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Are you a South African voting abroad? Here’s what you need to know

Are you a South African voting abroad? Here’s what you need to know
Illustrative image. (Photos: Flickr | Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)

Voting in the 2024 national elections will take place on Friday and Saturday this week at international voting stations.

South Africans registered to vote out-of-country will cast their ballots at international voting stations this week. 

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) said on 4 May it had – in collaboration with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) – begun the mammoth task of shipping voting materials, including voting booths, ballot boxes, stationery and lists of approved voters, to 111 South African missions around the world. 

Voting outside South Africa will take place on Friday, 17 May in nine countries and on Saturday, 18 May in the remaining countries. London is an exception: registered voters can vote there on either Saturday, 18 May or Sunday, 19 May.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections 2024 – Everything you need to know

The IEC said voting stations will be open from 7am to 7pm local time at most foreign missions, except for in London, Washington and New York, which will be open from 7am to 9pm.  

Who is eligible to vote?

In the 2019 national elections, the IEC recorded 29,468 registered voters who were eligible to vote at international voting stations. Of these, 19,909 votes were cast at diplomatic missions abroad, representing a voting abroad turnout of 68%. 

According to the IEC, in the 2024 national elections, there are 78,092 voters eligible to cast their votes at international voting stations. 

The largest international voting stations by eligible voting population are in London (24,535 eligible voters); The Hague, Netherlands (6,659); Canberra, Australia (3,674); Dubai, United Arab Emirates (3,266); and Dublin, Ireland (3,040).  

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

The South African High Commission in London has the highest number of registered voters of any voting station in and outside South Africa, according to the IEC’s chief electoral officer, Sy Mamabolo. The station with the highest number of registered voters in South Africa is Joubert Park, in Gauteng, with about 15,000.  

While the number of registered voters outside South Africa is more than double that recorded in the 2019 national elections, the international pool of eligible voters is still tiny compared with the number at home. To put this in perspective, political parties need at least 40,000 votes to secure one seat in the National Assembly. 

Where do I cast my vote?

Voting out of the country will take place at 111 foreign missions, according to the IEC. 

You can find a list of South African missions for voting abroad here

South Africans abroad will be able to vote at their mission as follows:

  • Algiers, Amman, Cairo, Damascus, Jeddah, Kuwait City, Ramallah, Riyadh and Tehran will vote on Friday, 17 May between 7am and 7pm;
  • The remaining 102 missions will be open for special votes on Saturday, 18 May between 7am and 7pm; and
  • In respect of the South African mission in the UK, the IEC has determined two days of special voting. South Africans registered to vote in the UK can do so on Saturday, 18 May and Sunday, 19 May from 7am to 7pm.

The IEC said voting was not possible in some countries for “security reasons”. 

“Dirco has confirmed that the missions in Sudan, Tel Aviv and Kyiv remain closed. Unavoidably and regrettably, voters registered at these three missions will not be able to vote in the forthcoming elections,” the commission said.

In which election categories can South Africans abroad vote?

By law, South Africans abroad can only vote in the country’s national elections, not in the provincial elections for the National Assembly or regional elections for the provincial legislatures. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Explainer — how to vote using the new three-ballot system

This means South Africans who vote at international voting stations will only get one ballot paper – the national compensatory ballot – on which 52 political parties vying for seats in the National Assembly will appear. 

Voters registered to cast their vote abroad will only get one ballot paper. The national compensatory ballot will contain only political parties contesting the seats in the National Assembly. (Screenshot: IEC)

What do I need with me on voting day?

According to the IEC, on special voting days, voters must present themselves in person at the mission where they are registered (or where they have successfully applied for a special vote by VEC 10 notice), and do as follows: 

  • Present their identity document (ID) book, smartcard or temporary ID certificate to the election official;
  • The voter’s left thumbnail is marked with indelible ink to indicate they have voted;
  • The voter’s name is marked off on the list of voters approved to vote at the mission to indicate their participation in the election;
  • The voter is issued with the national compensatory ballot paper;
  • The voter will mark the ballot in secret, and place and seal the ballot in an unmarked envelope;
  • The unmarked envelope is placed in another envelope that is marked with the voter’s name, ID number and the name of the mission where the vote was cast. The use of two envelopes is to ensure the secrecy of the ballot by delinking the voter and the ballot cast; and
  • Election officials take the envelope and place it in a secure ballot box for special votes.

   Why should you vote in the national elections if you live abroad?

To quote the IEC, “because each and every citizen has the right to vote in South Africa’s elections, and the responsibility to participate in making decisions for its future”.

“It’s your democracy, own it.” DM

The IEC will extend its operating hours on all voting days abroad to assist voters with queries. For more information about voting and elections see the IEC website.

Read more in Daily Maverick: 2024 elections

Gallery

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