citizens living abroad was initially pitched as happening on May 17 and 18, with some on the17th and others on the 18th. Subsequently, the commission amended the timetable to determine the specific days for specific missions.

In addition, Bapela said the Commission added an extra day for London and the dates and amended timetable were published in the Gazette.

“The dates were publicised on our website, by political parties, and on expat social media groups. Over and above this, the IEC also dispatched close to 10,000 emails to the London voters’ roll. The email addresses provided remain the responsibility of the voters,” she concluded.

In the meantime, Democratic Alliance’s (DA) abroad chairperson Ludre Stevens said the party was aware of the many challenges that were faced by voters abroad.

Stevens said the miscommunication from the IEC officials resulted in many South African voters being turned away from voting stations.

“This followed incorrect information sent in email communication by the IEC indicating that only a passport was required to vote, when in fact only an ID was accepted.“

A lack of voting stations in cities with large South African expat populations meant that tens of thousands of eligible voters were excluded from the opportunity to vote.

This is despite the DA winning a court case against the IEC for more voting stations overseas – including in places like Perth, whose large South African population could not make the four-hour flight to vote at the Embassy in Canberra, Australia.

“Similar situations were faced by voters in New Zealand, the United States, Canada and Europe,” he added.

As the organisation, Stevens said they would make sure that the matter was taken up with the IEC.

“This includes logistical issues experienced at voting stations with high numbers of voters, including The Hague and Dubai. In particular, going forward, we will be fighting for voters to be allowed to vote with either an ID or a passport as we consider both of these valid forms of identification. It is hugely disappointing that the IEC did not implement the court order for more voting stations in time for this election.”

The abroad chairperson said the DA would ensure that these measures are implemented for the next elections and that voting stations are appropriate for the populations they serve.

“We now turn our energy to the elections in South Africa on May 29, 2024, and encourage each and every person to come out and vote DA to rescue our country,” he said.

Saturday Star

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