Big win for expats wanting to vote abroad

 ·10 Apr 2024

The Electoral Court has handed down a judgement which will ultimately enable more voting stations abroad for the 2024 elections.

Initially, the Electoral Commission (IEC) made a decision to not allow the casting of special votes headed by honorary consuls.

However, the court set this aside declaring that the word “consulate” in Section 33(3) of the Electoral Act 73, 1998, includes a consulate headed by an honorary consul.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) opened a case against the IEC on 15 February “to request the inclusion of all Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates as voting stations for the 2024 elections,” said federal chairperson of the DA, Helen Zille.

The party said that their lawsuit originated from complaints by South Africans residing in Perth, Australia who wanted the Honorary Consulate there to serve as a voting station.

However, the High Commission in Canberra said that the Perth Consulate was ineligible for this purpose because it does not have staff “transferred” directly from South Africa.

“The DA considered this position to be both unlawful and irrational [arguing] 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,” said Zille.

“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,” added the DA federal chair.

The IEC said that they have “noted” the judgement, and have requested legal advice and clarity on the reasons given “in order to understand the basis of the conclusions reached.”

Broadly, an honorary consul promotes South African exports, serves as a liaison for visiting South Africans, distributes information on South Africa, and represents it at events.

In 2019, there were 19,882 valid out of country votes. 74.45% of these went to the DA, followed by the ANC (10.83%) and the VF+ (4.57%).

The judgement can be read below:

Read: South Africa’s record 2024 election – all the stats you need to know

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