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'South African expats must be allowed to vote', rules High Court

By Adriana Stuijt     Feb 9, 2009 in Politics
The Pretoria High Court in South Africa ruled today that all South Africans abroad must be given voting rights at foreign embassies and asked the Constitutional Court to rule on it today. The decision was hailed as 'a victory over ANC-arrogance'.
High Court judge Piet Eberson ruled that the electoral act was unconstitutional in that it "limited" the casting of votes to people temporarily living abroad.' He said the current legislation thus infringed on the voting rights of many South African expats. Their exact number is not known, but was estimated recently at about 1,5-million.
The Constitutional Court is expected to rule on Eberson's decision today.'.See Facebook page
Also see a background report by the BBC's John Simpson on the alienation of the white SA electorate: here. Britain has by far the largest SA expat community see here
The judge also ordered the country's Independent Electoral Commission to change its voting procedures so as to allow South Africans living abroad to vote at all its foreign missions. Also see our previous story
The FF Plus said it welcomed the decision of the Pretoria High Court that section 33 of the Electoral Act is unconstitutional. "Section 33 of the Electoral Act (Act 73 of 1998 section 33) stipulates that there is a difference between South Africans abroad and that only certain categories of them are allowed
to vote."
Their leader Dr Pieter Mulder said "all the supplications before the court were granted by the judge. The decision will still today be handed to the Constitutional Court for confirmation.
"The respondents, amongst which is the Department of Home Affairs, will then get another chance to argue their opposition before the Constitutional Court."
A huge victory against ANC arrogance:
Mulder said 'depending what the decision of the Chief Justice will be, the confirmation can be completed very quickly. If the FF Plus is also to succeed with this, it will mean that South Africans living abroad, and who are registered as voters, will be able to participate in this election. "It is a huge victory against the arrogance of the ANC which tries to enforce its will on everybody", he said.
"The FF Plus will not hesitate to take on the ANC government or whichever government in future in this way in order to prevent citizens rights being taken away from them", Dr. Mulder added.
"The FF Plus has a reputation that the party stands up for the rights of ordinary citizens. In the same manner the FF Plus succeeded in having the "Kill the Boer- slogan" declared hate speech and stopping various over hastily ANC name changes through court decisions", according to Dr. Mulder.
And in another unexpected development today, the law suit which was lodged simulateously in the Constitutional Court has also received the backing today of the Inkatha Freedom Party, which has mostly black voters, its leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi said today.
Meanwhile twelve South Africans abroad have also launched an urgent application in the Cape High Court on Monday to assure their voting rights abroad in the forthcoming presidential elections.
And the Freedom Front Plus party immediately launched an urgent application in the Pretoria high court to stop the country's acting president from announcing the election date until their court cases have been concluded.
The acting president was all set to announce the election date -- at which point all new voter applications would have been closed, and voters abroad would not be able to register at foreign embassies.
The Cape Town high court case was launched with the pro-bono (free) backing of top legal law firms against the Independent Electoral Election Commission and internal affairs minister Mrs Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
The twelve applicants are represented free of charge by the New York-based legal firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, Johannesburg law firm Webber Wentzel, and the firm of advocates of Wim Trengove SC, Alfred Cockrell and Benny Makola.None are involved in any political parties, the applicants said.
They also submitted a proposal on how the electoral law can be changed to allow voting at foreign embassies and consulates.
Last week week, a formal application was submitted to the Pretoria High Court and the Constitutional Court on behalf of Willem Richter -- a 27-year-old South African schoolteacher who is temporarily working in Surrey, UK. At the same time, the opposition Democratic Allianc also launched a similar application at the High Court – and invited the Freedom Front Plus to also join them in this effort.
'The parties are seeking to ‘ensure that South Africans who are temporarily living abroad may cast their vote,’ said Democratic Alliance MP James Selfe.
During the country’s first democratic, multiracial elections in 1994, everyone was able to vote – South Africans abroad were given voting facilities at foreign legations. However since that time, the ANC-regime has dropped this, claiming they ‘did not have the manpower or the facilities to handle polling booths abroad’.
On December 6 2008, expats in London staged a protest march to the SA embassy in central London, demanding that they be given voting facilities at the embassy.
At the moment only very specific, rather elitist groups such as government employees and their kin; as well as South Africans who can provide proof they have a residence in South Africa and are just on temporary trips for business, holidays or studying, can vote at foreign legations.
The Freedom Front Plus party now is also filing an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court asking that the proclamation of the voting day be postponed to allow the Constitutional Court ample time to consider the matter. Their application was expected to be heard shortly after midday. see
South African government in a shambles:
The South African government is in a shambles at the moment, with the ruling African National Congress splitting into two factions which are increasingly at war with each other. They voted out the elected president Thabo Mbeki in favour of their party president Jacob Zuma, and the two opposing factions have been at each other’s throats ever since. Meanwhile, acting-president Mothlanthe - a pro-Mbeki ally -- is being targetted in a sex-scandal campaign, and the next presidential election date has not yet been announced. see
Violence-monitors and electoral experts fear that the next election may be very violent, because members of the two opposing factions are also engaged in killing each other and attacking each other at political rallies.
Due to the fact that South Africans are increasingly leaving the country of their birth, mainly because of the violent crime epidemic, many South Africans were left disenfranchised by the South African voting rules.
DA leader Helen Zille said that 'all citizens living abroad should have the opportunity to vote in elections at home, beginning with the 2009 election. The right to vote is enshrined in the Constitution; as such the IEC has a duty to give effect to the right." see The South African Electoral Act now disqualifies large numbers of South Africans from casting their vote only by ‘reason of their geographical location’ – although the Constitution states that "every adult South African citizen" has the right to "vote in elections for any legislative body established in terms of the Constitution", the party leaders all said.
And electoral expert Suzanne de Vos says that this legal challenge to the Electoral Act could well be successful, judging from previous court decisions. "The Constitutional Court has said that the right to vote is fundamental to democracy, and that this required proper arrangements to be made for its effective exercise," said De Vos. This meant the legislature and the executive should provide the legal framework, infrastructure and resources for free and fair elections."
"South African citizens who live abroad can argue that their constitutional right to vote is being infringed because the Electoral Act in effect denies them a right to vote. If such an application is brought, the government will have to provide solid reasons why these citizens are being denied their right to vote as they will have to show that the limitation of this right is justified in terms of the limitation clause in the Bill of Rights," said De Vos.
Government's excuse is unacceptable:
Independent Democrat party leader Patricia de Lille said that during the 2003 elections, ‘the government's excuse was that it lacks the resources to accommodate overseas citizens,’ adding that this was"unacceptable", as ‘the same resources that made provision for government officials abroad should and could also be used to facilitate the voting procedure for non-government employees..
Even prisoners and criminals can vote… but not expats…
She said prisoners awaiting trial were allowed to vote, and most certainly other South African citizens who are out of the country should also have this privilege. If South Africans abroad could vote it would 'impact on election results…’
Foreign affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa says while ‘it is impossible to determine how many South Africans live abroad, t is arguable that if all South Africans outside the country were able to exercise their voting rights, these voters could make a measurable impact on the election results.’ see
None of the parties representing the majority of black voters have supported these law suits - most of the expats are whites - and most of those are Afrikaans-speakers, people who flee the country also because they are being denied access to the labour market, due to their paler skin colour.
See the ibrary of laws which now bar 'white' South Africans rom the labour market here
Afrikaners join Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation
The Freedom Front Plus says that Afrikaners now are so disenfranchised and without any rights to even support their own families, that they now have basically lost all their civil rights as an ethnic-minority in South Africa.
To obtain an international platform to fight for Afrikaner rights abroad -- the FF+ last year joined UNPO – the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. UNPO has 70 members, which include Australia’s Aboriginals, the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania; Tibetan monks – and now also include the Afrikaners of Southern Africa.
According to the Freedom Front Plus, the inclusion in this international pressure group was one of the parties’ greatest achievement’s to date. “If you look at the situation in South Africa at the moment, it would be unwise for a group such as the Afrikaner not to consider other options, and one of those options is to internationalize our case,” Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder told reporters at a press conference in Pretoria on Monday. UNPO’s membership consists of indigenous peoples, minorities, and unrecognised or occupied territories. “It is an organisation that fights for the right of the world’s silent voices,” Mulder said.
Except for minority groupings, it also includes countries that have declared independence and have not been recognised internationally such as Somaliland which is part of Somalia, and Iraq’s Kurdistan.
The organisation lobbies internationally for the civil rights of these communities and countries including at the United Nations and European Parliament. It counts the recognition of Kosovo and of the Balkan States as one of its successes. see
More about Expats sue for, South Africa, Richter
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