As the election race hots up, it behoves the media to take the coverage of the antics of the electioneering parties a gear higher in order to keep the public informed about who is doing what and also to keep the various political parties advertised so that the political playing field is a level as possible. We will endeavor to provide this service up to and beyond the election. We start today with a round up of the voting that has started at various polling stations abroad.
It is exactly a week to the fifth election since the advent of democracy and the election is officially underway. The South Africans abroad have officially started their voting wherever they are. This is because South African citizens abroad, for whatever reasons who wish to exercise their democratic right to vote, should be provided with a means of doing so. It is the mandate of the Independent Electoral Commission to ensure that this right is provided for. More than twenty six thousand South African expatriates are eligible to vote with the highest number of ten thousand being in London alone. This means a mountain of work for the IEC to ensure that they are not denied their constitutional right. The IEC has said that all polling stations abroad will open at 07 00 hours and close at 21 00 hours local time.
Those among the earliest to vote include those from down under, that is those in the New Zealand and Australia. Initially appointed by the late President Nelson Mandela as an honorary consul, Gregory Fortuin was among the first to vote in New Zealand. According to social media, others that were among the first to vote also in New Zealand are Samantha Hartmann and Ludre Stevens. Those that had the opportunity to vote in both countries were impressed with the professional handling of the elections.
According to the social media page Vote Home SA, several other people had also voted abroad. These include Darren Frances and Kel Alps who had to travel all the way from Vancouver to Los Angeles to vote.
The United Kingdom
In London, by 6:15 am on Wednesday there was already a long queue at the South African embassy with South Africans wanting to vote. The bad news was, however that a tube strike was likely to hamper some of those wanting to cast their vote from doing so. Adrian Holmes who resides in Salisbury in the United Kingdom had to travel to London to vote and confirms that there were long queues.
Balancing Provision of Facilities
In Seychelles, despite the fact that there are lots of South Africans eligible to vote, no arrangements had been made for voting and many potential voters were very irate and despondent. This is in sharp contrast to Qatar, where out of the more than six thousand South Africans living there, only just over five hundred had registered to vote. Arrangements there were very well orchestrated and the poling process went very smoothly.
The general outcry was that the voting of South Africans abroad was not adequately planned for. Not many polling stations were available in many countries to ensure that all voters could exercise their right to vote. In most countries, there was a lot of travelling for a number of South Africans for them to get to polling stations. While it is understandable that it would be expensive for the IEC, some measures may need to be put in place in future to make the voting process less prohibitive for Mzansi citizens forced to live abroad by circumstances. The IEC, however, needs to be commended for the organised way in which it seems to have organised the election where polling stations were set up.