Crisis averted as overseas voters who pitched up on Friday allowed to vote

20 May 2024 - 21:35
By Ernest Mabuza
Expats Marissa and Renee Schoeman (right) with friends they made in the queue while waiting to vote at the SA embassy in The Hague. About 10 voters who turned up to vote there on Friday were turned away.
Image: Supplied Expats Marissa and Renee Schoeman (right) with friends they made in the queue while waiting to vote at the SA embassy in The Hague. About 10 voters who turned up to vote there on Friday were turned away.

A situation that could have left hundreds of South African voters abroad unable to cast their votes on Friday was averted after the IEC issued a directive that everyone who had pitched up that day be allowed to vote.

A South African who had applied to vote in London had received a confirmation email from the IEC giving the voting station address and stating voting would take place on May 17 or 18. 

“When I arrived at South Africa House, London on Friday at about 9.30am, I was met with a gathering of people inside the reception of the high commission having a stern conversation with one of the IEC representatives.

“This IEC representative stated that the voting date of May 17 was only for a select handful of countries — London’s available dates had been changed — and that the voting days communicated for London were now May 18 and 19,” the South African said. 

However, the voters were later allowed to cast their votes. 

The IEC was not immediately available for comment.

However, DA Abroad chairperson Ludre Steven, who was a DA party agent in London from Friday until Sunday, explained what caused the confusion. He said the confirmation email stated the dates as May 17 or 18. 

“What the IEC meant was that in some countries, voting will take place on the 17th and others on the 18th.

“The general rule of thumb is that you can vote overseas on Saturdays, however some Muslim countries have Friday as their day of rest,” Stevens said. 

He said the IEC had gazetted that voting in seven countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, would take place from Friday. 

“On Friday the 17th, people pitched up. A group of 10 senior citizens arrived at the South African High Commission in London. The IEC decided everybody who turned up on the 17th will be allowed to vote.” 

He said the IEC had been warned before to ensure correct dates were given to voters. 

“In the end, the IEC did the right thing by not turning people away,” Stevens said.

He said the miscommunication on the part of the IEC meant embassies that had not scheduled voting on Friday had to rush to open voting stations.

“The IEC staff are not to blame for this. When I got there on Friday around noon, they were set up. Two-hundred people voted on Friday. On Saturday there was a turnout of more than 9,000 people who voted in London and just over 4,500 on Sunday.

“The Hague in the Netherlands did not allow voting on Friday. Our party agent there raised it with them at 4pm local time and they confirmed they had refused 10 people by then.”

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