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Victory for DA in case against IEC for additional voting stations abroad

Victory for DA in case against IEC for additional voting stations abroad
Helen Zille, Chairperson of the DA Federal Council during media conference. (Photo: Misha Jordaan/Gallo Images)

The DA successfully argued its case against the IEC, leading to a ruling that will enable more voting stations abroad for the 2024 elections.

It was a bad day in the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) office after losing yet another case. The DA successfully argued its case against the IEC, leading to a ruling that will enable more voting stations abroad in the 2024 elections. The Electoral Court reached its decision after determining that the IEC’s initial decision to prohibit voting at consulates headed by honorary consuls should be overturned.

Before this judgment, the Electoral Court upheld the appeal by the MK party in its bid to keep former president Jacob Zuma on its parliamentary candidate list.

Read more in Daily Maverick: MK party wins Electoral Court case to allow Jacob Zuma to contest elections

In the DA case, the court’s judgment clarified that the term “consulate” in Section 33(3) of the Electoral Act 73, 1998 encompasses consulates led by honorary consuls.

This ruling stems from a request made by the DA to the Electoral Court in February, urging for the inclusion of all embassies, High Commissions, and consulates as voting stations for the 2024 elections.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Explainer: How to vote in the 2024 elections as a South African living abroad

Before the ruling, South Africans abroad could vote at 125 voting centres, which include embassies, high commissions and consulates. But, the DA said, that arrangement potentially excluded thousands of voters who did not live in nearby capital cities.

According to the Electoral Commission’s 2019 National and Provincial Elections Report, the highest number of votes cast abroad was in London, United Kingdom (5,920 votes); Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) (1,096 votes); The Hague, Netherlands (949 votes); Abu Dhabi, UAE (842 votes) and Dublin, Ireland (581 votes).

“The DA action was in response to complaints from South Africans residing in Perth, who sought the opening of the Honorary Consulate as a voting facility,” said Chairperson of the DA Federal Council, Helen Zille.

“The High Commission in Canberra claimed that the Perth Consulate could not be utilised for voting as it is “not headed by transferred staff from South Africa.

“The DA considered this position to be both unlawful and irrational. The party argued that the IEC and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) should not differentiate between consulates headed by ‘transferred staff’ and those led by honorary consuls.”

Zille said for the more than 40,000 South Africans living in Perth, as well as other cities where this judgment will be effective, this is an enormous victory.

“The DA will monitor the IEC to ensure the practical implementation of this decision, as well as to confirm the number and location of all additional voting stations.”

South Africans living in Perth and other relevant cities will still have a chance to move their current registration to these new voting stations through the VEC 10 process up until 22 April 2024.

IEC responds

In a statement issued on Tuesday evening, the IEC said it noted the Electoral Court’s order on Zuma’s candidacy, as well as the order upholding the DA’s application to allow voters to cast their ballots at honorary consulates abroad rather than just high commissions or embassies.

“Furthermore, we have noted that the orders were issued without reasoned judgment. In order to understand the basis of the conclusions [reached in both matters, it is important that reasons are provided. We will accordingly request the Electoral Court to hand down reasons for the orders made,” said the IEC.

“Naturally the Commission is taking legal advice on both matters and will chart a way forward based on such advice as well as reasoned judgments that it may receive, hopefully, in the not-too-distant future.” DM

Gallery

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  • John Lewis says:

    I live in the UK far from London. It’s enormously unfair that I would need to travel at great expense to make my cross and vote against further ANC misgovernance. The DA should be petitioning for postal votes for those of us residing in countries with working postal systems.

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      With the exception of perhaps Australia and Newzealand, you could pretty much right off the whole Southern hemisphere and Africa for the postal option.

    • LLOYD MACKLIN says:

      the DA do not get credit for the sterling work they do in upholding democracy. It’s not their own interests but the principles they fight for on behalf of all voters. You seem to feel that the DA must take responsibility for your predicament. Have you ever tried to petition the Government for a postal vote?

    • Greeff Kotzé says:

      Searching for info on honorary consulates in the UK seems is rather challenging, as different sources list different answers. But I found this in a document on the UK government’s official site, so it seems credible and up-to-date:

      Alphabetical list of the Honorary Consulates and Honorary Consuls of Foreign States & Commonwealth Countries in the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.
      REVISED APRIL 2024

      SOUTH AFRICA
      Honorary Consulate of South Africa in Cambridge
      c/o Haviland Limited
      Future Business Centre, The Guildhall
      Market Square
      Cambridge
      CB2 3QJ
      Tel: 07855 888 8888
      MR BASSIM HAIDAR Honorary Consul with responsibility for East Anglia (since 29 November 2023)

      That seems to indicate that the multitude of other SA honorary consulates you can find listed on “Visa assistance” websites for the UK no longer exist?

      How they would turn the above into a voting station, though, I am rather uncertain about. It seems to be the address of a coworking space? Awkward.

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      Was this only for people who migrate to Europe and the west, I don’t hear anything about provision for those who migrate to African countries unless the provision was accessed and proven sufficient.
      Last time South African doctors were complaining about voting from Gaza.

  • Marius S says:

    Question: Why is voting still done on ballot paper, only, in this internet age? Is there no way to transpose voting to online? Yes, there is security risks, but so are there with ballot papers and manual counts. Upside would include the possibility that some voters would not need to travel and stand in 3 hour queues, but save traveling and human costs by performing the same task via a data device (mobile, tablet, laptop, desktop). That would provide a better reach for all our citizens, local and abroad, not able to get to a voting station or that might be hampered by family tragedy.

    • Jean Racine says:

      The difference is that the manual process, from voting to counting, is overseen by representatives of all the parties on the ballot paper, to ensure no chicanery.

  • pringlefamily says:

    Every expat should make every effort to vote and the additional polling points are to welcomed. For starters there are 1000s residing in Australia and practically all in the big cities

  • ST ST says:

    Great! It’s a shame it came after the deadline for voting registration. Some people were dissuaded by the prospect of travelling long distances to vote.

  • roop says:

    There are Thousands of South Africans living in Perth Western Australia. Please keep us posted as where to vote and the dates to vote.
    Thanks

  • Troy Marshall says:

    I could never consider leaving. Durban is my house. The Indian Ocean is my swimming pool.
    Many leave for job opportunities, wanderlust, for the kids. Hang out with fellow South African’s and reminisce – a welcoming committee when the Springboks are in town.
    If you care for your homeland – you vote

  • MORNING.l need to see DA winining this country and this province they winning case in cout . well done

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