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ROAD TO ELECTIONS 2024

Tears, cheers and beers as South Africans in their thousands cast their ballots in the Netherlands

Tears, cheers and beers as South Africans in their thousands cast their ballots in the Netherlands
From left: Voters Bradley Pieters, Jessica Roberts, Lloyd Ngcobo and Mosa Ngcobo say that everyone agrees the thing most missed about South Africa is the friendliness of the local folk. They cast their ballots in the Netherlands on 18 May 2024. (Photo: Rebecca Pitt)

An estimated 78,092 South Africans abroad voted at 111 foreign missions this weekend. At The Hague in the Netherlands, thousands of South Africans queued for hours to cast their ballots.

There were sporadic cries of “Sterkte!” (Strength) directed at the people in a queue that snaked along the pavement of a neighbourhood in The Hague, the Netherlands. Some had been queueing for six hours. 

“What are you guys doing in this line?” a passing cyclist asked. 

“Voting,” said Graeme Odendaal. “For South Africa.” Odendaal, like many in the queue, wore a Springbok rugby shirt. 

“Voting?” the cyclist replied. “Oh… go Boks!” This roused a cheer from the crowd.

The tortoise-paced queue led to the South African embassy: it was voting day. 

overseas voting Netherlands

An estimated 6,659 South Africans cast their vote in The Hague, Netherlands, on 18 May 2024, along thousands across the globe voting this weekend. (Photo: Rebecca Pitt)

Odendaal was one of 6,659 South Africans registered to vote in the Netherlands, where an estimated 41,300 South Africans live. It is the second-largest overseas voting population after London (24,535 eligible voters). 

Around the globe, South Africans in their thousands turned up at foreign missions this weekend to vote in the general elections.    

overseas voting Netherlands

Voters make themselves comfortable during a seven-hour wait to vote in The Hague on 18 May 2024. (Photo: Rebecca Pitt)

“The Electoral Commission could have promoted the voting weekend better,” said Mosa Ngcobo, who initially missed the registration but was approved for late registration. 

“I’m wondering whether voting at foreign missions is a priority, since the votes at the foreign missions would not necessarily be for the ANC,” said Susan Lotz, who was on a research stay in the Netherlands.  

M McKay, who had travelled from the city of Eindhoven, a four-hour train journey, said he was voting because of “the sacrifices that South Africans made for me to be able to vote”.  

‘A renewed energy’

Many in the queue came prepared for a long wait: they brought camping chairs, snacks, coffee and beer and played music. 

overseas voting Netherlands

IEC volunteer in the Netherlands Limpho Madziakapita says that one of their main tasks is to keep morale up among voters. (Photo: Rebecca Pitt)

“There has been a renewed energy among all the people,” said Michael Rushmere from the Eastern Cape.

“Maybe in the past, there was a cultural divide, whereas now (…) it’s everyone versus the government… everyone is realising that they [the government] are stealing people’s livelihoods.

“Let’s see if that energy is big enough to bring about change.”  

“This set of elections is most likely to impact and bring change,” said Jessica Roberts from Johannesburg. “I don’t know what will happen, but it’s the first time people have predicted that the ANC will fall below the majority.”

Bradley Pieters from Cape Town said: “One of the reasons I think people don’t vote is that they think their vote won’t change a lot. Nowadays, people feel, ‘If I vote, something is going to change’.”

Initially, Pieters was reluctant to vote, but “a colleague of mine pointed out, ‘You still have family here [in SA], and who you vote for today is going to impact them’. I still want them to have the best possible life.”

The keyword for those in the queue was “home”, said Lloyd Ngcobo.

“It’s all about the loved ones, even if you know your future is here,” said his wife, who relocated here with her husband for work. “We care about [people at home] and we love to visit home and find a beautiful place to return to.” 

overseas voting Netherlands

From left: James Klerck, Pierre Lombard and Rayner van Wyk say their time in the Netherlands is temporary, and that ‘100 percent’ they have always planned to return home. (Photo: Rebecca Pitt)

Being in the queue brought tears to the eyes of Mignon Brooks — being with so many fellow South Africans reminded her of home. 

She missed that “feeling of belonging. It’s the people, the culture, the sense of community, the empathy…  just the spirit of the people. I don’t get that feeling here. It is a constant sense that I exist here.” 

From left: Voters Graeme Odendaal, Mignon Brooks and Shaun Soest say they miss the smell of South African soil you get as soon as you step onto local ground. (Photo: Rebecca Pitt)

She made the choice to relocate with a heavy heart. The move was purely for “job opportunities and financial reasons”.   

“[I am] excited to see [so many]  people here, but at the same time, there is such a sadness that we are all here,” said Shaun Soest. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: 2024 elections

“It would have been nice to do this in South Africa.”  

“This place will never feel like home as South Africa does to me,” said Samai Naiker from Durban. 

However, she said, living in the Netherlands did have many advantages: “[Better] infrastructure, opportunities, economy, even basic water and electricity – none of those things are as reliable [in South Africa] as they used to be.” DM

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